Quick Review (read on for full review)
A fun, solid wintry classic crime read, perfect for reading over the Christmas holiday. 3 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
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.
This classic Christmas mystery is republished for the first time since the 1930s, with an introduction by the award-winning crime writer Martin Edwards.
“Miss Noyes,” replied Lydia, “suppose this house belonged to you, and you returned to it after the world’s worst snowstorm, would you rather find your larder empty or seven skeletons?…”
(From Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon, page 79)
I read this story for Festive Reads Fortnight 2019 but never got around to posting the review, so I waited a whole year so that I could as I thought it would seem quite out of season to do anything else.
Mystery in White is a fun, entertaining read. Now, if you think from the summary or even the book cover, which is just so lovely, that this story is like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, it is not. The stories are very much different.
The premise is very good and the isolated location and set up of what’s to come pulled me right into the story. The cast of characters was interesting and varied. Each brought something different to the narrative, but that being said, I didn’t particularly warm to many of them. The setting was my favourite part of the story. Set one Christmas Eve in the 1930s, we are treated to a train ride, snowstorm and isolated country house. The story itself has a number of elements of the classic crime story: a locked room mystery, a murder, a list of suspects who hitherto have been strangers to one another, a little atmospheric spookiness…
The main problem I had with this story (and it is the same problem I had with the only other J. Jefferson Farjeon story I have read, The Z Murders – see my review here), is that the author has a habit of introducing new characters much later in the story than is often usual for a mystery. And these characters are main characters around which the rest of the story seems to build. Most readers who enjoy mysteries, enjoy trying to solve it as the story unfolds, and that becomes a little difficult when important elements of the tale are deliberately withheld by the author.
However, it is still a fun read if you’re looking for a typically British golden age crime story, and I think it would be an entertaining choice if it was ever picked up for TV or film.
I’ve really been enjoying making a way through the British Library Crime Classics, and although Mystery in White is not my favourite out of the ones I’ve so far read, it was certainly worth a read, especially in the run up to Christmas.