Cover Image: Death on a Quiet Day

Death on a Quiet Day

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Member Reviews

Initially published in 1956 under the title Appleby Plays Chicken, this is the fifteenth title in Michael Innes' Inspector Appleby series. David Henchman has left the dreaming spires of Oxford to hike across Dartmoor, unfortunately he stumbles across a corpse at the top of Knack Tor,  which somewhat destroys David's peaceful holiday. At first he assumes the corpse to be a suicide but the sudden arrival of another person changes his mind. David is then fleeing for his life, will he be the next victim?
Michael Innes wrote for his time so the majority of the characters are upper class and, although his plots are good, his characterisation leaves a lot to be desired. I have read many of the Appleby series and this still irritates me. However as I said his plots are good and I would recommend this book for that reason, but don’t expect  George Bellairs or Dorothy L. Sayers.
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There are several Appleby novels in which he doesn't appear until quite late, and this is one of them. It is, however, very recognisably Innes, with a typically deft and puzzling plot - one of his less-convoluted ones, which may please some readers, as not everyone enjoys the kind of flight of fancy he indulges in a tale like Appleby's End (I love it, whereas my husband thought "indulges" was the operative word, and that it just went too far). There's a nice plot twist though in this tale of a quiet holiday walk which turns into a chase across Dartmoor. 

There's a definite sense that Innes knew Dartmoor, the book has a real feel of the place, which I found very satisfying, and Appleby is his usual patrician self.
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I recently discovered three authors of classic English crime novels of which I am a huge fan.

It is Michael Innes, George Bellairs and Edmund Crispin. I have already read quite a number with great pleasure and it was a real treat to be given this novel to review. It got it from Crime Classics to download via NetGalley.

This novel is number 16 in The Sir Appleby series .

David Henchman is a student attending a reading party supervised by old Pettifor. He goes for a days outing and sees a smoke on top of Knack Tor. He climbs to the top and finds a dead body very shortly after he has heard a shot. This results in a thrilling run for his life and at some point Appleby appears in the story. Telling more about the plot would be a spoiler.

It is a very well told and exciting story with plenty of action, humor and suspense. I really enjoyed it.
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I love some of Michael Innes' books. Some are hard to get through. This landed in the middle range. He is a fine writer but gets bogged down sometimes
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David Henchman,a young undergraduate,several other young cubs and their tutor are participating in a reading party. In the morning they pore over texts and in the afternoon they climb hills and discover Dartmoor 's treasures. 
One morning David visits Knack Tor with its magnificent views. When he finally, after a stiff climb,arrives at the top he is not alone. A corpse awaits him there. He then calls for help and manages to attract the attention of a casual passerby.  But this hiker seems to have an altogether different agenda. What follows is a wilde chase through heather ,moors,meadows and country lanes. When David finally finds himself in a more safe environment, Inspector Appleby enters the story...
I've read novels by Michael Innes before and it always amounts to the same thing,sometimes the storyline is definitely  worthwhile and sometimes it is all over the place. More than one third of the book consists of young David's adventures while being chased by the assailants. It feels as if it never going to end and when it finally does, we are confronted by spies and not very intelligent or successful ones. There is definitely a boy scout feeling about. Fine if you like it but it didn't really work for me.
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The 16th book in the Inspector Appleby series, it was published in the 1950s and uses Appleby as a catalyst for the mystery to be resolved, rather than the main character. A literate novel, which still creates a sense of excitement in the chase.
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As with all of Innes' mysteries that I have read, I enjoyed this one very much. While it has a solid mystery within it, much of the book proper is an exciting and often amusing adventure story involving a group of college students on a reading break, a dead body and mysterious ne'er-do-wells, and guns, motorcycles, a hay cart, hundreds of bottles for pineapple nectar, and a horse. Naturally, Appleby is on the scene by happenstance and is able to puzzle out the mystery underlying it all, which is in fact only mildly interesting apart from the adventure that it sets in motion.
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To get away from it all, and his fellow students David goes into the country. What he did not expect to find is a body with a bullet through his head. What becomes even worse is that when the police are called in there is no body and David is left looking foolish

Like most mystery murders set in an older time frame, the story only gets going much later in the book which is not to everyone's taste. In modern mystery murder books the action seems to start from the first page, and this difference is something one has to get used to and understand that it is part of the build up of the story.

