Miss Maud Silver

Created by Patricia Wentworth
Pseudonym of Dora Amy Elles
(1878-1961)

Here’s one that’s probably not going to be confused with the hard-boiled school of private eyes. The redoubtable MISS MAUD SILVER (all the early lady detectives seemed to be “Miss Something or Another) is a spinster private investigator in London, England, specializing in thefts and forgeries of fine art works, who is so cozy she actually knits. Definitely a little quirky, and she may knit, but the resemblance to Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple ends there.

Maud’s definitely a professional. Trouble isn’t just a hobby; it’s her business. And none of that “Oh, I’m just a wooly-headed female” schtick of Miss Marple.

The no-nonsense Miss Silver is a retired schoolteacher and governess, looking forward to nothing more than a quiet retirement on a rather meagre pension, when she finds herself, through a series of incidents, the proud possessor of a home, a housekeeper, and a whole new profession. She becomes a private detective, although she prefers to be called a “private enquiry agent” (a title much more appropriate to a gentlewoman, she feels). A small woman, prim, polite, with a habit of quoting the Bible or perhaps the poetry of Lord Tennyson, Miss Silver lives by a simple code: “Love God, honour the Queen, keep the law, be kind, be good, think of others before you think of yourself, serve Justice, speak the truth.”

Because she appears so harmless, she’s a whiz at undercover work, and is particularly adept at infiltrating the troubled households of the upper classes, much to the chagrin of Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Lamb, who was often called in at the end to make the arrests. But another detective, Inspector Abbott, actually had great admiration for Miss Silver. They often went to each other for help, and had in fact known each other for years. Another police officer whom she often counted on was Randal Marsh, eventually Chief Constable, whose ties to Miss Silver went even further back — she had once been his governess.

Miss Silver premiered in Grey Mask in 1928 as a minor character and made her full-fledged as the main protagonist in The Case is Closed in 1937. Wentworth herself describes her as having “small, neat features and the sort of old-fashioned clothes that were not so much dowdy as characteristic” in her final book, The Girl in the Cellar.

Lighter reading, and populated with mostly female characters (and of course the star-crossed young lovers whose romance was endangered until Miss Silver saves the day), this series became so popular in the United States that this British author’s primary publisher was in Philadelphia.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wentworth was born in India (then the British Raj), and was educated privately and at the presigious Blackheath High School in London. After the death of her first husband in 1906, she settled in Camberley, Surrey. Her first novel, A Marriage Under The Terror, set in the French Revolution, won the Melrose prize in 1910, and she went on to write 32 novels featuring Miss Silver, as well as 34 other novels, many mysteries, including a few featuring Miss Silver’s pal, Inspector Lamb. She married George Oliver Turnbull in 1920 and they had one daughter.

UNDER OATH

  • “Miss Marple may receive ten times the attention as Miss Silver, but the woefully neglected Miss Silver is the real deal — a professional investigator and a stand-up woman, a true forerunner of all future female private eyes.”
    — D.L. Browne
  • “Patricia Wentworth has created a great detective in Miss Silver, the little old lady who nobody notices, but who in turn notices everything.”
    — Paula Gosling
  • “Miss Silver has had her place in detective fiction as surely as Lord Peter Wimsey or Hercule Poirot”
    — Manchester Evening News

NOVELS

  • Grey Mask (1928) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • The Case Is Closed (1937) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • Lonesome Road (1939) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • In the Balance (1941; aka “Danger Point”) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • The Chinese Shawl (1943) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • Miss Silver Deals in Death (1943; aka “Miss Silver Intervenes”) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • The Clock Strikes Twelve (1944) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • The Key (1944)
  • She Came Back (1945; aka “The Traveller Returns”)
  • Pilgrim’s Rest (1946; aka “Dark Threat”)
  • Latter End (1947)
  • Wicked Uncle (1947; aka “The Spotlight”)
  • The Eternity Ring (1948)
  • The Case of William Smith (1948)
  • Miss Silver Comes to Stay (1949)
  • The Catherine Wheel (1949)
  • Through the Wall (1950)
  • The Brading Collection (1950; aka “Mr. Brading’s Collection”)
  • The Ivory Dagger (1951)
  • Anna, Where Are You? (1951; aka “Death at Deep End”) Buy this book
  • The Watersplash (1951)
  • Ladies’ Bane (1952)
  • Out of the Past (1953)
  • Vanishing Point (1953)
  • The Silver Pool (1954)
  • The Benevent Treasure (1954)
  • The Listening Eye (1955)
  • The Gazebo (1956; aka “The Summerhouse”)
  • The Fingerprint (1956)
  • Poison in the Pen (1957)
  • The Alington Inheritance (1958)
  • The Girl in the Cellar (1961)
Respectfully submitted by Dale Stoyer, with some additional information from Kevin Burton Smith, and a few corrections by Un My Rosh and Jane Davitt.

One thought on “Miss Maud Silver

  1. I’ve read only a few of the Silver books, but I like them quite a lot and will read more. Nice to see her in her proper place here!

    all the early lady detectives seemed to be “Miss Something or Another

    Except for Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs (later Dame) Beatrice Bradley.

    Like

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