PATRICIA WENTWORTH – Dead or Alive. J. B. Lippincott Co., US, hardcover, 1936. Dell #2, paperback, 1943. Warner, paperback, September 1990. First Edition: Hodder and Stoughton, UK. hardcover, 1936. Dean Street Press, UK, softcover, 2016.

   Not a Miss Silver novel. According to Hubin, a fellow named Frank Garrett makes his third appearance as a series character in this novel, but until the ending (of which more later) his part in the story is so nominal as to be all but non-existent.

   The book definitely is part of a continuing series, however. There were two footnotes referring to people or events that happened in previous books, but not having access to them, I convinced myself to ignore them. I do not believe I missed anything; the footnotes were sufficient.

   More than anything else, when it comes down to it, Dead or Alive is a romance. When Bill Coverdale comes back to England from South America, he immediately calls on Meg O’Hara, whom he has loved (in vain) since she was fifteen. That she is now a widow may have something to do with this.

   Or is she? Widowed, I mean. She has been receiving strange notes telling her that her husband Robin is still alive. Is it possible that what was identified as his body after being pulled from a river was not him?

   Without a job, Meg is in poor straits, her only relative an absent-minded uncle who has isolated himself away on an island in a lake with only a covered bridge connecting him to his new home, with a newly acquired staff of unhelpful servants whose job it seems to be to keep Meg for seeing him.

   It turns out that Meg’s husband worked for Garrett (see above) who works for the Foreign Office. Bill turns to him for help, but all he is told is that Meg’s husband is definitely dead. Garrett has no explanation for what is going on.

   This is a story that’s charmingly told, if you’re still with me, and the trouble that Bill and Meg get into gradually gets worse and worse. At one point close to the end, they are both captured and near death, with no way out that I could think of, nor apparently could Miss Wentworth.

[PLOT ALERT] The ending is the most blatant use of a deus ex machina plotting device I have ever had the good fortune of reading. Worse, the crooks responsible get away, leaving the reader to figure out at this late date when and where they turned up next.

   And there’d better be a next time. Crooks this nasty need their comeuppance, and badly. But did I enjoy this one? You may ask, and in a word, believe it or not,the answer is yes. It’s not much as a detective novel, but as a romantic thriller, it’s top notch. Bill is stalwart and strong, whereas Meg, who starts out as being frightfully weak, shows a lot of fortitude and spunk by the time the book ends. You can’t blame the plot on them.