Title: Mystery In White
Writer: J. Jefferson Farjeon
Publishing House: British Library Crime Classics
Date of Publication: September 28th 2014 (first published 1937)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’The horrors on the train, great though as it may turn to be, will not compete with the horror that exists here, in this house.’’
It is Christmas Eve and several passengers have found themselves cooped up in a train, heading to their destinations, loaded with presents and dubious intentions. As the train proves to be no match for the greedy snowfall, the strange, newly-formed fellowship decides to venture out and find shelter away from the locomotive. A cosy, yet imposing, country house welcomes them out of the blue. ‘’It’’ being literal because there is absolutely no one else to receive them. The fires are lit, tea is ready, the cupboards full of provisions. But not a single soul in sight. Only a portrait oozing authority. And a knife left in the kitchen…
No one does the country-house mystery better than the British. Many try, all fail. This novel is a perfect example of festive mystery, intrigue and spookiness. J.Jefferson Farjeon created a strong plot, rich in all the little, tiny elements that form a highly satisfying mystery, seasoned with elegant and atmospheric references to premonitions and ghosts, faithful to the British tradition of the bond between the Festive and the Spooky. In my opinion, the story excels in atmosphere and characterization. As doors open and close, as the snow keeps on falling and the wind doesn’t stop howling, as death is looming, the passengers have to face the unexplained and unsolved, and the fragile dynamics that develop when the company is new and the nerves are being tested by the minute.
An elderly scientist with a great passion for the paranormal, a young woman and her brother that form an exceptionally clever duo, a chorus girl sensitive to the calling of the house, a highly troubled secretary, a cockney scoundrel, a rude businessman. A good (and this one is so much more than ‘’good) doesn’t need a thousand twists to shine. An interesting cast, a strong plot and the proper background work wonders.
Mystery In White is an exceptional example of the quintessential British Country House festive mystery and one more gift by the British Library to the readers who adore the Golden Age of crime stories.
‘’No, if a tiger eats you, it isn’t really his fault,’’ answered Lydia. ‘’God gave him his appetite.’’