MICHAEL INNES – The Case of Sonia Wayward. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1960. Reprinted several times in paperback, including Penguin, 1972. First published in the UK as The New Sonia Wayward (Gollancz, hardcover, 1960).

   It begins with Sonia dead, no mourning her. She had been a prolific writer of romances, trifles to be sure, but quite popular with certain segments of the population, and quite naturally Colonel Pettigate, her husband of long standing and forbearance, finds the need to carry on without her.

   As he blithely blithers his way through her unexpected absence, leaving gaping holes carelessly strewn as he passes, he does manage to complete Sonia’s latest work-in-progress, giving rise as he does so to a good deal of deft tongue-in-check tomfoolery about the mysterious ways of artistic creation.

   But at length blackmail and the social graces suggest that Sonia’s return, for at most a week, say, would do wonders for the colonel’s growing embarrassments. Of course there’s an obvious way out — an impersonation? — one that not even the colonel can miss.

   It ends as a high-brow comedy, delicious and wholly captivating, though I shouldn’t say that many will be at all surprised with the ensuing vicissitudes of fate. Innes prepares us for them especially well in advance.

Rating:   A minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 2, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1978 (very slightly revised).