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.
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Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan is a 2015 Vintage Digital publication. (Originally published in 1949)
A ‘Dickensian’ Christmas tradition gone horribly awry.
This story is billed as a classic Christmas mystery, but in all honesty, I’d never heard of Francis Duncan or this book until about a month ago. I was intrigued, especially since I have no problem finding holiday romances, but struggle to find a Christmas mystery that isn’t a part of a very long running series. As it turns out, this is an excellent holiday mystery and is exactly the type of book I'd been looking for!
Mordecai Tremaine has been invited to spend Christmas with at Benedict Grame’s country retreat. He accepts the invitation with no small amount of eagerness, due to an almost prophetic assurance within his own mind that he might get a chance to use his newly acquired and highly praised detecting skills.
Sure enough, by Christmas morning a murder has taken place and Tremaine is commissioned by local law enforcement to help them solve the crime.
With a house full of guests, all having exhibited odd behavior, or have clear and obvious motives, Tremaine has his work cut out for him.
It’s Christmas, and love is in the air, starting with Tremaine's honest admission that he enjoys romantic fiction. However, he gets more than his share of lover’s conflicts while staying at the country estate, including secret affairs, forbidden love and love triangles, all pointing to possible motives for murder.
This story is a classic representation of a proper British mystery. I’m glad I stumbled across this little gem and hope to find the other books in this series, as well.
Although the plot moves slowly at times, and the excitement level is rather low key, with the characterization taking center stage, I was always engaged in the story and found the all the characters and their pasts to be very interesting.
There were several possible motives, and hidden agendas among the gathered guests, which kept me in the dark until the last chapter. With many of these older mysteries, it is easier to spot the killer early on, but it is still fun to watch the way the author fits all the pieces together. But, this one was very clever and sly, and I honestly couldn't be sure who the murderer was.
I ended up enjoying this novel more than I would have imagined. This is a perfect mystery to curl up with on a cold winter night!!
Although this is a classic novel, you won’t have any trouble finding it, since it is now available in digital format. (If your library offers ‘Hoopla’ you can check it out now, with no hold time!)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Francis Duncan is the pseudonym for William Walter Frank Underhill, who was born in 1914. 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.