Thursday, December 17, 2020

Murder for Christmas: Francis Duncan

My husband has been the source of several of my mystery reads set during the holidays, this year and in the past, and here is another one he discovered. Murder for Christmas is part of a series written by Francis Duncan and published between 1944 and 1954. This book falls in the middle of the series.

Mordecai Tremaine receives an invitation to spend Christmas at the country estate of Benedict Grame. Included in the invitation is a brief note from Grame's secretary, Nicholas Blaise, asking Tremaine to join the Christmas gathering because he has a sense that trouble is brewing. Tremaine does not know Benedict Grame well at all, having only met him once at a party in Kensington, but the lure of a mystery is appealing.

Tremaine is an unusual character. He is a retired tobacconist, and has a definite interest in criminology. He has helped in solving a crime or two in an amateur capacity in the past, working with local policemen. He also likes reading romances and he is addicted to stories in the magazine Romantic Times

Even before Mordecai Tremaine arrives at the country house of Benedict Grame, he gets a hint that strange things may be going on. He stops at a tea shop in the nearby town of Calnford on his way to Grame's estate and sees a couple talking furtively at another table. Then at dinner that night at Sherbroome House he sees the female half of that couple and she pointedly ignores him. Strange behavior like that seems the norm in the group of guests visiting Grame, but Tremaine cannot put his finger on what is going on. And there are lots of characters to keep track of: Grame's relatives, friends, business acquaintances, and the villagers. 

I like the way that the author reveals that there are strange and sinister things going on, and gives us hints, but I never guessed at the secret that is being hidden. And when it is, then all of a sudden a lot of things make sense. The characters are mostly unsympathetic but there are enough likable characters to make up for them.  

There is a romance but it does not take over the plot. This is a twisty, fun Christmas mystery. It would be interesting to see how some of the other books in the series fare, since they don't have the added benefit of Christmas traditions.

This is the fourth in a series of seven mysteries, so if you want to start with another in the series, I would suggest reading John Norris's post on three other books by this author. On the other hand, based on John's post, it doesn't seem like order matters.


Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2017 (orig. publ. 1949)
Length:    345 pages
Format:    Trade paperback
Series:     Mordecai Tremaine #4
Setting:    England
Genre:     Mystery
Source:    Borrowed from my husband.


TomCat said...

I've read the reprints and can confirm you don't have to read them in order, but if you want to start somewhere good, I recommend So Pretty a Problem.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Looks like a fun series. Not at all familiar with it.

Margot Kinberg said...

This does look like a good series, Tracy. And I give credit to an author who can put a good twist in a mystery without it being too incredible.

TracyK said...

TomCat, thanks for that recommendation and I will try to get a copy of So Pretty a Problem soon.

TracyK said...

Patti, the author was new to me also when my husband bought the book (last year), although I am sure it featured on some other blogs well before then.

TracyK said...

Margot, I really liked that the ending totally surprised, yet made perfect sense.

Peggy Ann said...

I enjoyed this one too, Tracy.

TracyK said...

Peggy, this was a fun Christmas read and I hope to read more in the series.

col2910 said...

You're rocking those Christmas reads, but again one that doesn't especially appeal to me.

TracyK said...

This one I liked, Col, but I don't see it appealing to you.

Matthew Sorrento said...

Thank you -- I'll recommend this to my wife, who's a big cozy fan.

TracyK said...

Great, Matthew. A cozy set at Christmas is perfect. I have already purchased So Pretty a Problem, recommended by TomCat (not set at Christmas but that is fine).