Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Brading Collection - Patricia Wentworth

First published 1952; cover shown is the 1975 Coronet Books (UK) paperback impression. 224p.

The Brading jewellery collection is Lewis Brading's most prized accomplishment. Many of the pieces were once owned by infamous murderers, making the collection somewhat ghoulish... and priceless. Housed in a burglar-proof annexe and connected to Brading's mansion in Ledshire, the collection has many admirers - including Brading's new fiancée, many years his junior.

And yet Brading isn't content: he is frightened. Soon after Miss Silver, Private Enquiry Agent, is recommended to him, he visits her apartment in London and asks for her help. Miss Silver doesn't like the man: listening to him speak she realises how cruel he is, and that any danger lying ahead of him will be his own making. So she sends him on his way.

A fortnight later, Miss Silver receives a letter from Brading, begging for her immediate presence in his home. She then opens the Times to read that Brading is dead. Murdered in his burglar-proof annexe, with a gun loosely clasped in one hand to simulate suicide.

Charles Forrest, as Brading's heir, engages Miss Silver to investigate the murder. A steady procession of people - family, secretary and fiancée - visited Brading in the annexe in the hours before his body was found. They all make statements, but all are lying. Everyone seems to have something to hide, and soon Charles, as Brading's heir and the one who discovered the body, is tagged for arrest. It is up to Miss Silver to uncover the truth, and quickly.

A newly made will - found burnt to ash near the body... a stolen brooch - found in Brading's desk drawer... a secretary obviously frightened - found to have a shady past... And a very young and beautiful fiancée, who dreams of wearing Brading's jewels and spending his money - until she makes the stupidest mistake of her life.

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