Published by British Library Publishing Division on September 28, 2014 (first published 1937)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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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.
The dog and I were home one Saturday night when Amber and David went off to watch a hockey game. I hadn’t been able to dig out my box of Christmas books yet, but was in the mood for a vintage seasonal mystery. Someone, somewhere said good things about Mystery in White by Farjeon (if it was you, thank you) so I picked it up. I love how many old mysteries have been re-released as e-books in the last few years.
As the blurb says, a train gets stopped by a blizzard on Christmas Eve and a mismatched group of people decide to leave the safety of the train and attempt to make it to the next station on foot. Of course they get lost, but happily stumble upon a house – that is empty but has fires roaring and tea set out. ““Don’t disappoint me? Don’t tell me you cannot supply the corpse? A bread-knife on a floor, a boiling kettle, tea laid, an unlocked front door—and no corpse! Well, well, I suppose we must be satisfied, so let us be grateful and have tea.”
Our leader and detective is Edward Maltby, 60 years old and a proud member of the Royal Psychical Society. He doesn’t actually do much detecting, but he does a lot of thinking and noticing and picking out the clues. The characters are not terrible well-developed, but most are not cardboard either. They have definite personalities and back stories that let you see how they ended up here.
Farjeon does a good job at building suspense. There’s an interesting touch of the paranormal, not overdone, just a bit to kind of move the story along. Only one character seems to be psychic – and it’s not Maltby. He’s not above fooling people when necessary though.
I love a good country house mystery, even more so when the residents are celebrating Christmas, or trying to. With a couple of dead bodies, an altered will, and a hidden treasure, this was an enjoyable read. There were a couple of parts that were pretty unlikely, but it didn’t bother me. I willing to suspend my disbelief for a good story.