A Night Of Errors by Michael Innes

11507718Right. Now pay attention…

The Dromio family has been a driving force in England since they arrived in 1592. This is, apparently, due to the fact that the first-born sons of every generation were twins, which led to healthy competition between them and helped them climb the greasy pole in an attempt to get to the top before the other one. The downfall of the family began when the predilection for having twins changed for some reason to having triplets. And the competition between triplets is much less healthy. So several years ago, Sir Romeo Dromio, who was already a bit on the bonkers side (not least due to having to put up with that name), set fire to the nursery where his three sons resided and chose to rescue just the one of them, Oliver.

Jump to the present day, where the household is awaiting the return of Oliver from the USA. But the first sign of Oliver is the discovery of his dead body lying head-first in the fireplace gently sizzling away. What follows, once ex-Inspector Appelby arrives on the scene is what can only be described as a Night of Errors – with the death count rising, can Appelby divulge the truth of the matter before things really get out of hand?

I had a bit of a wobble trying to find something on my shelves for Crimes Of The Century this month. 1947 seems to be a year when all of the major crime writers decided to take a mini-break together and not write anything, but a trawl on the internet revealed that, by dumb luck, one of the Innes books that I bought cheaply a while ago was his 1947 opus. So, what did I think of it?

I’ve only come up against Innes once before, with Appleby’s Answer, an odd book, to say the least. I’ve a couple more on the shelf, including the much-lauded Hamlet, Revenge, but still haven’t got round to them. That’s the fun of Crimes Of The Century, pushing me into reading books that might otherwise have lingered forever on the TBR pile.

Was this one worth it? I’m not really sure, to be honest. The plot is rather bonkers – it’s pretty convoluted but some of the distractions are ridiculous, especially one event that ends up having nothing to do at all with the main story – or even to do with any subplot. It got me thinking about a cunning gambit that Innes might have been playing so to find out that it was utterly irrelevant was very disappointing. And even with the convoluted plot (with a lot of the action happening off-stage), the ending did raise something of a “was that it?” response. Add in the fact that virtually every character is reluctant to give a straight answer about anything, coupled with Innes’ clear love of language erupting onto every page, and it made a two hundred page book take nearly a week to read – not exactly a page turner.

Fans of the country house murder might enjoy this one though. There’s a nice collection of batty relatives and common folk living downstairs and by setting the events of the book over one night, Innes is trying something a little different that the standard (although the time pressure never really comes to the fore).

Was it just me? Possibly – I’ve been very busy over the last week or so, so I probably wasn’t giving it my full attention. But I think that next time I read something by Innes, I’d better go for Hamlet, Revenge – if I hit another iffy one like this, then I might not be back. So this one is cautiously Worth A Look, but you’ve been warned…


  1. No it isn’t just you. This really is a bonkers book but not necessarily in a good way. However if my memory serves me correctly I preferred this one to Appleby on Ararat and The Daffodil Affair which both beggar belief so much. Oddly enough I’m not much of a Innes fan. Think the only Innes novel I really enjoyed was What Happened at Hazelwood, which is a non-Appleby novel.


    • The Daffodil Affair has an advert in this one, and it’s actually described as being a bizarre book – I wonder how deliberate that was when it was written. Looks like Ararat was a lucky escape as I had that lined up for COTC a couple of months ago and never got round to it…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This one really only makes sense when you realize that Innes is having a great deal of fun with Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors.” That was the one about identical twin sons, who have identical twin slaves named Dromio. Now, as I recall the book, Innes really picks up those Dromios from a few hundred years earlier and builds a really offbeat family history for them…which is played out in the Dromio triplets. Oh, and, of course, there’s that ghastly old butler, Swindle – another wonderful character. I’m afraid I enjoyed it more than you seem to have done, but please don’t give up on “Hamlet Revenge” – it really is good. As I said when I reviewed it a few years back, “Night of Errors” is probably not the best way to be introduced to Innes. Or to Appleby.


  3. I was just positive that I had already read this one by Innes–but, having read your review, I’m not so sure now. Innes does have some plots and stories that are pretty bonkers, but I enjoy them…provided I don’t do too many of them in a row. 🙂


  4. […] Then it was on to Desert Island Books – the Golden Age book that you’d be marooned with. They were: Hamlet, Revenge!, Murder Must Advertise, Green For Danger, Mr Bowling Buys A Newspaper by Donald Henderson (thanks, Martin), Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Miss Pym Disposes, Trent’s Last Case, Police At The Funeral and Malice Aforethought. So, with one exception, no surprises there. But we did get the odd claim from Jake Kerridge that “If you like Crispin, you’ll love Michael Innes”… So if you like fun, light-hearted mysteries, you’ll like overwritten tosh. IMHO, obviously – see A Night Of Errors. […]


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