The setting is very good, the detective work is spot on and the characterization is good.
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If I'm honest, I find Michael Innes books a little irritating at times.  The tone can be a bit arch from my taste.  Having said that, this is an entertaining book, nicely plotted and something that take up a few hours on a quiet day.
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This book falls into the "chase" category of Michael Innes' crime novels. Innes ranged over a wide swathe of the  detective field, with books that could be classified as "straight" murder mysteries, others that were closer to the thriller, a few that are technically spy stories, and, eventually, quite a few that are just plain weird. DEATH ON A QUIET DAY falls into the "thriller" category, one of several pastiches Innes wrote of books like Buchan's THE 39 STEPS.

(The original title was APPLEBY PLAYS CHICKEN. I'm uncertain why Agora chose to use the American title, and I hope they decide not to go through with the plan indicated in their titles list to use THE CRABTREE AFFAIR instead of A CONNOISSEUR'S CASE, which is significantly funnier.) 

In this novel, a young man sees an odd thing on the moor, and finds himself chased by an improbably determined group of evildoers determined to silence him for reasons that are unclear. Honestly, I've never found Innes' "chase" novels particularly thrilling, and this is no exception. Our hero is pursued by villains whose persistence and capability is practically superhuman, but never actually enough to catch him. Eventually, it gets dull. Still, the scene with all the bottles is memorable and amusing, which puts this book over THE SECRET VANGUARD in my mind.
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The best book that I have read from Michael. Well worth a read if you get the chance. Can't wait to read next month's Crime Classic.
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Although I struggled to get into this book initially, I soon  found it to be an exciting , enjoyable whodunnit with plenty of action and twists. I have only read one other Michael  Innes title, which I enjoyed. I think I found this tale to be even more pleasing.
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I have read a couple of this authors books and have always been impressed although of course he was writing many years ago.

Death on a Quiet Day was originally published as "Appleby Plays Chicken" all the way back  in 1956. In one respect it is not a typical  novel by the author. as Appleby, the main protagonist, does not appear until over a third of the way through the book. 

David Henchman is a student forming part of a reading party, i.e. a bunch of students and their tutor are staying on Dartmoor, reading and exchanging views. David is a bit of a loner and goes for a long walk.  He finds a corpse in the middle of the moor with a bullet hole in its forehead. David then finds that a chap appearing a few minutes later really doesn’t want David to publicise this and David must flee for his life. We are then treated to a highly exciting well-written chase sequence that is six chapters long. 

Appleby is staying in the area with relations of his wife, Judith. However, when David leaps upon a riderless horse at a Point to Point in his efforts to evade pursuit, Appleby’s interest is piqued. When he sees the stray bullet embedded in David’s shoe, that interest deepens significantly. The story then really starts to get going with Appleby revealing that he is a high ranking Scotland Yard detective and he helps Henchman come to terms with all the tragedy that he has experienced.

The story then starts moving very quickly until it reaches its very dramatic conclusion. I enjoyed this story very much and I must check out other books by this very gifted author. Strongly recommended.
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Death on a Quiet Day opens with student David Henchman and a small group of friends from university attending a reading party in the Dartmoor countryside:

"A group of young men facing their final examinations within a year; a tutor, ambitious for his charges or merely amiable, prepared to spend part of his vacation in their company; comfortable quarters in some quiet country place, with hills that can be climbed or antiquities that can be inspected in the course of a long afternoon."

Early one morning, David decides to get away from the others for a while and go for a walk in the spring sunshine. Daydreaming as he walks, David fails to pay attention to his map and finds himself approaching the great hill known as Knack Tor. Seeing a column of smoke rising from the top of the hill, he begins climbing up to investigate, but is unprepared for what he finds there – the body of a dead man with a hole in his forehead and a revolver in his hand. As David wonders what to do next, he becomes aware that he is not alone...someone else is up on that hill with him and that someone will stop at nothing to ensure David keeps quiet about what he has seen.

