The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
I hope that wherever you were, that you enjoyed World Book Day yesterday. Once I had hit publish on my post, my friends and I began a chat about our favourite World Book day experiences and in true Alan Bennett fashion, my mind was cast back to one Thursday many years ago. Each year, our shop would pick a book and dress as characters from it. We would then run a competition to guess the book. This obviously was a children's book, no Fifty Shades of Grey here!
I still rue the day, that whilst divvying out the characters for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that our delivery arrived and whilst counting in the boxes, missed all the good characters and ended up with the only character left - an oompa-loompa. I'm 5ft 9 tall for heavens sake!
The day went well, customers enjoyed seeing us in our costumes. As the day went on, I began to get slightly annoyed with one of my colleagues who would call for me to come upstairs if a customer was struggling to guess the book. Both customer and colleague would then fall about laughing as I stood there looking grumpier and grumpier.
Worse was to come when I realised I had forgotten my lunch and so found myself in Gregg's bakery, ordering a pasty and a cup of soup dressed in a green glitter disco wig, orange face, white eyebrows, white dungarees and stripy tights. My life was complete. On with the review!
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Peter Swanson's Rules for Perfect Murders were the many crime fiction novels mentioned in Malcolm Kershaw's blog that forms the main part of the plot. I have been busily jotting down titles merrily in my notebook and now have a long list of crime novels that I would love to read.
In the novel, Bookshop Manager, Malcolm Kershaw has published a blog post detailing 'Eight Perfect Murders', which is being replicated by a sinister murderer. The books are to be read in order and the first one on the list is The Red House by A.A. Milne. I was keen to start reading this.
I must be the only person not to know that as well as writing the beloved Winnie the Pooh books, A.A. Milne was also a prolific fiction and crime author. This is one of his beloved crime novels. Even though I already knew the plot from Peter Swanson's novel, including who the murderer was, this in no way diminished my enjoyment of the novel.
Set in 1922, the action takes place in the Red House, home of Mark Ablett. Mark is hosting a house party with an eclectic collection of guests. At breakfast, Mark announces that his long, lost brother, Robert is arriving that day. Robert is what can be described as a ne'er do well and he and Mark have been estranged for many years. Later that day, a doorbell is rung, an argument is heard, a shot fired and the body of Robert discovered. Mark is missing. Can Anthony Gillingham and his friend Bill Beverley discover who the murderer is? Where is Mark Ablett? And how exactly did the murderer commit the crime and then make his escape whilst the door was locked?
This was an enjoyable hoot! Set during a house party, it had all the elements I enjoy in a classic crime novel; an Edwardian house, an impossible crime, secret passages, a midnight adventure and two friends solving the crime and having plenty of japes in the process. Gillingham and Beverley are a a great pairing. Gillingham is playful, whilst Bill is more solid and steady, the perfect foil to Gillingham. In fact, much mention is made of the pair being like Holmes and Watson. They adopt both of these roles very well and it is an honest nod to the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle.
The crime is ingenious, and even though Gillingham is onto the murderer quite early on into the novel, choosing to share this with neither Bill nor the reader, it is fascinating to watch him piece the puzzles together.
This was a terrific introduction to the Peter Swanson list and I'm looking forward to reading more on the list. This would be a perfect read for fans of Agatha Christie and those who really enjoy a good locked door mystery.
I'll publish the full list of Malcolm Kershaw's list of Eight Perfect Murders next week. Have a great weekend. xx