Published by Dell Publishing Company on July 1, 1987 (first published 1922)
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The creator of such beloved storybook characters for children as Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore, A. A. Milne was also the author of numerous dramas, essays, and novels for adults — among them, this droll and finely crafted whodunit.
In it, Milne takes readers to the Red House, a comfortable residence in the placid English countryside that is the bachelor home of Mr. Mark Ablett. While visiting this cozy retreat, amateur detective Anthony Gillingham and his chum, Bill Beverley, investigate their genial host's disappearance and its connection with a mysterious shooting. Was the victim, whose body was found after a heated exchange with the host, shot in an act of self-defense? If so, why did the host flee, and if not, what drove him to murder?
Between games of billiards and bowls, the taking of tea, and other genteel pursuits, Gillingham and Beverley explore the possibilities in a light-hearted series of capers involving secret passageways, underwater evidence, and other atmospheric devices.
Sparkling with witty dialogue, deft plotting, and an intriguing cast of characters, this rare gem will charm mystery lovers, Anglophiles, and general readers alike.
It’s a shame Milne only wrote one mystery. The Red House Mystery is clever and funny and charming.
From the dedication:
“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 I can do for you is to write one. Here it is: with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.”
Our amateur sleuth is Antony Gillingham. He stops at The Red House to visit his friend, Bill Beverly, but as he gets there he finds a frantic man banging on the door of a locked room, trying to get in. Antony and the man run to the back of the house and break in the window, finding a dead man, shot. The man who was breaking into the room was Mr. Cayley, cousin and assistant to Mark Ablett, owner of The Red House. The dead man is Mark’s brother, Robert, newly arrived from Australia. Mark himself is missing.
Antony is an outsider at The Red House, but allowed free reign that the detectives don’t have. The mystery is well-done, the clues make sense. I knew who the killer was, but not the hows and whys until the end. The characters are fine, but not outstanding. It’s more about the puzzle than the people.
I think one of the things that made the book stand out is that it’s making fun of itself at the same time. There are several parts that made me laugh and then I had to read them to my daughter. (It’s nice having her home, she puts up with my book talk.) It’s light-hearted and uses so many of the tropes, a country house party, a locked room, secret passage, a couple others that I don’t want to ruin for you. Antony himself admits to playing Sherlock, with Bill as his Watson. It’s also very aware that it’s a novel, which worked for the style.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: