The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel HayThe Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay
Narrator: Gordon Griffin, Anne Dover
Published by Soundings on November 25, 2015 (first published 1936)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Length: 8 hrs 21 mins
Format: Audiobook
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A classic country-house murder mystery, 'The Santa Klaus Murder' begins with Aunt Mildred declaring that no good could come of the Melbury family Christmas gathering at their country residence Flaxmere. So when Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is discovered — by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus —with a bullet in his head on Christmas Day, the festivities are plunged into chaos.

Nearly every member of the party stands to reap some sort of benefit from Sir Osmond’s death, but Santa Klaus, the one person who seems to have every opportunity to fire the shot, has no apparent motive. Various members of the family have their private suspicions about the identity of the murderer, but in the midst of mistrust, suspicion, and hatred, it emerges that there was not one Santa Klaus but two.

The Santa Klaus Murder is a vintage mystery, set in a country home where the family, and a couple of others, are together to celebrate Christmas. Add in a murder and it should be a perfect read for me. Unfortunately, I found it rather lackluster.

It starts off slow, with members of the household telling their version of the events leading up to the murder. Sir Osmond was not a nice father, overbearing and holding the children’s inheritance over their heads so that they would marry someone he deemed appropriate. Everyone had their own reasons for not liking the man. I was listening to the audio version and it got a little confusing as to who was who. It definitely picked up once Colonel Halstock takes charge of the investigation, but it’s still has a few too many problems for me to really recommend it.

– Just too many characters. Maybe it was because I was listening to the audio, but between the family, servants, kids, invited and uninvited guests, it was tough to keep track of who was who and what they’re relationships were. Should I be aghast that Mr. A was actually in Miss C’s room or not surprised? Whose kids are those again? Maybe because there were so many, I never really cared about any of them.

– Colonel Halstock has known the family for years, which is fine and worked well. However, a “friend” of one of the women shows up and offers to help in the investigation and he just kind of accepts it. Obviously, he’s a good guy and no suspicion should be attached to him, even if he arrived pretty much immediately and is the ex(?) of one of the women. After all, how could an actor possibly fool you.

– Even for a mystery, some things are just harped on, like the timetable and which doors people went in and out of. And the doggone crackers. I got so tired of the crackers.

– One secondary character’s actions seemed a little over the top, even given his position.

It just wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, given the blurb. On the other hand, there are only so many Christmas mysteries so I can’t really regret the time I spent listening to this one.

About Mavis Doriel Hay

Mavis Doriel Hay (1894–1979) was a novelist of the golden age of British crime fiction. Her three detective novels – The Santa Klaus Murder, Murder Underground and Death on the Cherwell – were all published in the 1930s. She was an expert on rural handicraft and wrote several books on the subject.


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