Portrait painter, Charles Honeybath, is intrigued when he is visited by a mysterious Mr Peach and is commissioned to paint an anonymous, aristocratic sitter, known only as 'Mr X', whom relatives claim is insane. Under cover of night, Honeybath is taken to the house and asked to stay while he completes his work; but when he returns to his studio, he discovers that the bank next door has been robbed and that he is under suspicion!
©2012 Michael Innes (P)2012 Audible Ltd
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"Not much mystery"
Mr. Peach arrives at the Chelsea studio of Charles Honeybath and offers the painter 2K guineas if he will paint of portrait of "Mr. X." The sitter is said to be mad, though not dangerously so. Furthermore, he must go to Mr. X's residence, paint the portrait on site, and do so within a fortnight. By the way, he must be taken to said residence under cover of night. Against his better judgment, Honeybath agrees.
When he arrives, he finds the "mad Mr. X" suffering under the somewhat common delusion that he is Napoleon Bonaparte. Honeybath, therefore, is mistaken for Jacques-Louis David, which is rather fun.
This starts out looking like a clever, witty crime caper with a touch of farce. But when the complications are neatly explained and difficulties fall away with ease, the story becomes quite boring. It was as if Innes lost heart somewhere in the middle of things, or he didn't want to put Honeybath through his paces and make him suffer.
That's another thing: Honeybath. I love my fellow artists, even most fictional ones, but Honeybath needs a foil. He's a bit dull and uppity on his own, not to mention an insufferable snob. (At least he is here).
Also, where was Appleby? Was I out of the room at the time? Keybird and Co, yes, but Appleby?
This isn't the worst you can do, but I don't really recommend the book either. I felt the plot started strong and finished on a whimper.
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