PATRICIA WENTWORTH – The Clock Strikes Twelve. Miss Silver #7. J. B. Lippincott, US, hardcover, 1944. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1945. Reprinted several times, including Popular Library #131, US, paperback, 1947; Warner, US, paperback, 1984.

   There are situations in which fictional murder victims simply set themselves up for disaster, and such is the case in The Clock Strikes Twelve. When businessman James Paradine discovers some crucial wartime blueprints have gone missing, he knows that the only one who could have taken them is among those attending a New Year’s Even dinner party at his home that evening.

   At the end of the meal he makes an announcement to that effect, that a family member has betrayed him, but without saying what the crime is. But if the guilty party comes to his room before midnight to confess, he will be there waiting for him or her.

   Is it any wonder that his body is found dead the next morning below the balcony of his study? Someone in his family has done more than betray him, but as the police begin their investigation, it is not at all clear what secret failing that each of the ten possible suspects seems to have was the motive for the crime.

   Miss Silver, who looks like everyone’s idea of the perfect nanny, is not called in as a private investigator until about halfway through, and that’s when the detective work begins in earnest. Behind the her outer facade of a children’s governess and her iniquitous knitting needles, she has a sharp mind, indeed.

   Besides the stolen plans, there are a couple of romances that have been thwarted until now, and a small fortune in diamonds may also be involved. This is a mystery that is strong in well-drawn characters as well as actual down-to-earth deductive reasoning. My only wish is that in the end the actions of one of the suspects had been more clearly described than it was.

   And with as many possible suspect as there are in this book, there is also a lot to explain in the finale, much of it extraneous and including at least loose end that is not completely tied up. Otherwise I’d give this at least a two thumbs-up recommendation for those of you who love Golden Age puzzle mysteries. Small quibbles aside, this is still one of the better ones.