Reviews

Henrietta Who? by Catherine Aird

amibunk's review against another edition

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3.0

I wish I had taken a British Humor class in college, because I'm sure I missed half of the comedy in "Henrietta Who?" As Catherine Aird is not a sophisticated mystery writer, such as Agatha Christie, I'm sure she is more of a humorous author.

d_saff's review against another edition

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4.0

Review posted here https://55booksin52weeks.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/review-henrietta-who/

poirot's review

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mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

2.75


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cooeeaus's review against another edition

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emotional mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

3.75

jvilches's review against another edition

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mysterious medium-paced

4.0

jrenee's review against another edition

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mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5

bookwyrm_lark's review against another edition

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4.0

Henrietta Who? is the second mystery featuring Inspector Sloan and the hapless Constable Crosby, and it remains one of my favorites. Aird piles mystery upon mystery: Was Grace Jenkins’ death truly accidental? If she’s not Henrietta’s mother, how did she come to raise Henrietta on her own? What about Henrietta’s deceased father – why are his war medals not the same as the ones he’s wearing in his portrait? And when Henrietta then discovers that there is no Cyril Edgar Jenkins on the regimental monument – and then sees the man from the portrait in the street – the questions only multiply. Who is the man in the portrait? Is he any relation to Henrietta? The police are on the track of a killer, but Henrietta has her own, more urgent question: Who am I?

It’s up to Sloan to find the answers to all these questions, and he does, with his usual quiet determination. Sloan isn’t a brilliant detective in the mold of a Holmes or Poirot; instead, he is a dedicated policeman. He doesn’t give up, and he’s certainly intelligent enough to put the pieces together, but he does so not through flair but through painstaking detective work: asking questions, checking alibis, looking for motive and opportunity. He’s also a keen observer of both detail and human nature, crucial skills in his line of work.

Crosby is generally of little help, but he does provide low-key comic relief. The joke on the force is that somewhere in the uniform division, there’s a man with the same name who ought to have been promoted to the plainclothes detection squad. Crosby lacks the curiosity required of a detective, but occasionally he comes up with a clue, sometimes without realizing it. He’s less observant than even Watson or Poirot’s friend Hastings, but like them, he serves as a foil for Sloan: someone to whom Sloan can explain things or think out loud, as well as someone to take on the less interesting tasks and errands (searching the records, checking the ground for clues, etc.)

The plot of this mystery is complicated even for Aird, who excels at inventive plots. And she develops it perfectly, uncovering first more questions and then, eventually, the clues that finally bring the mystery to a satisfying conclusion. The pacing is just right, and Sloan’s (and Aird’s) understated humor and occasional dry irony make Henrietta Who? a delight to read. Incidentally, it also holds up remarkably well, but you should remember that it was written and is set in the early 1960s; there are no cell phones and decidedly no Internet, which means (among other things) that records searches take much longer to accomplish.

I first read Henrietta Who? in my twenties, and I’ve been an Aird fan ever since. So I was delighted to see that Open Road is reissuing most of her early books in print and ebook format. Her mysteries are a wonderful blend of police procedural and cozy mystery, low on violence and heavy on character, plot, and above all a challenging intellectual puzzle. She’s easily as good as Christie, and stylistically, her writing is better. If you haven’t made Aird’s acquaintance yet, by all means go read Henrietta Who? or the first Inspector Sloan book, The Religious Body. And enjoy!


Review originally published at The Bookwyrm's Hoard.

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are entirely my own.

vsbedford's review against another edition

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2.0

I received an eARC from the publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A solid, if a bit plodding, mystery. The writing is precise and the plot is nicely paced, but one of the early, central surprises felt a bit "So?" for me until I realized this was originally published in the 1960s. I don't think a reader that indulges in more than one or 15 mysteries a year will be overly surprised by the twists this novel takes; I recommend it as an entry into what could be a particularly winning series.

critterbee's review

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3.0

A great timeless cozy that check all the right boxes.


**eARC netgalley**

bev_reads_mysteries's review

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4.0

This is the second in the Inspector C. D. Sloan police procedural series and, as with the first--The Religious Body, Sloan finds himself looking to the past to find answers to some very present murders. He and DC Crosby are called to investigate a traffic fatality. What looked at first to be a simple hit-and-run, soon gives evidence of having been a carefully planned murder. But who would want to kill Grace Jenkins, a widow who has always kept herself to herself and had no real friends--let alone enemies. But there are even greater questions ahead. When Grace's daughter Henrietta comes home from university to identify the body, she finds that someone has broken into her mother's desk...but apparently they had a key to the cottage because there's no sign of forced entry.

The next shock in store is when the pathologist discovers that the woman Henrietta has identified as her mother had never borne a child and most likely was never married at all. If Henriett isn't Grace Jenkins's daughter, then who is she? Further investigation by Sloan reveals oddities about the man whose picture has held pride of place in the cottage. A picture of a man whom Grace claimed as her husband--killed in the war and decorated for service. But the medals on the man in the picture and the medals kept in a drawer don't match. Henrietta begins to wonder if anything she she's believed about herself is really true.

The hunt for a murderer by motor vehicle soon turns into a hunt for identity as well--Grace's, Henrietta's, and the man in the photo. If they can just find some proof indicating who any one of these really is, then they'll have something to work with and perhaps be able to find the motive. The man in the photo is eventually traced, but he's killed before Sloan can question him. It isn't until Sloan and Crosby tap into the correct memories from twenty years ago that they find the clue to the modern mysteries.

Sloan is a very low-key detective--no great flights of inspiration, no colorful habits or peculiarities. He just does the day-to-day work of a Detective Inspector (and delegates the more tedious tasks to Crosby--such as searching through the records of past cases and hunting up all the Holly Tree Farms in the area). He has a wry, not quite sarcastic wit that shows itself particularly in interactions with Crosby and his superior, Superintendent Leeyes, but is very humane when dealing with Henrietta, showing great concern for the girl's plight.

The mystery itself is a very interesting one with both victim and murderer as unknown quantities--and even the relations of the victim having their identities questioned. It's rare to not only have a "whodunnit" but a "who had it done to them" as well. It seems for a while that the identity question has taken over the book, but the reader should never lose sight of the fact that once the identities are sorted, the motive for the murder and the identity of the murderer will become clear. Overall, a highly enjoyable mystery.

First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting portions of review. Thanks.