“There’s no room for idealism in the next twenty-four hours. This time the truth has got to be stage-managed—I’m going to set the stage and act for all I’m worth. There won’t be any room for ideals or hopes or fears, or anything but sheer showmanship.”
At four past four, Clare Charters phones neighboring Barslade Manor in a panic. She tells famed detective James Segrove that a burglar has just shot her husband.
At twenty-four past four, Segrove and his physician friend arrive at Clare’s home, to the sound of a gunshot within. They discover that her husband Herbert Dempster has, indeed been shot—but the bullet could not have been fired more than a minute ago. Clare Charters is England’s greatest living actress. Segrove must find out whether Clare is the grieving widow she appears to be, or whether she’s a cold-blooded murderess performing the role of a lifetime. Continue reading “Four Past Four (1925) by Roy Vickers”
“He stopped when he had nearly reached the gates and looked back at the house. From that distance it was beautiful, shining like a pearl in the pale wintry sunshine against the russet and umber background of the leafless woods. Since last night a house with a secret. If walls could speak, what would they have to tell?”
It’s almost Christmas and countless creatures are stirring in the country home of George Tunbridge. His guests have scattered throughout the dark house for a game of hide and seek. Though blind World War I veteran Hugh Darrow isn’t really in the mood to play, he’s willing to go along with the group. That is, until a mysterious dripping sound reveals that he is sharing his hiding place with a bloody corpse. The mood is anything but festive as Superintendent Hugh Collier investigates a Yuletide murder. Continue reading “The Night of Fear (1931) by Moray Dalton”
“Are you aware that people usually feel that asking me anywhere is tantamount to an invitation to murder? At least, they seem to want me when murder is in the air.”
Meredith McGrath doesn’t remember her mother. That’s because she and her lover were executed for murder when Meredith was only three years old. The victim was Meredith’s father. Eighteen years later, she is excited to finally experience her first Christmas with her father’s family, but it’s been a long, dangerous journey to the family lodge in the Adirondacks.
A strange man on the train seems to know exactly who Meredith is, and where she’s headed. “Neither of us, Miss McGrath, has friends where we are going.” Hours later, he is murdered just outside her berth, but the body vanishes, leaving only a bloodstain behind. Meredith soon learns that the stranger is right about the McGrath household—she finds few friends there, and at least one very determined enemy. Christmas day is Meredith’s twenty-first birthday. It may also be the last day of her life. Continue reading “The Hundredth Door (1950) by Rae Foley”
“Blood and blue water—like the jacket of a detective story. Fantastic, unreal. The sort of thing that doesn’t happen to oneself.”
All the usual guests are confirmed for Lucy Angkatell’s house party. Her cousins, Midge and Edward, will be there. So will the brilliant doctor John Christow and his dull, plodding wife Gerda. And so will Lucy’s other cousin, Henrietta Savernake, a sculptor whose beauty and intelligence have placed her at the center of two separate love triangles.
There’s no reason to expect this weekend to be different from countless others, but an uninvited guest is about to crash the party: murder. The stage is set for a crime of passion quite unlike anything else in Agatha Christie’s ouevre. Continue reading “The Hollow (1946) by Agatha Christie”
“We have been recommended this hotel as very quiet,” went on Miss Popham.
Lupin was about to reply that it was fairly quiet except for a few burglaries, elopements, fires, and attempted murders, but on second thoughts decided silence would be best.
Lady Lupin Hastings is in need of a long rest following a bout with influenza. Her friend Diana’s guest house seems like the perfect place to recuperate. Instead of rest and relaxation, however, Lupin finds herself at the center of a crime wave that threatens Diana’s business—and the guests’ lives. Will the sweetly daffy Lupin be able to keep the hotel running while dealing with artistic temperaments, broken romances, and any number of suspicious “accidents”? Continue reading “The Mystery at Orchard House (1946) by Joan Coggin”
“But it was more than a ghost story that you promised us, surely? It was a murder story, and I’m rather a connoisseur in murder.”
On Halloween night, thirteen guests descend upon the Maryland estate of Lady’s Court. Eleven are members of the March Hares, a group of the maddest young people in pre-World War I Washington DC. There were originally twelve March Hares: ten years ago, just after their last gathering, nineteen-year-old Sunny Leighton died mysteriously.
The weekend quickly reignites old loves and old hatreds, between games of bobbing for apples and “hide in the dark.” It’s all fun and games until the lights come back on. Even March Hares can’t outrun death. Continue reading “Hide in the Dark (1929) by Frances Noyes Hart”
“Won’t the murders put people off coming here as paying guests—what do you think, Bunny?”
Bunny shrugged. “I haven’t a clue. Considering how people read crime fiction, one would think that they might be attracted. Why not exploit it—revise the booklet and put, along with baths and table wines, ‘murder included’?”
Twilight is falling fast for the aristocratic d’Estray family. Sir Charles d’Estray’s new wife Bunny, a bohemian writer, is determined to keep the family’s head above water by turning their ancestral home into a bed and breakfast. It’s not easy, even before the murder.
When a demanding guest is poisoned, Bunny realizes how precarious her position is. She and her daughter Lisa are outsiders, and it’s up to her to keep them from becoming suspects. She never dreams they might end up as victims instead. Continue reading “Murder Included (1950) by Joanna Cannan”
“Visits from the police are not apt to leave a happy atmosphere behind them.”
After being bombed in the Blitz, Paulina Paine was lucky to escape with her life. Though the bombing left her unable to hear, she has become a skilled lip-reader and carved out a pleasant life for herself—until one afternoon, she witnesses an astonishing conversation between two strangers speaking of robbery and murder. What worries her is that if she could see these men, they could see her.
Scotland Yard does not take Paulina’s report seriously, but Maud Silver does. The former governess turned private investigator follows the scantiest of clues to a country house that is seething with crime and treachery. Continue reading “The Listening Eye (1955) by Patricia Wentworth”
“It’s murder,” said the sergeant. “Murder. And you’ve started the machinery whose wheels will only cease running when the culprit has been brought to justice. You’ve been a bit slow, if you’ll excuse my saying so, to see all the implications, but the fact remains that you set the law in motion, Mr. Dene. You put the penny in the slot, in a manner of speaking. It’ll be something for you to remember.”
As far as she knows, Amy Steer is alone in the world, struggling to earn her own living in London. It seems like a miracle when she is offered a home by her previously unknown aunt, Harriet Hall. But why does the nice young man she meets on the train abandon Amy after learning who her aunt is? Why isn’t she met at the station? And why is there no sign of Mrs. Hall when Amy arrives at her lonely cottage? When Harriet Hall’s corpse turns up at the bottom of a well, Amy learns that her aunt was hiding some deadly secrets. Continue reading “The Strange Case of Harriet Hall (1936) by Moray Dalton”
“I’ve a sickening sensation that this is going to be one of the world’s worst weekends.”
Aspiring writer Jim Henderson can’t afford to turn down a free meal, let alone an entire weekend at the stately home of Thrackley. Admittedly, he can’t remember ever meeting his host Edwin Carson, who claims to have known his late father in South Africa. Still, once he manages to scrounge a set of evening clothes, Jim anticipates a pleasant house party.
It soon becomes clear that something very strange is going on at Thrackley. For one thing, none of the wealthy and prominent guests seem to know their host. And why is Carson’s daughter Mary so afraid of him? Wisecracking Jim and his slightly dim pal Freddie Usher are woefully unprepared for the conspiracy they’ve stumbled into.
Continue reading “Weekend at Thrackley (1934) by Alan Melville”