We are nearing the end of a chronological read of Wentworth’s Miss Silver mystery series, which started in the 1920s and now with The Fingerprint (Book 30 of 32) has progressed to the mid-1950s. The formula is familiar by now. There’s always at least one romantic subplot whose happy resolution can be seen coming a mile away, and there is usually a cooperative police detective (often the charming Inspector Frank Abbott, with whom Maud Silver has a warm relationship. Not that kind of warm — get your mind out of the gutter!
As is frequently the case in this series, Maud Silver is nowhere to be seen in the opening chapters. Instead, we get the lay of the land through the eyes of Frank Abbott, who as a friend of a guest staying at the country home of Jonathan Field is present when the seeds of Field’s eventual destruction are sown. The village of Deeping will be familiar to readers of the previous The Eternity Ring, and Miss Silver’s previous acquaintance with characters who originally appeared in that book makes her entry into the murder investigation here more believable. For an elderly former governess who never stops knitting as long as her eyes are open, Maudie gets around!
It seems at first the impetus for Field’s removal is an age-old one: He has recently re-written his will to leave the bulk of his considerable estate to Mirrie, a young woman who is a distant (poor) relative only recently discovered and brought to live at Field End. Her elevation in status has come at the expense of Field’s beloved niece Georgina. There are other suspects, including the stepson of another distant relative and any of the people who attended a dinner dance where Field told a provocative story about his peculiar hobby of collecting fingerprints. Field claimed he was trapped in a building collapse during the Blitz with a man who confessed to two murders, but then vanished when rescuers came. Did the mystery man find out about Field having his fingerprint and come to cover his tracks for good? Or is this just a case of good old-fashioned family greed?
Miss Silver and Inspector Abbott get to the bottom of the case, as always, but this isn’t one of those mysteries where the culprit is revealed in a dramatically staged scene. Instead, we follow along as Abbott and Maud figure out who done it and then work to gather enough evidence to enable his arrest. But someone desperate enough to kill won’t go down without a fight …