The Black Cabinet by Patricia Wentworth

Dangerous inheritance…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Chloe Dane’s family were once rich and lived in their ancestral home, Danesborough. But the family fell on hard times and now Chloe, at twenty, is an orphan, working in a dressmaker’s shop in the little town of Maxton. She’s not a languishing heroine though – she’s full of life and finds plenty of ways to have fun, and being very pretty is never short of admirers. Now her best friend is getting married and going off to India and Chloe is feeling that she needs a change. Out of the blue she is contacted by the new owner of Danesborough, a sort of distant cousin also called Dane, who is looking for someone to leave the property to when he dies. Chloe spends a week with him in Danesborough and develops an instinctive dislike of him. But then he dies, and she finds herself mistress of the house – or at least she will be when she comes of age in a few months time. Then, in the safe inside the black cabinet in the drawing room she discovers a dangerous secret and suddenly finds herself in grave danger, not knowing whom she can trust…

This is a lot of fun! Chloe is a lovely heroine, full of charm, brave, a little foolish, but determined to do the right thing at all costs. She has two main admirers and the reader quickly realises one of them is probably a baddie while the other is a goodie, but it’s not clear which is which till the end. The romantic element is as important as the mystery, and a lot of the suspense is around whether Chloe will pick the right man, both for her present safety and her future happiness. Both men are rather charming in different ways, and I must admit that, like Chloe, I changed my mind about which was the good guy several times through the course of the book.

There are also people who both Chloe and the reader know for sure are baddies – old Mr Dane’s secretary, Wroughton, and his friend Stran, who are determined to get hold of the documents from the safe inside the black cabinet. The only way they can do this is to find the combination to the lock, which only Chloe knows. So they need her alive, and they need to find some way to pressure or trick her into giving them the combination. And until Chloe reaches her majority, she can’t simply sack Wroughton and get rid of him. But she is equally determined that they won’t get the documents…

Patricia Wentworth

The characterisation is great, of Chloe especially – a hugely likeable heroine – but of all the other characters too. Wroughton is ostentatiously bad, but several of the other characters are beautifully ambiguous, both to Chloe and the reader, so that it’s impossible to fully trust anyone. Is Wroughton’s wife a poor little bullied creature who wants to help Chloe, or is she her husband’s willing partner, playing a part? Martin and Michael, both apparently in love with Chloe, but is one of them a member of the gang, trying to trick her? Are the servants loyal to Chloe, or to Wroughton? Chloe doesn’t know, and nor do we.

Wentworth puts poor Chloe through peril after peril, and she does a great job of building the tension as the story progresses. But it never gets too bleak – Chloe’s general high spirits mean she’s never down-hearted for long, and her natural courage and determination may falter occasionally but always spring back. And, although she gets help along the way from unexpected quarters, in the end it’s her own strength of character that carries her through. Thoroughly enjoyable – I raced through it, and am looking forward to reading more of Wentworth’s books soon.

This was The People’s Choice winner for August. Well done, People – you picked a good one!

Book 8 of 12

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38 thoughts on “The Black Cabinet by Patricia Wentworth

  1. For me, FictionFan, it can make all the difference in a story like this if the main character is likeable. If not, I’m putt off entirely. It sounds, though, as though Claire is an interesting character, and no shrinking violet, and I appreciate that. Lots of suspense and drama, too, and that’s intriguing. So is that element of ‘who can be trusted.’ It’s funny, too; ordinarily I don’t go much for romance in my crime fiction. For me, it has to be done very well to work. It sounds, though, as though it is here. Hmm……hmm….this is a Wentworth that I hadn’t yet read; perhaps I should.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not much of a fan of romance in crime either, but I do like the very matter-of-fact way the Golden Age authors dealt with it – no angst, no rows, no sex! High tea in a Lyons coffee house, maybe dinner and a dance, a game of tennis or two, and boom! Engaged! I wonder if it was really like that… 😉
      I really loved Wentworth style of writing so I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. I’m sure you’d enjoy this one if you get time to fit it in… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to look back and see if I voted for this (I did, but it was in stiff competition with the Brother Cadfaels for me). I’m glad “we the people” chose something you really enjoyed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, I’d forgotten it was up against Brother Cadfael! Well, I must admit I enjoyed it at least as much as I’d have enjoyed those, so definitely a winner. You the People seem to be doing better recently… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the kind of vintage crime I like best, and is one of the reasons I enjoy Christie so much – she usually has that rather light feeling too, with a bit of humour and a touch of romance, but not too much! I’m looking forward to reading some of the Miss Silver books soon – or maybe listening to them, since I see several are available on audio.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t read any of her books in decades so I feel like a newcomer to her work. I loved this – having a delightful main character is half the battle (and something contemporary crime writers should pay more attention to)! I’m looking forward to reading some of the Miss Silver books soon… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll assume you both voted for it so you can take the credit! I hope you enjoy it – I’m sure you will! It’s perfect for a rainy weekend when you just want something light and entertaining… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I seem to remember voting for this one, as I thought it would be the kind of thing I would enjoy myself when in the right mood, so I’m glad it worked out for you. I’ve never read any Wentworth before, but her books do sound like fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s perfect relaxation reading – light and entertaining and with just enough romance to make it interesting! I spotted some of her books are in Audible’s current 2 for 1 sale, so I picked one up to try out the narrator, Diane Bishop – she gets high praise in the reviews.

      Like

    • Haha, You the People have been doing better recently – I’ve almost forgiven you for some of those early choices! 😉 The love triangle in this one is more part of the mystery than true romance, if that makes sense, though both of the men are quite attractive… 😍

      Like

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