Title: The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith
Author: Patricia Wentworth
First published in 1923, reprint by Dean Street Press on 16th June 2016
Genre: Golden Age Mystery, Mystery
A group of men are holding a clandestine meeting when one of them sees a girl in the room. She’s wearing a night-dress and seems to be sleepwalking. Did she hear anything? Should she be eliminated?
Meanwhile, Jane Smith is sitting in the park, counting her money. She hardly has any left and she worries about what to do next. A man mistakes her for Renata – her cousin. The man introduces himself as Arnold Todhunter. He says he’s in love with Renata Molloy and wants to marry her and take her away but she’s kept in a locked room as it’s speculated that she heard something she wasn’t supposed to. He asks Jane to take his would-be wife’s place. Jane agrees.
Renata Jane Molloy and Jane Renata Smith are cousins. Their mothers were twins and the girls look-alike too. Jane talks to her old friend Henry March about the adventure that she’s going into, after all, she wants someone to know about it. Jane is taken in as Lady Heritage’s companion. A man who introduces himself as Jeffrey Ember keeps an eye on Jane. Jane soon discovers that something sinister is going on in the laboratory that forms a part of the house.
My oh my! This is the first Patricia Wentworth book that I picked and I am happy that I did because I absolutely loved the story! With the girls having almost similar names and looks – Jane Renata and Renata Jane – and both exchanging their places, the plot sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
I was hooked on to the story from the very beginning. Be it the writing or the pace, it was simply perfect. The suspense and the red herrings keeps you on the edge of your seat. Yes, you heard it right. There are a couple of red herrings. Every time I thought – this person is guilty – there was a twist in the story.
My favourite character in the story is none other than Jane Smith. Her curiosity, not being afraid of taking a bold step (especially in the last few chapters), deciding to take up Renata’s place only because she has no place else to go and her acting skills ( well, she has to play the role of Renata remember? A silly little schoolgirl is not an easy role to play, especially when the actor is just the opposite) makes her a likeable character. Henry March and Lady Raymond Heritage were the next best characters. Halfway through a story, another interesting character is introduced in the story – Sir Julian Le Mesurier aka Piggy.
From Ember playing a villainous role to Jane Smith playing a spy, I loved the way the characters are portrayed. The mystery is mind-blowing. And if you must know, there are secret passages in the house. The second half of the story is more inclined towards what happens in the passages and stuff and this is where the story gets really interesting. I think the above sentences make this review a tad spoiler as the secret passages are not mentioned until chapter 9. Anyways, if it has piqued your curiosity to read this book, then why not mention it?!
The ending was good. After all these fast-paced action sequences, the ending seemed to be a tad dull but I didn’t mind. A slightly dull ending did not ruin my expectations. This book is definitely making into my ‘Best Books by Patricia Wentworth’ list! I am looking forward to reading more of Wentworth’s books.
If you haven’t read any of Wentworth’s books before then you can give this book a try. Also, I heard that her Miss Silver series are good too. Have you read any of her books? If yes, then tell me more about your favourite book.