Cover detail of The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

Welcome to Day 2 of #12booksofchristmas. If you have missed the previous book you can find it here.

Day One - Jingle all the Way by Debbie Macomber

You have probably realised by now my penchant for golden age crime. Think Agatha Christie, art deco and lots of people sat around smoking from one of those delicate, long cigarette holders. Whilst it may seem a very glamorous time, there seemed, if we are to believe the amount of books published, an awful lot of murder and this is no exception.

This is an offering from the British Crime Library series and is perfect for Jolabokaflod, the wonderful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve. Translated it means Book Flood. I have fond memories of the series, as it was one of their books that was given to me on my first Jolabokaflod that I celebrated with my wonderful husband. How did this one fare?

The Plot

James Bennett has been invited to stay at White Priory for Christmas among the retinue of the glamorous Hollywood actress Marcia Tait. Her producer, her lover, the playwright for her next hit and her agent are all here, soon to become so many suspects when Tait is found murdered on a cold December morning in the lakeside pavilion. Only the footprints of her discoverer disturb the snow which fell overnight - and which stopped just shortly after Marcia was last seen alive. How did the murderer get in and out of the pavilion without leaving a trace?
When Bennett’s uncle, the cantankerous amateur sleuth Sir Henry Merrivale arrives from London to make sense of this impossible crime, the reader is treated to a feast of the author’s trademark twists, beguiling false answers and one of the most ingenious solutions in the history of the mystery genre.

My Thoughts

I am losing count of how many of the British Library Crime Classics I have read over the years, most of them at Christmas time. There is something warm and comforting about curling up with a good cup of strong Yorkshire tea and one of these crime classics that makes me feel warm and all aglow.

I believe it is the golden age of crime. I’m probably mixing my visual imagery here, but I imagine country houses, tweed, glamorous dresses, hair and make-up, a waft of scent and lots of beautiful furniture. The Christmas period usually involves lots of parties and plenty of snow. Usually with our cast of characters snowed in, the roads impassable and a murderer amongst them. The Christmas lights still twinkle and I can almost smell the pine scent from the Christmas tree.

This novel is no different, and features the very glamorous Marcia Tait who meets quite the end, leaving quite the mystery. That beautiful snow is only marked by the footprints of the person discovering her body. So how did the murderer do it? Is there a secret passage? Country Houses are full of secrets after all.

In this case, it is up to Sir Henry Merrivale to answer the questions and solve the murder, which he does with the help of his nephew James Bennett, freshly arrived from the States. Imagine a grumpy Winston Churchill, if Churchill solved murders and you get the picture.

This was yet another excellent British Crime series and I could read these until the cows come home. It made me feel very Christmassy. Who doesn’t love a bit of classic crime set at Christmas.