Death on a Quiet Day

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

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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The thing I like most about Michael Innes' Inspector Appleby novels is that they're all quite different - you never know whether you'll get a thriller, or a more cerebral puzzle. This one was definitely a thriller, with mysterious murderous men pursuing a student across the moor, and his desperate attempts to escape them. The unexpected introduction of Inspector Appleby into the novel is a welcome break from the chase and leads to the unravelling of the mystery. I'd recommend these. They're fun.
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Death on a Quiet Day was my introduction to Inspector Appleby and I will not be going out of my way to read more.    This was a boy's own adventure for the upper classes which was not at all my cup of tea.  I found the writing somewhat archaic and the regular literary references tiresome.  It also seemed to me to be dated in its attitude to women (who had a very small part to play).  Granted, the chase over the moor was exciting but ultimately got faintly ridiculous I thought with David getting on the horse.  In my opinion, a poor show, as David Henchman might put it.
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I only quite recently realised how deficit my knowledge of old classic crime novels or even authors was. I am slowly working my way through (my) unknowns to identify if I am a true fan of the style of fiction. With this work as an example, I would say I need more familiarity with them but am definitely partial to the lot.

The reason for claiming I need to get used to the styles of these older authors is the speed of narration. The story only picks up beyond a point and some of them (like this one) do not provide too much of a character background in the time before the problem actually arises. If that bit had been shorter, I would have actually rated this five stars. A group out as a 'reading party' are enjoying a night out. This involves some rash decisions and a lot of jabbing each other with words. Finally, that scene ends and a new day dawns. This day sees our hero  David Henchman out for an early walk to gather his thoughts and ponder over existential thoughts and read a little. His trek has him lost and he tumbles on to an odd situation. He finds a body followed by a suspect. When he tries to keep the suspect in his sights, David has to run for his life quite literally and very very fast. The trail that David leaves behind and the man he befriends turns out to be an unlikely powerful hero. This is the John Appleby of the series. I have never encountered the man and his work before but his behaviour towards David is equal parts faith and other parts as an elder would talk to a child they are humouring. This combination makes for an interesting read.

Although the beginning of the tale was slow, once the plot thickened there was a lot to take in. It was funny in a serious fashion and overall was enjoyable. I could never have guessed the outcome although a few tricks were apparent. There are a lot of red herrings thrown our way but it is easy to accept the final reveal because of the gradual buildup. I would definitely pick up more books by the author and of John Appleby 

I received an ARC thanks to the publishers and NetGalley but the review is completely based on my own reading experience.
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A bunch of students, their tutor (from Oxford college) and a few other characters are holidaying in Dartmoor. The students are on a reading tour and there is a lot of quoting of shakespeare dotted throughout.
After playing a game of chicken on a deserted road late at night, David Henchman decides the next day to take a quiet hike through Dartmoor away from his fellow students. He loses his bearings and ends up near Knack Tor when he sees smoke on top of the hill. He decides to climb to the top and en route he hears what appears to be a gunshot. On reaching the summit he notices two feet pointing skyward and a man with a bullet wound in his forehead. On looking over the other edge he spots someone walking further down. He hails this man who at first pretends not to hear David and then eventually approaches and feints innocence of the crime. Things happen and soon David is running for his life, pursued by three men. The chase takes several chapters where at times you are left wondering is David jumping at shadows, reading too much into situations just because he is still rattled from the game of chicken the night before. 
Eventually David arrives at a point to point and hops on a loose horse. This is spotted by Inspector Appleby whose interest is piqued by seeing a gunshot wound in Davids shoe. There is a little more cat and mouse before Appleby manages to get David to a police station and to hear the incredulous story of a body and a chase. 
When Appleby and David return to Knack Tor they find a body but David is adamant it is a different body whom Appleby recognises. Enter scene left the reading party who David needs to warn away as per Appleby's instructions. Things do not go to plan and another person dies. 
The following day Appleby tries to make sense of everything, a few red herrings are thrown out and David again puts his life in danger before a conclusion of sorts is enacted.
This is my third Inspector Appleby book and I have to admit is the only one I have actually been able to read with any enthusiasm. Michael Innes writes highly literate prose which can be very difficult to read at times. He also loves quoting Shakespear and poetry. Therefore his books are not the easiest of detective stories to read or the most enjoyable. I would recommend starting with this one as I found it the easiest of his books to get into.
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A slow start for a murder mystery: a group of students and their tutor on an old-fashioned reading party on Dartmoor and a lot of chat, learned and otherwise. When one of the students finds a body and has to run for his life, it gets quite exciting; I was reminded of Rogue Male. Appleby is on the spot, as usual, to untangle the mess. As with Operation Pax (which I much prefer), the interest is more in all the chasing about than in the complicated plot and it’s disappointing that we never know exactly what the villains were up to. Not one of Innes’s best.
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