A great Golden Age-style series starter…
Patricia Moyes has long been one of my favorite mystery authors, from back in the days when paperbacks of her books were crowded onto my shelves. Somewhere along the way, though, most of those books got loaned out or lost, and so I was really happy to be offered an electronic review copy of the first title in Moyes’ Henry and Emmy Tibbett series, Dead Men Don’t Ski.
As soon as I opened the book on my e-reader, I remembered again why I like Moyes’ writing so much. It’s crisp, clear, and has a good dose of the dry British humor that I like so much. Her descriptions of places and activities, although probably contemporaneous when written (in this case, the late 1950s), now read almost like a historical mystery, but don’t suffer for it. And I find it all still quite relatable. The “2nd class” ski train to Italy could easily, without too much imagination, be a Friday ski bus from Los Angeles to Mammoth. The bars and restaurants of the little ski town, with the subtle differences in clientele and décor, also are quite recognizable. The various skiers, from the terrified beginners to the easy intermediates to the competitive advanced skiers, ring true as well. And the plot, about which I won’t say too much to preserve its surprises, is still solid as well. So I was quite happy and ended up (re)reading this in just a couple of sittings.
If there is one way in which this doesn’t age quite as well, it’s in the nature of the illicit drug trade which forms an element in the narrative. Without giving away any spoilers, suffice it to say that, unlike the skiers and the ski town, I don’t think drug smuggling now looks much like it did back then. But even the occasional dissonant element doesn’t spoil the story, since it’s pretty easy to remember that this is all taking place decades ago.
All-in-all, I am quite thankful to Felony & Mayhem Press and Edelweiss for the review copy, and am now going to have to go re-read the rest of the titles in the series! I don’t give 5 stars to many books, reserving that level for books which I imagine I will enjoy re-reading again in the future. But in this case, I’ve just proved I really enjoyed re-reading this one (!!!), and so it’s getting five stars from me.