Miss Seeton Draws the Line by Heron Carvic
Miss Seeton fears the worst in this comedy drama mystery featuring the inimitable older lady, her umbrella and most significantly, her strange ability to draw clues to mysteries. Once again, Detective Superintendent Delphick, also known as the Oracle, is stuck in solving a murder, and thinks of Miss Seeton as the only person who can possibly help. This book is part of a series, but can happily be read as a standalone novel, once the basic idea of the unusual premise of the book is established. Although a series of crimes has been committed in various parts of the country, the action mainly takes place in the picturesque village of Plummergen. This is quite the coincidence as Miss Seeton has inherited a house from her godmother in the village, which she stays in during school holidays when she is not teaching in London. Anyone who has read the previous book knows that this is no peaceful village in the midst of the English countryside, but a lively place that contains some memorable characters who are more than capable of putting completely the wrong interpretation on any event, especially where Miss Seeton is concerned.Ranging from a bewildered Vicar, through two ladies referred to as The Nutts, to my favourite, Sir George Colveden and his practical wife Lady Colveden. This is a fast moving mystery which brings in many elements of farce and more in a fast moving tale of crime, detection and more.
The book opens with Miss Seeton saving a child who she finds, in common with others in the village, difficult to like. Her spontaneous use of her umbrella to effect the rescue is, as ever, a matter of instinct. It also serves to remind her that she has tried and failed to sketch this particular child for her mother, and failed. Why she has produced such a strange image drives her see Dr Knight, as she fears that she is ill. When his daughter Anne visits to find out what is going on, she is alerted to further possibilities of what is going on in Miss Seeton’s mind, which provides suggestions for further police investigation. That proves to be helpful, as Delphick is wrestling with cases of particularly nasty murders , and as yet has very little to go on until a common denominator is found. Of course, village life being what it is, as soon as Miss Seeton is fetched to consult further, gossip condemns her activities as illegal, criminal and worse. When some robberies occur in the village many issues emerge, and Miss Seeton’s activities once more, however innocent, are scrutinised.
This book steers a careful line between farce, murder mystery and comedy. It is tense, gently funny and always clever. The situations that Miss Seeton finds herself in are truly remarkable on many levels, and the characters who run through the novel are always consistent and amusing. There are as always a few situations running through this fairly short novel, and there is always something of interest throughout. This is an enjoyable and fairly light read, a 1969 novel republished which shows something of life in the 1960s, and represents a slice of British village life in a fascinating and enjoyable way. I found it a good read which continues Miss Seeton’s story in a very satisfactory way.
This is a different book from yesterday’s classic Heyer, and a very different proposition! Not a new book, though recently republished, it is very different from the many new books I have here to read. There are of course common themes – strong females, crime of a non gory type, humour of a gentle type. So many books, so little time…