DEAD MEN DON’T SKI (1959) by Patricia Moyes

Moyes_Dead-Men-Dont-Ski_henryholtApparently written to pass the time while the author was recovering from a skiing accident, this ended up being the first of nineteen novels featuring Inspector Henry Tibbett. Having really enjoyed the intricately plotted Who Is Simon Warwick?, one of the later books in the series, I decided to go back to the beginning, which opens with our protagonist heading off on holiday in the company of his clever wife Emmy. The Italian setting was another draw for me, though I steeled myself for some seemingly inevitable caricatures …

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

“I can’t even remember a case with so many motives. Hauser must have been just about the most hated man in Europe.”

Looking to mix business with pleasure, the Tibbetts head to the mountain-top Bella Vista hotel in Santa Chiara to hit the slopes but also investigate the activities of a gang of smugglers reputed to be operating from there. On the train out of London they meet a group of holidaying Brits including Colonel Buckfast and his harridan of a wife and Jimmy, Caro and Roger, a trio of wealthy bright young things. At the resort they all notice the rather incongruous figure of Fritz Hauser, who doesn’t ski and goes around with a gun. Added colour is provided by an Italian noblewoman who is having a fling with a poor artist and her children’s nanny, who it turns out blames Hauser for the death of her parents in the war. Tibbett immediately pegs Hauser as the leader of the smuggling ring, and he is quickly proved right but not before the man is found shot dead. And needless to say, lots of people wanted him out of the way – from those he was blackmailing (including the owner of the hotel) to a young woman who had been promised to him in marriage against her wishes. Tibbett ends up helping Capitano Spezzi in his investigation (it turns out our hero speaks very good Italian, among his many other talents).

It is, of course, traditional for ski instructors to be handsome. But Pietro was outstanding, even among ski instructors.

Moyes-Ski-ballantineThis is a conventional, well-upholstered Golden Age style mystery – the murder victim is universally loathed and all the suspects are stuck in a single location – which makes it perfectly enjoyable but is also rather predictable, due to its strict adherence to genre conventions. But at least the Italians and the other ‘foreigners’ (of course, it’s the Brits that are the foreigners here, but you’d never know it …) come out of it OK, I’m glad to say. And the lingo is mainly accurate, apart from a few minor but typical errors (confound it, you spell fettucine with an ‘e’ at the end!) If you enjoy a good old-fashioned murder mystery, one in which clues are hidden in long and complicated timetables (this one has not one but two of those) then this is for you. Me, I quite liked it but also found that it dragged a bit – at just before the 200-page mark Tibbett claims to have it all solved and then another murder is committed, which makes the novel go on for another 100 pages, which for this reader was definitely too long, though the action climax down the slopes provides an unexpected and enjoyable flourish at the finish.

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)
  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) – review
  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)

For more detailed looks at this mystery, you should check out what several of my blogging buddies have said about it, including Margot Kinberg at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist; and Les Blatt over at Classic Mysteries; there is also a really good profile of Moyes over at Mystery Scene written by Katherine Hall Page.

I submit this review for Bev’s Vintage Golden Age Mystery Scavenger Hunt in the ‘skull’ category:

06-Vintage-Golden-Scavenger-2016

***** (2.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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This entry was posted in 2016 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, Friday's Forgotten Book, Italy, Patricia Moyes. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to DEAD MEN DON’T SKI (1959) by Patricia Moyes

  1. First, thank you, Sergio, for the kind mention. I’m glad you found some things to like about this. I must admit, I’ve a bit of a soft spot for this series. I think I especially like the relationship that the Tibbetts have.

    • My pleasure Margot – I preferred the later story, but that that is often the way with long-running series and I’ve got a couple more of Moyes’ books on my TBR!

  2. MarinaSofia says:

    Given my love for skiing, I managed to get hold of this one and read it. The mystery aspect was, as you said, somewhat predictable, but I did enjoy the descriptions of the mountains, chalets and so on.

  3. Colin says:

    I love the title, and the covers you used for illustration here are very attractive too. The story sounds like it’s probably OK, although timetable stuff tends to irritate me. However, it’s got snow, and this is always good.

    • I love the idea of traditional cosy mysteries, but can be a bit hard on them if they are a bit dull in the middle as is so often the case, with a murder added pretty much just to liven up the plot and bolster the page count, as this one can be, but it is very entertaining too.

      • Colin says:

        Quite, this one gives me the impression that the trappings and set dressing are in place but the substance isn’t all it could be. Enjoyable enough as a way to pass the time but that’s about it – maybe?

        • Yeah, I guess, I thought SIMON WARWICK by comparison was much cleverer and so definitely plan to read more of hers. I have two on the TBR and it looks like JOHNNY UNDERGROUND may otherwise be the best of hers. I though i had that one but doesn’t look like it – at least, not yet!

  4. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Great review! I’ve never read any Moyes but I’ll definitely pick her books up if I come across them.

