Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Portrait of a Murderer: Anne Meredith

First sentence: "Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931."

So we know at the beginning who will die, and not too long after that we learn who did it. Thus this is an inverted mystery, a format I generally enjoy.

The family of Adrian Gray have all arrived at his home by Christmas Eve. We first get several chapters with brief overviews of the various children, their marriages, and how they relate to their father. There is little if any love between the father and his children, although some of them admire him and several of them depend on him for their income.

My thoughts:

This is much more a character study than a mystery, but that was fine with me. I often read mysteries less for the puzzle element than for the interaction of the characters, either the investigators or people who are affected by the murder.

In this case we learn quite a lot about a once-wealthy man and his offspring, and most of the family is at best unlikable, some are despicable. Their prime concerns are money and status. The inter-family squabbles are all aimed at getting the patriarch to advance them some money. They soon learn that the old man's money situation is tighter than they realized; then it gets really competitive.

I have had problems before with books populated by mostly unsympathetic characters, but that did not spoil this book because the family relationships were interesting and some of the characters had redeeming qualities. The part I enjoyed most was the background of the killer and how he became who he was. There were later portions of the story that I liked quite a bit but don't want to go into detail about that and ruin the story.

This book turned up on a list of country house mysteries at crossexaminingcrime, and I passed the list on to my husband, who purchased the book. This is his review at Goodreads:
I was drawn to this classic (1933 vintage) murder mystery due to its “English country house at Christmas” setting. but it actually has little to do with the holiday or with a country house. That said, the book is cleverly plotted with some well-drawn characters (most of whom - including murderer and victim - are of a rotten, ruined, tainted family). The book kind of falls down with a pat ending but I found it an entertaining read. Interestingly, the title actually has two meanings.  

Also see reviews at:
crossexaminingcrime, Clothes in Books, and BooksPlease.

Anne Meredith was a name used by Lucy Beatrice Malleson; she also wrote under another pseudonym, Anthony Gilbert. In the edition I read, there is an Introduction by Martin Edwards.


Publisher:    Poisoned Pen Press, 2018 (orig. pub. 1933)
Length:        243 pages
Format:        Trade paperback
Setting:        UK
Genre:         Mystery
Source:        Borrowed from my husband.


Cath said...

I have this one on my Kindle and will get to it soon. I do enjoy these BLCC books although they vary a bit in quality. I'm currently reading a short story collection of theirs, Blood on the Tracks, railway stories, and it's very good indeed.

Anonymous said...

I must read this book, Tracy! I keep hearing that it's a good read, and I'm very glad you thought it was enjoyable. I appreciate the reminder of it.

Kate said...

Glad you enjoyed this one.

TracyK said...

I haven't read that many of the BLCC books, Cath, but this one was definitely a good one. I have a few of them on my TBR piles and I have gathered from reviews that they are variable. Lovely covers though. I read one short story collection with a Christmas theme and wasn't that thrilled with the stories, but I do like train-related mysteries so maybe I will look for Blood on the Tracks

TracyK said...

You must, Margot. I enjoyed it a lot, although not everyone finds it appealing.

TracyK said...

Me too. And glad my husband decided to buy it, it would have taken me longer to make that decision.

Mathew Paust said...

Love the cover! I, too, prefer character studies over puzzles (at which I've always been lousy solving). Did I say I love that cover? Reminds me of Thomas Kinkade's art, which invariably puts me in a sweetly sentimental mood.

TracyK said...

You are a many-faceted person, Mathew. This is a very unsentimental story (for the times) and I liked it a lot.

col2910 said...

Glad you enjoyed it Tracy, but not one for me thanks.

TracyK said...

Probably not, Col, but it is far from cozy.

Clothes In Books said...

I liked this, and it made a good seasonal entry for me last year, but in the end I found it rather cold-hearted. I know others like it more than I did.

TracyK said...

I did see several reviews that had that reaction, Moira, and then others just don't go for the inverted format. It worked well for me, though.

Yvette said...

I love the covers of these editions, Tracy. Don't know if I'll read this one, but I enjoyed your post anyway. I'm adding it to my TBR list just in case.

TracyK said...

These books do have lovely covers, Yvette. I only have a few of them but each is very attractive. This book does seem get widely varying reactions, and is certainly not everyone's cup of tea.