Title: The Santa Klaus Murder
Writer: Mavis Doriel Hay
Publishing House: The British Library
Date of Publication: October 1st 2015 (first published 1936)
Rating: 5 stars
“I have often found that the best way to persuade anyone to do something they suspect is to explain that they really need not do it.”
Sir Osmond Melbury, of Flaxmere. The patriarch. The know-it-all. The ‘’general’’ of the family. The one who has practically blackmailed each one of his daughters in order not to leave the home nest and abandon their father to eternal loneliness…The one who measures people according to the width of their wallet. Not exactly easy to live with. So, no one really sheds a river of tears once he is found dead on Christmas Day, discovered by a guest who had been dressed as a Santa Claus (imagine that!). Who might the culprit be? A member of the family, one of the repressed daughters, who is now free to live her life? A guest who has much to gain from Sir Osmond’s death? The candidates are many and Colonel Halstock has much to look out for.
The Santa Klaus Murder is a classic example of the locked-room mystery. The authoritarian patriarch, the psychologically troubled children, the long list of suspects, the obvious motives. However, in Hay’s novel nothing is THAT obvious. Motive or suspect. Each time I thought I had managed to discern the case, I discovered that I had merely followed a red herring and started all over again. And while the dialogue seemed a tiny bit stilted (not unnatural, given the era), I loved the descriptions of the imposing country house and the festive atmosphere that gets darker and darker. After all, Aunt Mildred was right. Nothing good can come from family gatherings…
Yes, broken record alert but bear with me. One can’t get enough of the gems found in the British Library Crime Classics Series.
“I nearly went off the deep end at that. The house seemed to be full of lunatics who never gave away anything they knew until it was just too late. But I did manage to tell the fool to explain himself.”