Book review: ‘The Chinese Shawl’

‘The Chinese Shawl’

By Patricia Wentworth

(1943, 270 pages, genre: mystery)


Laura Fane comes of age in England and inherits a property called the Priory. Her older cousin Agnes lives there, and Agnes wants to buy it from Laura. Agnes is a formidable woman and was once engaged to Laura’s father. Laura’s father broke the engagement in order to marry Laura’s mother. Agnes never married and has hung onto her heartbreak and anger. Agnes want to buy the Priory from Laura and to leave it in her will to another relation, Tanis Lyle. Tanis is starting out as an actress. She is attractive, but can be vicious and manipulative.

Laura Fane is invited to The Priory as a houseguest and decides to go with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension. There she meets Agnes, Tanis, and a handsome young man named Carey Desborough. Laura and Carey immediately strike up a friendship. But Tanis says that she and Carey are engaged! Carey denies this. Laura doesn’t know what is true. Then during the weekend, a murder takes place.

Miss Silver, a retired governess, is also staying at the house and offers to help the police with the murder. (Miss Silver could be kin to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. In fact, the two characters appeared in print within two years of each other). Miss Silver is also an observer of human nature and makes suggestions that ultimately reveal the motive for the murder. It’s a classic British mystery with a likeable heroine, a definite sense of place, and a great collection of suspects. See if you can discover the culprit.

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Robbin Bailey

Author: Insider Staff

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