Appleby’s End (Michael Innes)

By Michael Innes

First published: UK, Gollancz, 1945; US, Dodd, Mead, 1945

My review

Innes - Appleby's End.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

“A series of odd happenings, linked together in rather a complicated way by an obscure and rather literary thread, a booksy thread…”

This is very funny nonsense. It bears the same relation to the rest of crime fiction (or even to the world of Hamlet, Revenge!) that Patience or The Mikado do to Don Giovanni or Semiramide. For that is what the book is: a comic opera, nothing more. So we have villages called Drool, Sneak, Snarl and Yatter (c.f. Cold Comfort Farm’s Howling), a ghastly family of eccentrics towered over by the long-dead intellects of literary relatives; we have rural passions, secret heirs and illegitimate children (by legal marriage); we have an outbreak of witchcraft and sorcery; and, most strikingly, we have cows, dogs and pigs turning into marble statues. Very improbable, but very funny.

Contemporary reviews

Spectator (Walter Allen, 8th March 1946):

Yatter, Abbot’s Yatter, King’s Yatter, Drool, Linger, Sneak, Snarl—these place-names in Mr. Innes’s new detective novel may possibly convey something of its quality.  The setting and characters seem to be derived from the admirable drawings of Mr. Emmett in Punch.  One would have thought that a detective novel set in a world that has all the characteristics of a surrealist nightmare was impossible; Appleby’s End confirms one in the opinion.  It is grotesquely and facetiously over-written, and printed in that tiny type which was formerly reserved for pocket editions of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.


New Statesman (Ralph Partridge, 27th April 1946):

Appleby’s End is another instance of frivolous detection.  Inspector Appleby investigates the oddities of the Raven family with his usual condescension.  But if you’re hoping Appleby will meet his end, you will be disappointed.  The title is the name of a station, and the plot is a practical joke.  Michael Innes is rutted in surrealism and prefers to sacrifice his reputation rather than break his habits.