  5. pastoffences says:

    Another one for my “skulls in hats” Pinterest page 🙂

    (I think balaclavas count)

  6. I enjoy Moyes now and again, never feel like rushing through the whole series. I haven’t read this one, and your plot description made me laugh, it sounded such an archetypal GA-on-holiday collection of scenarios. I agree with you – Simon Warwick is a very very good and clever book.

    People often claim that publishers, editors and proofreaders were much better in the past, but foreign phrases in older books are often subject to ludicrous typos – I’m no linguist, but wince at some of them. So it may be Moyes or it may be the editor. I’m a big fan of Nancy Mitford, and older copies of her books are full of solecisms in the French, but I refuse to believe she was responsible as she spoke and wrote the language perfectly.

    • Thanks for that Moira – I should add that I was getting into the real of pet peeves when it came to things like fettucine – the one that drives me crazy is referring to a ‘biscotti’ which is the plural. Jonathan Coe did a great little riff on that in his Maxwell Sim book in which the protagonist tries to explain to a cafe worker why that it is grammatically incorrect, and is of course met with complete indifference 🙂

  7. John says:

    As I’ve said elsewhere I’m sure I’ve read more of Moyes back in my teen years when I devoured mysteries by the truckful (Hmm….some things never change), but I don’t remember any of them. Last year I returned to her and read MURDER FANTASTICAL. Very fun and ingeniously plotted with a murder method very much like something from a Carr or Rhode mystery. I enjoyed it so much I went looing for more. I found and tried to read THE COCONUT KILLINGS but it pissed me off and bored me so I stopped and never finished it. Opened with a lot of talk about golf and the holiday resort the Tibbetts were thinking of buying or did buy (can’t remember). Something about civil unrest on the island and a murdered golfer and an Islander suspected of the crime. Lots of race stuff which probably was very timely in the 1970s but seemed not very exciting to me because of TV news inundating us with stories of cops killing young black men in Chicago and everywhere else. Reading about the reverse in a novel and her self-righteous take on trying to be fair sort of pissed me off. It was a library book so I don’t feel ripped off. The only other Moyes books I have I won from Bev in one of her contests, but I doubt I’ll be returning to her work anytime soon. No real loss of investment at all since I spent not a dime on any copies I own.

    I find those foreign language typos and grammar errors all the time in older books, too. My pet peeve is when a German noun is not capitalized or the article for the noun is wrong. Sacrilege!

    • Thanks for that John – the thing about Moyes is that one has to be in an indulgent mood – unlike say Carr, who will win me over no matter what frame of mind I’m in, with most cosy GAD authors, i do need to be primed. Which is probably why I am not really more of a fan of the likes of Marsh, the Lockridges and Wentworth. It is partly to do with outlook and partly to do with writing ability too in terms of style and wit. Moyes I will try a bit more of, when i’m in the zone!

    • Yvette says:

      John, I think MURDER FANTASTICAL is her best book, but it is totally different from any of her other books. So weird that she never wrote another with the same sense of outrageous humor. But I enjoyed DEAD MEN DON’T SKI and NIGHT FERRY TO DEATH. P.S. I am not fond of Tibbett’s wife. At all. 🙂

  8. Yvette says:

    Next to MURDER FANTASTICAL I liked this Moyes book best – well, second best. 🙂 And yes, the time table thing confused the heck out of me. Had to read it about three or four times to try and figure out – Wha??? Still, I enjoyed the book. I am very indulgent. 🙂

    • Thanks Yvette – must admit, I did give up on the timetable. I figured she played fair but I just couldn’t invest any more time trying to figure it out! I do see more Moyes in my future …

  9. TomCat says:

    Great review, Sergio. Coincidently, I recently found one of Moyes’ books, Death and the Dutch Uncle, on the snow-capped peaks of Mt. To-be-Read and already wanted to read it for the setting of the book (my country). But your comments about the use of the Italian language made me even more curious, because I want to see if she got the language-based clue, I read about, correct in Dutch Uncle.

  10. I’ve been slowing accumulating Patricia Moyes books over the years. I considered her DEAD MEN DON’T SKI for Patti’s FFB next week, but I went with a different author and book. Love the covers on this book!

  11. tracybham says:

    I am a big fan of Moyes’ books. They are not perfect, but I got so much enjoyment out of them when I read them when I was younger. I have read all of them but the very last one was a disappointment to me. I have only read two recently: SEASONS OF SNOWS AND SIN and JOHNNY UNDER GROUND. Both had pros and cons but I did enjoy them. And each was different from the norm for her series.

  12. This sounds almost like the plot of a Christie novel. And those are terrific covers, I agree.

    • Matt Paust says:

      The covers, oh yeah! Not so much the novels, tho. I’ve only recently begun sampling the Golden Age mysteries. This one does sound interesting, but then your reviews could make an egg carton sound interesting, Sergio

      • Thanks Matt, very kind of you. Moyes was a bit of a throwback, a Golden Age writer who however was writing in the ‘Silver Age’ (sic) but clearly ingenious. If you like cosy crime then I would imagine you would like her a lot.

    • I think you are right there Prashant – Moyes must have been a fan.

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