An English Murder by Cyril HareAn English Murder by Cyril Hare
Narrator: Chris MacDonnell
Published by Tantor Audio on March 12, 2019 (first published 1951)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Length: 6 hrs 10 mins
Pages: 202
Format: Audiobook
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A country-house murder-mystery classic, as a party of people find themselves snowed in on Christmas Eve with a murderer among them....

The snow is thick, the phone line is down, and no one is getting in or out of Warbeck Hall. All is set for a lovely Christmas, with friends and family gathered round the fire, except as the bells chime midnight, a murder is committed.

But who is responsible? The scorned young lover? The lord's passed-over cousin? The social-climbing politician's wife? The Czech history professor? The obsequious butler?

And perhaps the real question is: Can they survive long enough to find out?

An English Murder is a typical, country house, murder mystery common in Golden Age mysteries, with a slightly different feel. Although the set-up is one of my favorites – a group of guests snowed in at a country house over the holidays – the modern world is beginning to impinge. Domestic staff is harder to get hold of and Briggs, the butler, valiantly does his best to keep up standards with far less help than he previously had. Meanwhile, the house is suffering from a lack of staff and money. It looks impressive, but maintenance is expensive and the present Lord Warbeck’s son, Robert, is unlikely to be able to afford his inheritance.

Lord Warbeck is old, and ill, and wants to have his family with him at Christmas. His guests include his son, Robert, who is the President of the League of Liberty and Justice, a an antisemitic and anti-socialist organization; Sir Julius Warbeck, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Mrs. Carstairs, whose father was the rector of the parish when she was young; Lady Camilla Prendergast, a distant relative; and Dr. Wenceslaus Bottwink, a Professor of History and a Nazi concentration camp survivor, currently doing research at Warbeck House.

The guests are an ill assorted group and tensions, political and personal, are in the air. The house is snowed in when there is a suspicious death and Rogers, a Special Branch Detective whose job is to keep Sir Julius safe, is asked to step in to investigate. However, it is Dr. Bottwink who, with the aid of his historical knowledge, solves the mystery. An interesting, post-war, setting for a classic murder mystery.

I am a devout lover of vintage mysteries, but they do tend to ignore the Holocaust. Hare breaks from the ordinary, World War II has clearly affected people’s attitudes and the structure of their society. Anti-Semitism and the anti-foreigner attitudes are frowned upon here. The way characters react to Bottwink allows Hare to show us various factions in Britain at the time, and the most sympathetic characters are also the ones that find Bottwink comfortable to talk to. There are a lot of observations made about the class interactions of the time too.

But this is An English Murder, and it’s the motive that makes it so very English. The clues are laid out well and the pace of the story is well-done. I enjoyed it.

About Cyril Hare

Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark (eptember 4, 1900 – August 25, 1958) was an English judge and crime writer under the pseudonym Cyril Hare.

He was educated at St Aubyn’s, Rottingdean and Rugby, where he won a prize for writing English verse, before reading history at New College, Oxford, where he gained a first class degree.

His family tradition indicated a legal career and he was duly called to the bar in 1924 and he joined the firm of famed lawyer Ronald Oliver and went on to practice in the civil and criminal courts in and around London.

He was 36 when he began his writing career. His first literary endeavours were short, flippant sketches for Punch magazine and he had articles published in the Illustrated London News and The Law Journal. His first detective novel, ‘Tenant for Death’ was published in 1937 and it was called ‘an engaging debut’.

During the early years of World War II he toured as a judge’s marshall and he used his experiences as the basis for his fourth novel ‘Tragedy at Law’, which was published in 1942. In that same year he became a civil servant with the Director of Public Prosecutions and in the latter stages of the war he worked in the Ministry of Economic Warfare, where his experiences proved invaluable when writing ‘With a Bare Bodkin’ in 1946.

He was appointed county court judge for Surrey in 1950 and he spent his time between travelling the circuit trying civil cases and writing his detective fiction.


  • tracybham

    For a couple of years I have been planning to reread this book, because my husband had bought a nice new copy and I remembered liking it the first time I read it. Your review reminds me of the good aspects of the story. Maybe next year I will get to it.

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