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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Review: The Red House Mystery, A.A. Milne (England)

Title: The Red House Mystery
Author: A.A. Milne
Publication: 1922/UK: Methune
ISBN #: 978-0-09-952127-3
# of pages: ???
Discovered as a free book on my Kobo
Read in e-book format
Also available in paper format, audio CD, illustrated paperback, large print paperback
Pretty parlour-maid Audrey Stevens is having a bit of a gossip with her aunt, the cook-housekeeper, about their employer Mark Ablett and his black sheep brother Robert Ablett. None of the household had heard of this brother and now he was due any minute, back from Australia after more than 15 years’ absence. Robert soon arrives and Audrey shows him to the office. A few minutes later, she hears shots which she and the other staff quickly realize came from inside the house. They lock themselves together in a room just as someone starts banging on their door.
Help soon arrives in the form of Antony Gillingham. Gillingham got off the train here on a whim and when he learned his friend Bill Beverley was a guest at the Red House, he decided to visit him. He arrives to find a man pounding on a door. The man, Mark’s cousin and secretary-cum-companion, Matthew Cayley, is in a panic because he heard the shots too and can’t get into the office. He is worried about Mark’s safety so the two of them run outside to find another way to access the office. When they finally get into the room, they find Robert dead on the floor and Mark missing.

Shortly afterwards, the house guests – Bill Beverley (young man-around-town), Major Rumbold,  actress Ruth Norris, a painter’s widow Mrs. Calladine, and her daughter Betty – return from their golf game, closely followed by the police. Being curious and between jobs, Gillingham decides to investigate, with Bill acting as his “Dr. Watson”.

This is a classical British manor house mystery! Well-paced with good twists and turns, the book seems written with a light hand: by that, I mean, it has a humorous undertone, as if laughing at itself. The author specifically sets Gillingham and Beverley up as mirrors of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. At first, you wonder if Gillingham has the ability to detect; his jobs have consisted of a bit of this and that but not much of anything. He turns out to an excellent observer of both people and situations. The final scenes, especially Bill’s description, are quite suspenseful and the solution is very creative (although Raymond Chandler apparently felt it was implausible). It was a compelling book to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book ends with an inviting sentence that suggests a sequel but this is the only mystery book the author wrote.     Rating: (^_°)       Intriguing

This is written by THE A.A. Milne, the author more famously known for his Winnie the Pooh books. Why a mystery book? In his dedication, he explained: “To John Vine Milne My Dear Father, Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So, after all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you is to write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.” A.A. M.    I wonder if his father enjoyed it – I certainly did!

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