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Mystery Monday Review – Black Widower

Black Widower by Patricia Moyes

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

The title aside, I don’t think readers have to make allowances to enjoy this old-school police procedural from 1975. Edward Ironmonger is the ambassador of the newly independent Caribbean country of Tampica. At a diplomatic celebration of Tampica’s opening an embassy in D.C., his wife Mavis makes a fool of herself and is ushered to her room. She is later found shot dead.

Ironmonger exercises dip privileges since an embassy is that country’s territory. He calls in a British police officer to investigate. Like Moyes’ other traditional police procedurals, this novel stars her series dynamic duo Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Henry Tibbet and his wife Emmy. Extremely relatable is this pleasant middle-aged couple who are down to earth but solve murders with no-nonsense English composure.

Tibbet’s inquires reveal that the persons of interest have personal, financial, and political motives galore. As usual Emmy makes a contribution to the investigation, with the insight of other golden-age wives of sleuths such as Harriet Vane, Amanda Campion and Agatha Troy Alleyn.

So the reason to read this mid-Seventies mystery is that Moyes was a master at blending intense settings with brilliant characterization and plausible unfolding of incidents. Moyes moved to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean archipelago in the 1970s, so her descriptions of tropical lushness and sandy beaches ring true. She must have moved in diplomatic circles because her set-piece of a dip party in D.C. hit home for me, who lived for three years on the fringes of dip doings in a European capital.

Readers of Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, and Ngaio Marsh would do well to read Patricia Moyes.



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