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Mystery Monday – Murder a la Mode

Murder a la Mode by Patricia Moyes

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

The smell of bitter almonds tells series hero Inspector Tibbett that it’s homicide. Who would want to murder an assistant editor at a fashion magazine?

Moyes usually takes readers into subcultures, realms of their own. In Death on the Agenda, the setting is an international convention of narcotics cops. In what some call her best mystery, Falling Star, it is a movie set.

In this one, Moyes returns to a chaotic but irresistible setting, the world of fashion peopled by beautiful if dim models, pressed career women, and the creative types that are irascible and short with anybody or anything that gets between them and Their Vision. The fashion world is as convincing as the movie set in Falling Star. Moyes had worked as a PA to actor and director Peter Ustinov, so she knew about the production and business pressures of movie making. She is knowledgeable about publishing a fashion magazine because she was an assistant editor at Vogue for a time. Moyes effectively evokes the pre-Twiggy swinging London of the early Sixties.

Moyes wrote 19 mysteries and many short stories starring the main characters of Scotland Yard Inspector Henry Tibbett and his wife and Emmy. The helpmeet Emmy does not appear as a major character in this one, however. This, I think, is the first appearance of Emmy’s sister Jane, brother-in-law Bill and niece Veronica, a model, all of whom show up in the other Tibbett novels.

I don’t like to think that I read cozy mysteries, but I guess I have to say this is a cozy because it is in the old whodunit tradition: amusing prose, persuasive witty characters, a little romance, a genial series hero, a well-plotted puzzle, all the suspects gathered in the same place, a surprise reveal and that smell of bitter almonds.

This novel won rave reviews when it was first published in 1963. Critic Anthony Boucher (said like “voucher”) compared it to the best of Marsh, Allingham, and Blake.




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