Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Appleby's End by Michael Innes

Years ago I read Hamlet, Revenge by Michael Innes —replete with sundry literary quotations and allusions—as well as a murder committed during a production of the play. Actually the murder victim is on stage—behind the curtain when he is shot. At the time I recall being taken with the wit of the author.

In Appleby's End Michael Innes allows his considerable wit full rein and the result is pure delight.

Inspector Appleby of Scotland Yard finds himself in a train compartment with an assortment of rather odd individuals. Because of circumstances he is unable to debark at the station he anticipated and is invited by a Mr Everard Raven to spend the night at his home. Before getting off Appleby discovers that each person in the compartment is a member of the same family. Oddly—the name of the station that they pull into and where they all will all get off the train—is named Appleby's End. And that begins a series of coincidences.

The family is eccentric and in the middle of a series of odd happenings—all of which relate back to a stories penned by the Victorian novelist Ranulph Raven, a relation. It's almost as if his stories are being played out in real life.

I found myself laughing out loud when Innes describes the behavior of a milkmaid who thinks she's a cow. Incident after incident allows Innes to indulge his delicious wit in this delightful story.

Of great importance to all mysteries is the solution and explanation for all the happenings. The Inspector not only is able to piece together why all these happenings are occurring, but the why behind the pranks.

I must add that one of my delights was in the language— words and names. Villages named: Boxer's Bottom, Linger, Abbot's Yatter, Snarl. And characters: Gregory Grope, Hannah Hoobin.

—"...fleeting and hebdomadal mythology..." A weekly mythology. I'll have to find a use for the word.

"...without the otiose superaddition of novelty.." —such pointlessness

"...exiguous wooden scaffolding..."— don't put the window washer on a scanty scaffold

"...Judith shook her head darkly over this squirearchal sentiment..."

Michael Innes was a Professor and an extraordinary scholar —he delighted in dropping literary allusions into his stories. For those who are interested here's a site annotating the literary references in Appleby's End.

Where Does That Come From?
Vintage Mystery Challenge


  1. Thanks for the review on this one. I love Michael Innes and am still working my way through his books. I particularly like some of the eccentric and seemingly fantastic situations and people that he uses in his stories. His wit and sense of humor are big draw for me too.

  2. Glad you enjoyed "Appleby's End," which is one of my favorite Innes books. Some of his stories, including this one, really become surreal, and the fantastic atmosphere of books such as "Appleby's End" and "The Daffodil Affair" are really wonderful. Let me also recommend "Lament for a Maker" and the non-Appleby "The Journeying Boy." They're among his best.

  3. Innes is one of my favorite writers. Appleby's End is a book to be treasured. Hamlet's Revenge is good too. Wonder why Innes is not that popular now?

  4. This is one of my favorites also. Great review. I discovered Michael Innes recently and I am now, little by little, reading all the Innes books I can get my hand on. I loved APPLEBY'S END and reviewed it on my blog also. Another of his books I love is THE SECRET VANGUARD and THE CRABTREE AFFAIR.