Title: Fear by Night
Author: Patricia Wentworth
First published in 1934; republished by DSP on 16 June 2016
Genre: Golden Age Mystery
I had just finished with a quirky cozy read and was looking for my next read when I came across DeadYesterday’s review on Patricia Wentworth’s Fear by Night. I decided to start reading the book right away – the plot sounded interesting.
Meet Ann Vernon, currently jobless and has been living on dry bread and water since Saturday! She’s at the Luxe, waiting for a handsome man named Charles Anstruther. While she’s waiting, she hears two people whispering about something. If the old man dies, his other niece will inherit his property. But that can be stopped by making her ‘go away’. Ann isn’t bothered much because honestly, it’s none of her beeswax. But little did she know that the two people were plotting to ‘off’ Ann Vernon. Yep!
Charles comes over and they have a nice lunch. Charles asks her to marry him but she refuses. She says she has to find a job, in fact, that same afternoon, she’s been called in for an interview at Mrs Halliday’s. Ann is taken in as Mrs Halliday’s companion. A couple of days later, James, Mrs Halliday’s son asks Ann to pack her bags as they are going on a trip.
Ann and the others (Mrs Halliday, Gale(Jimmy’s friend), Jimmy and the maid) reach Loch Dhu. As days pass by, Ann realizes she’s trapped. Jimmy and Gale are out to kill her – after all, she’s going to inherit a fortune and they cannot let it happen. (Gale’s married to the ‘poor’ niece.)
Fear by Night is the second Wentworth book I have read so far. The story started on a really good note. It must be a weird coincidence for Ann to overhear two people planning her murder – the poor thing does not know she’s the one who’s going to be ‘offed’.
When Ann reaches Loch Dhu – she realizes she’s trapped. There’s no way out of the island. The elderly help, Mary, warns Ann not to venture into the waters. Ann feels there’s something sinister living in the sea – she almost saw something the other night. Meanwhile, Charles goes in search of Ann; nobody is willing to lend him their boats to Loch Dhu. The locals are scared of something. (The story was written before the sightings of ‘Loch Ness monster.’)
The second half of the story seemed a little dragged. A little dramatic for my taste. Having said that, I must also keep in mind the era in which this book was written. So a little gothic atmosphere with a splash of drama is tolerable. What did not work for me was the ‘out of the world’ twist in the latter half of the book. I have given a little hint in one of the previous paragraphs so I wouldn’t want to talk about it in the review here. But, if you have read the book, let me know what you thought of the twist.
Overall, Fear by Night was a good read. A little different from all the mystery classics I have read so far. I am in the process of tackling my TBR which means I will be reading more of Wentworth’s novels this year.
Second Opinion: Dead Yesterday
Sounds like fun. I’ve read two Wentworth books so far one Miss Silver and one other, the Dower House mystery–the latter had some stereotypical elements to it–haunting sounds, doors knocke on at night etc, but I still found it good fun and like you said, different from the usual Golden Age mysteries. May be will try this one too, sometime.
This got a little boring halfway through but overall, it was interesting. 🙂
Which title by Wentworth will you read next?
I haven’t decided yet. Any recommendations?
Not sure I am the best one to recommend titles, as I am not an enthusiastic fan of hers. They’re not bad books, but they just don’t knock my socks off! Which titles do you have available to choose from you?
I read one Wentworth….she’s pretty good…interesting writer for the time she wrote
I have all the non Miss-Silver titles by DSP. Miss Silver ones are available on fadedpage so that shouldn’t be a problem either.
The first half of this one is really engaging, but it does fall off a lot in the second half. It almost feels like Wentworth ran out of plot halfway through and just needed to fill some pages however she could. As far as the ending, I almost enjoy the strangeness of it, though it obviously makes no sense and the execution leaves a LOT to be desired.
I do really enjoy Wentworth’s Miss Silver books, especially Miss Silver Deals with Death (an old love triangle leads to murder in the present day) and Death at the Deep End (mysterious disappearance in a decrepit country house full of eccentrics). They Key is also very good, a WWII mystery with more traditional detection and less romance. Her books always have an interesting hook to draw the reader in, and there’s a lot of focus on the details of the characters and their lives that are always enjoyable even if the mystery itself is less strong.
Thank you so much for the recommendations. I have my eyes set on The Key – a WW2 novel sounds interesting.
I agree, the second half was really boring. A couple of (failed) plans to kill Ann might have made the story interesting.