J. Jefferson Farjeon – Thirteen Guests

Author: J. Jefferson Farjeon
Title: Thirteen Guests

On a fine autumn weekend Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate – but John is nursing a secret of his own.

Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Detective Inspector Kendall’s skills are tested to the utmost as he tries to uncover the hidden past of everyone at Bragley Court.

Unlike Farjeon’s The Z-Murders (or Seven Dead) which were more pulp than golden age mystery this one is as classic as it gets: There’s a house-party on the estate of Lord Aveling (who’s a stuffy old lord) who lives there with his wife (who’s a woman) and daughter (who’s a woman). Among his guests are a cricketer (who…likes cricket), a journalist (who’s annoying), an artist (who’s even more annoying), a blackmailer (who’s a blackmailer), his wife (who’s an annoying woman), a young widow (who’s a plucky woman), a female crime novelist (who’s the comic relief woman), an actress (who’s a woman), a doctor (who’s a doctor) and a dude who’s only there by chance because he had an accident near the estate and this is the countryside and there’s no other doctor nearby (he’s…a person…I guess).

Of course, then strange things start happening and soon bodies begin to drop and an inspector start to get involved and at the end there’s a solution I did enjoy a lot…only I did not enjoy the way there…or perhaps rather the characters that brought me there. Because at best my feelings about them are neutral and at worst I strongly disliked them. The inspector himself also fell in the just-did-not-care-about-him category. Additionally, the book has what Martin Edwards likes to call ‘romance’ and what I call ‘otherwise unattached people of opposite genders talk occasionally and then decide that they are perfect for each other’. So all in all that doesn’t make for a gripping read.