The Sad Variety by Nicholas Blake

Professor Alfred Wragby, a scientist whose research has yielded a new discovery, is spending the Christmas holidays at the Guest House in rural England. Nigel Strangeways has been assigned to keep an eye on Wragby and his family. And when the professor’s young daughter is kidnapped, Nigel finds himself not only trying to find her, but also trying to unmask the mole amongst the guests.

I’m not sure why I found that this book held my attention and enjoyed reading. I dither for a couple of reasons.  First, the style and setting of the story seem somewhat ambiguous to me. The story revolves around a Communist plot to obtain scientific secrets, and with multiple references to the “Red Scare” and nuclear disarmament, seems more a Cold War espionage story than mystery. But with a multitude of suspects trapped by a blizzard in a country guest house, it has the tone of a country house mystery.  Second, I was very disappointed by the fact that even with so many attempts at misdirection, the identity of the mole, as well as their motivation, was so transparent, or at least I thought so. 

What I think kept me reading was the character of Lucy. She is mature, intelligent, and clever. I found myself rooting for her and her ingenious efforts to outwit her captors. While Nigel and the police spend the majority of their time trying to determine who inside the house has tipped off the kidnappers, it is Lucy, through her resourcefulness that brings about a resolution to the case. 

My thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for the advanced reader copy made available for my review.

3 thoughts on “The Sad Variety by Nicholas Blake

  1. I would agree that this is not Blake at his best. His first 5-6 novels are those ones. His most famous book is The Beast Must Die, which I can definitely recommend. If you like strong female leads then The Smiler with the Knife may appeal, though it is more of a thriller.

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