Title: Mystery in White
Author: J. Jefferson Farjeon
On Christmas Eve, heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea – but no one is at home.
Trapped together for Christmas, the passengers are seeking to unravel the secrets of the empty house when a murderer strikes in their midst.
“Sergeant,” said the inspector solemnly, “if you’re not very careful, you will become intelligent, like me!”
This book is absurd in a way only a proper Golden Age mystery can be. The premise makes even And Then There Were None or Murder on the Orient Express seem quite harmless. And the following coincidences that need to happen for our main cast of characters to get involved and eventually solve the mystery go beyond anything I’ve ever read. Or perhaps I should rather say ‘beyond anything I’ve read and still worked’ because I’ve read lots of books with plots that only worked thanks to outlandish circumstances. And I could never forget those. Meanwhile, I read Mystery in White and was vaguely aware that there are a surprisingly high number of people out in a snowstorm who then coincidentally end up in the same place but I never cared that much.
Here, it worked, because under all this ridiculousness there is a very engaging mystery that is populated by characters that go beyond the typical stock characters. I’m not saying that they have great depth (there isn’t too much space for depth with so many characters in a book of that length) but it’s not one of those cases where you read one chapter and can already tell who is going to be the murder victim and who will fall in love with whom.
Sadly one of the characters is also the weak point of this novel. The guy who did most of the sleuthing in this book was thoroughly unlikeable. He reminded me of the way Holmes is written in bad pastiches
or on Sherlock. He misses nothing and makes brilliant deductions but is also constantly rude (unlike the real Holmes who just doesn’t bother too much with social conventions when he deems them unnecessary) and doesn’t care if he upsets the people around him.
But, since this book was just a one-off and the author’s other books have different detectives/sleuths I will definitely check out more by him.
is also part of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season
Book themes for Saint Lucia’s Day: Read a book where ice and snow are an important feature.