The first half of the book is devoted to one long episode in which David is chased through the countryside on foot, by car and by horse as his pursuers seem to multiply and appear out of nowhere. It’s fun to read and reminded me of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps – but unlike the chase scene in The Thirty-Nine Steps, this one comes to an end before it has time to become tedious. Inspector Appleby then appears on the scene and the whole tone of the novel changes. As Appleby begins to investigate the murder, the other students and their tutor are brought into the story, and with the viewpoint moving away from David Henchman we can begin to piece together what is going on.

The murder mystery aspect of the novel is nothing special, to be honest. There are only a few suspects and the solution is not particularly clever or surprising. This is definitely a book that, if you read it, you will remember not for the mystery but for that long, desperate race across the moors.
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Thank you Net Galley.  A fun read from the classic crime library..  A slow start that picks up as the book proceeds and the crime is discovered. Old time classics are charming. They are paced differently and the plot too, unfolds in a manner quite unlike present day mysteries.
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This was my first book by Michael Innes, but I'd definitely read more by this author! The story moved along at a good pace and the characters were engaging and developed.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Agora Books for the digital review copy.

Unfortunately my forbearance with the author now seems to have  reached its limit. I found this tedious and boring and very difficult to finish.
My sense of humour and love of the wry and ridiculous were untouched.
Those who have not read any Innes should begin earlier in the series.
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I always find Michael Innes' books a pleasant and gripping read, well written and cleverly crafted.
This one was no exception and I can say it aged well.
The plot is unusual for a Golden Age mystery as it starts with a thrilling chase that keeps you on the edge.
The mystery is excellent, full of twists and turns.
The characters are well written as usual and quite interesting.
I loved this book and i look forward to reading other books by Mr Innes.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Shades of Buchans '39 Steps'.
A group of Oxford students with their tutor are staying on the edge of Dartmoor,one of them David Henchmen goes walking across the moor for some peace and quiet. Instead of finding that he finds a dead body,He suspects suicide until a fellow walker attempts to add him to his grisly find. There follows a thrilling chase across the moors as Henchman is chased across the moors by a number of armed men
I wont spoil it for you but the chase effectively ends when Henchman is found by Sir John Appleby of Scotland Yard,This is Innes Detective creation and central character of many of his books.
From here Appleby takes over co opting several members of the student group into doing tasks for him and unraveling a dastardly plot involving Espionage Blackmail Murder Red Herrings and a twist at the finale that's not without pathos.
All in all a cracking little tale that reads like an old black and white movie so vivid is the storytelling .Innes writing is as usual of a very high quality its a bit like being told a story by an avuncular and erudite uncle.The tale set over a single 24 hour period fairly zips along and I think that makes it one of my favourite Appleby books so far.Excellent.
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Death On A Quiet Day was published in the mid-1950s, but has the sort of timeless setting common to novels about upper class English men. Here the protagonists are a small group of male Oxbridge students who have gone on some sort of study retreat with their professor. Ensconced in a Dartmoor hotel, they plan to read worthy texts and debate philosophical issues. This gentility is thwarted however when one of the group stumbles over a corpse on the moor and is then forced into a Hannay-esque race for his life, attempting to escape from anonymous shady characters who keep trying to shoot him. The hunt, for all its implausible moments, does make for exciting reading. I did struggle to take seriously the idea of an assassin wearing knickerbockers though!

Our hero, Inspector Appleby, doesn't actually even put in an appearance until a good third of the way through the novel. I'm not really sure how I felt about him because Innes didn't give him much of a character. In fact the characterisation for every man is pretty weak and the few women might as well be cardboard cutouts. Perhaps, as this is the sixteenth book of the Appleby series, readers are already supposed to be independently imagining whatever foibles and mannerisms had been described in previous stories? For me this lack of personality was a shame though. The mystery itself is well plotted and satisfying, and I liked the Dartmoor setting which gives a good atmosphere to Innes' tale. Overall I thought Death On A Quiet Day was pretty good for its time, but I wonder if the earlier Appleby novels would be stronger?
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