Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan

Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan
Series: Mordecai Tremaine #2
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on October 1, 2017 (first published 1949)
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Vintage Mystery, Christmas
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
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four-stars

A festive mystery for the holiday season: mulled wine, mince pies... and murder.

When Mordecai Tremaine arrives at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame on Christmas Eve, he discovers that the revelries are in full swing in the sleepy village of Sherbroome--but so too are tensions amongst the assortment of guests.

When midnight strikes, the partygoers discover that presents aren't the only things nestled under the tree...there's a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas. With the snow falling and suspicions flying, it's up to Mordecai to sniff out the culprit--and prevent anyone else from getting murder for Christmas.

It’s probably no surprise that I enjoyed Murder for Christmas. It ticks off all the boxes:

√ Vintage murder mystery

√ English manor house

√ Eccentric set of characters

√ Christmas celebrations

√ Amateur detective with a romantic streak

Benedict Grame always throws a large house party for Christmas and this year is not exception. It’s an interesting collection of people. There’s the usual household, Grame and his assistant Nicholas Blaise, his old friend Jeremy Rainer and Rainer’s ward, a lovely young woman and her suitor. Grame also has a spinster sister who lives with them and another relative he assists, a gambler with a penchant for practical jokes. There’s also a visiting scientist, a politician, a glamorous woman who both Grame and Rainer are attracted too, a couple from the village, and of course Mordecai Tremaine, our amateur detective who has been specially invited. It should be a fun, traditional Christmas.

Of course the merriment is interrupted by murder – Father Christmas dead under the decorated tree. The mystery itself was well-done, plenty of clues, a few red herrings, more than enough secrets to dig up.

Mordecai Tremaine is an interesting detective, very unassuming, non-confrontational. He observes, notices, talks to people. He also is a bit of a romantic who would like to believe in people’s goodness, who wants to see love triumph. I liked him. He’s not the aloof, overly analytical detective or the jaded who has lost his faith in the system. He’s a good, sweet guy, which is rare enough.

Murder for Christmas manages to be both festive and menacing, which makes it a perfect Christmas mystery.

About Francis Duncan

Francis Duncan is the pseudonym for William Underhill, who was born in 1918. He lived virtually all his life in Bristol and was a ‘scholarship boy’ boarder at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital school. Due to family circumstances he was unable to go to university and started work in the Housing Department of Bristol City Council. Writing was always important to him and very early on he published articles in newspapers and magazines. His first detective story was published in 1936.

In 1938 he married Sylvia Henly. Although a conscientious objector, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War II, landing in France shortly after D-Day. After the war he trained as a teacher and spent the rest of his life in education, first as a primary school teacher and then as a lecturer in a college of further education. In the 1950s he studied for an external economics degree from London University. No mean feat with a family to support; his daughter, Kathryn, was born in 1943 and his son, Derek, in 1949.

Throughout much of this time he continued to write detective fiction from ‘sheer inner necessity’, but also to supplement a modest income. He enjoyed foreign travel, particularly to France, and took up golf on retirement. He died of a heart attack shortly after celebrating his fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1988.

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