Book Review: Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon

Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (3 stars)
Publisher: The British Library

As the year closes, I'm still getting in mysteries with snow and Christmas themes and Mystery In White seemed a good choice. Funnily enough, it reminded me of The Christmas Card Crime that I just read in an anthology with regard to the setup. On Christmas Eve, passengers on a snowbound train disembark and in this instance, take refuge in a country house. Here, the blizzard rages and the house stands empty but appears set for guests with a boiling kettle on the stove, fires ablaze in multiple hearths and tea set out. And one more disquieting fact, a bread knife lays on the kitchen floor.

The train passengers include a David and Lydia (a brother and sister), Jessie (a chorus girl) and Robert (a clerk with a worsening fever). Two others from the train show up, Dr Maltby (a psychic doctor of something-or-other) and Mr. Hopkins (whose distinguishing characteristic seems to be Cranky Commoner Skeptic).

For most of the book it seemed the mystery was going one way but in the final third, the arrival of Mr. Strange and his daughter reveal that the actual mystery is something completely unexpected and nothing really to do with all that came before. From that point on, characters come in and info dump to explain murders (in the past and present), motives and a possibility that all the eerieness was simply the creation of a character's psychic powers which all conspired to create quite a bit of dissonance for this reader. The denouement was a bit unsatisfying and if not for the fabulous setting and set up and a steady dose of humour throughout (Lydia, really saved it), I'd have maintained a more negative view of the whole. Not a bad read but I expected to enjoy it more.

Summary: The horror on the train, great though it may turn out to be, will not compare with the horror that exists here, in this house.’ 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 now republished for the first time since the 1930s, with an introduction by the award-winning crime writer Martin Edwards.

No comments