WHO IS SIMON WARWICK? (1978) by Patricia Moyes

Moyes_Who-Is-Simon-WarwickThis smart detective story provides a really entertaining bridge between the Golden era of pure deduction and the modern scientific age. It is based on a classic scenario from popular culture – the long-lost heir of who may or not be genuine – and comes up with a terrific variation. A wealthy industrialist, on being told he has only a few months to live, decides to cut everybody out of his will if he can find a long-lost nephew put up for adoption when his parents were killed in the war. But will the real Simon Warwick step forward and take over the company?

I submit this review for Bev’s 2015 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Challenge; and Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at her fab Pattinase blog.

“Good heavens, d’you mean Scotland Yard?”

The true-life stories about Martin Guerre and the claimant to the Titchborne baronetcy have long exerted a powerful influence in fiction – Agatha Christie was a bit obsessed with it while Josephine Tey’s Bratt Farrar, the French film The Return of Martin Guerre, Pirandollo’s Il Fu Mattia Pascal and even Don Draper in Mad Men all offer variations on the theme. In this case, when family solicitor Ambrose Quince is tasked with finding Simon Warwick, who was adopted by an American family whose name and details are now completely lost, he knows he can only advertise in the papers and wait for the claimants to come to him – which they presently do, the list of candidates limited to only two: Harold Benson and Simon Finch. Quince heads off to America and soon decides it must be Finch and invites both men to his office. And it is in Quince’s waiting room that the strangled body of one of the two men is found and the other is promptly arrested for the crime. Inspector Tibbett however thinks there may be more to it …

“The first and most obvious thing Henry noticed about Harold Benson was that he was scared out of his wits”

The list of suspects is considerably lengthened beyond the surviving claimant as all those who were cut out of the new will would, if the heir was not found (or imprisoned), once again stand to inherit as the previous one would come back into effect. And unfortunately Quince had let them all know of his plans to pick Finch ahead of the meeting in his office … This is a world in which there are still butlers and domestic staff and yet it is also undeniably the 1970s and I have to say that the combination works very well. Tibbett (and his wife) make for an enjoyable pair of sleuths, though they are so ‘nice’ as to be barely on the right side of bland. But the plot is the thing here, and it is very clever – even if you guess who the ultimate culprit is (as I did), the big twist that precedes it, and which finally makes sense of a confused set of motivations, should floor most readers.

The Inspector Henry Tibbett Mysteries

  1. Dead Men Don’t Ski (1959)
  2. The Sunken Sailor (1961, US title: Down Among the Dead Men)
  3. Death on the Agenda (1962)
  4. Murder a la Mode (1963)Moyes_Simon-Warwick_fontana
  5. Falling Star (1964)
  6. Johnny Under Ground (1965)
  7. Murder Fantastical (1967)
  8. Death and the Dutch Uncle (1968)
  9. Who Saw Her Die? (1970, US title: Many Deadly Returns)
  10. Season of Snows and Sins (1971)
  11. The Curious Affair of the Third Dog (1973)
  12. Black Widower (1975)
  13. To Kill a Coconut (1977, US title: The Coconut Killings)
  14. Who Is Simon Warwick? (1978)
  15. Angel Death (1980)
  16. A Six-Letter Word for Death (1983)
  17. Night Ferry to Death (1985)
  18. Black Girl, White Girl (1989)
  19. Twice in a Blue Moon (1993)

I submit this review for Bev’s 2015 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Challenge bingo in the ‘man in the title’ category:

026-Vintage-Silver-Moyes

***** (3.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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36 Responses to WHO IS SIMON WARWICK? (1978) by Patricia Moyes

  1. I have to admit to a soft spot for these sleuths, Sergio. They may be awfully ‘nice,’ but there really is something about them that appeals to me. And Moyes did write some intriguing plots…

  2. Sergio, although the plot sounds timeworn, the author seems to have handled it differently and the ending looks promising. That said, I have never any in this series.

  3. Not read Notes either, but sounds worth a look. Cheers.

  4. Colin says:

    Bridging or transitional works, be it film or literature, always intrigue me. There’s always potential for something interesting in such blends. I’ve never read anything by this author though.

  5. Totally agree, a really clever puzzle. Moyes at her best.

  6. Bev Hankins says:

    I enjoy Moyes a lot. This one is in a stack of hers that I I have yet to get to. But it sounds like I should find a way to work it into next year’s Silver Age offerings. Glad you enjoyed your first taste of her work.

  7. I have a dozen Moyes mysteries I haven’t read yet so your review is motivating me to dig them out and read some. I like her early novels.

  8. Matt Paust says:

    New to me, too. You’ve piqued my interest, Sergio.

  9. Richard says:

    This is an author and series I like very much. I’ve reviewed several of the books on my blog, and will continue to do so. Whenever I feel I want to read something comfortable but engaging, I reach for one of my Moyes paperbacks.

  10. Yvette says:

    I like Patricia Moyes’ books a lot, Sergio. She is another recent discovery of mine. 🙂 Though I readily admit that her books are uneven and a couple just don’t work for me at all. I read WHO IS SIMON WARWICK? a few weeks ago, but I seem to have liked it a little less than you though I loved the set-up. Can’t remember why parts of it didn’t work for me though. So I’ll probably read it again at some point to try and find what you found. That’s how much I am under your influence. 🙂
    My favorite Moyes books so far are DEAD MEN DON’T SKI and MURDER FANTASTICAL.

    • Well, I just liked the big twist and thought it held together well, while enjoying its old-fashioned ambience. I did guess the murderer, though thought it was well-concealed. Thanks Yvette for the suggestions – Dead Men Don’t Ski sounds like the right place for me to go next 🙂

  11. tracybham says:

    I like this series a lot, Sergio. I have read all of them, and re-read two of them fairly recently. I liked both of those on a 2nd read. I don’t remember this one specifically but I remember the title.

  12. I actually don’t remember much about this book, but I do know that I liked it very much, and there is one clue that has stuck in my mind as one of the best ever. It concerns a newspaper, and was dropped in so cleverly….

  13. Pingback: AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (1984) by Ed McBain | Tipping My Fedora

  14. Pingback: DEAD MEN DON’T SKI (1959) by Patricia Moyes | Tipping My Fedora

  15. Anne H says:

    I discovered Patricia Moyes when the Australian Women’s Weekly serialised Murder a la Mode at the time it was published,and I put her on my to read list. I would have read all of her books over the years, and agree with the choice of Johnny Underground as probably the best. As for claimant stories, Brat Farrar is a beaut but of course John Dickson Carr’s The Crooked Hinge gets my vote.

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