Friday, October 9, 2015

Forgotten Book: An English Murder by Cyril Hare

Cyril Hare is the pseudonym of  Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark, an English judge and writer of mysteries. I had heard of Hare but had not read him before reading his most popular book: An English Murder. First published in 1951, this is a Country House mystery in which the merry season of Christmas turns into one of ill-will and murder.




The War is over. England may have won the war but she has lost her empire and in the new Welfare State, the old grand houses are dying, the lower classes are upwardly mobile, and even fascism is not quite dead.





Lord Warbeck invites a few family members and friends to his home, Warbeck Hall, realising that this might be his last Christmas. Among the invitees are his son, Robert who heads a fledgling fascist party called the League of Liberty and Justice; Lady Camilla Prendergast, a distant relative, another woman, Mrs. Carstairs wife of an upcoming politician Alan Carstairs; Sir Julius Warbeck, an MP and cousin of Lord Warbeck; and Dr. Bottwink, a professor from Prague who has suffered the concentration camps of the Third Reich.

It is an odd assorted group and there is trouble right from the beginning. Robert hates the professor and Julius, because one is a Jew and the other is somebody whom he holds responsible for bringing in all the legislative laws that are ending the privileges of the aristocrats. He is further troubled by his own personal commitments. The Professor and the MP, in their turn, dislike Robert intensely. Julius, further, doesn't have much regard for Mrs. Carstairs who he thinks is a little too ambitious as regards her husband. Camilla has her own personal problems, all of which revolve around Robert and Mrs. Carstairs has only praise for her husband, Alan, while belittling everybody else. The servants, too are put off since Sir Julius arrived with a detective and they are not prepared to serve him as a guest. Meanwhile the butler, Briggs has his own troubles while and his ambitious daughter, Susan, harbours a secret.

With so much of animosity, it is no wonder that soon cruel words are being exchanged and then the murderer strikes. One death follows another and another. Now it is for the remaining guests and servants, to survive the snow storm and each other,




I enjoyed the mystery because of its depiction of Post-War England, because of the explanation provided to Bottwink regarding English customs, and for the fact that despite there being only a handful of suspects, the author kept me guessing. Much recommended.



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First Line: Warbeck Hall is reputed to be the oldest inhabited house in Markshire.
Publishing Details: London: Faber & Faber, 1951
First Published: 1951
Pages: 235
Source: Downloaded from here
Other books read of the same author: None

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Submitted for FFB, today @ Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom

22 comments:

  1. Oh, this sounds good, Neer. I keep hearing about this book and I keep thinking I must have read it. But after reading your excellent review, I think, wait, that doesn't sound like what I remember. So, obviously, I've never read it. Of if I did, I've forgotten it and reading it again will be like the first time - again. Ha! I love country house mysteries!

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    1. Yvette, I too cannot resist a good country house mystery. Glad you liked the review. Hope you read the book soon. I'd love to read your views.

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  2. Excellent review, Neeru, and of course, I'm very glad you enjoyed the novel. It reminds me, too, that I must spotlight one of his novels. I'm grateful for that reminder.

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    1. Thanks Margot. And I am already excited about the spotlight feature. Hope you post it soon.

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  3. You have whetted my appetite for a good English mystery. Even my pinky is elevated as I type this.

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    1. Yes, nothing can beat a good English mystery. Wonder how your pinky will react once you do read it.:)

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  4. I re-read this book a few years ago, and enjoyed it a lot. I was glad to be reminded of the story. I liked the variety of characters with their prejudices and the picture of that time. And I always like a story set around Christmas.

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    1. Tracy, I too love mysteries set during X'Mas. I must go and read your review of this book.

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  5. Project Gutenberg Canada has several of Hare's detective novels.

    http://gutenberg.ca/#catalogueH

    (scroll down to Hare, Cyril)

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    1. Thank you so much Shay for visiting. I did download it from Project Getenberg Canada. They have some marvellous books.

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  6. You're welcome. I downloaded them this past winter but only had time to read In the Yew Tree's Shade. Now that I'm retired, maybe I'll have more time for reading!

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    1. Reading in retirement, that sounds like fun:)

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  7. Neer, an absolutely new author for me, both real and pseudonymous.

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    1. Do download his books and read them, Prashant. I really enjoyed this one and have heard good things about his other books too.

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  8. I love a book that keeps the reader guessing! Great review!
    I like the variations of the covers too!

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    1. Thanks Freda. Yeah, this really had me guessing.

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  9. The title of this book is very appropriate, as will be understood after reading the book.

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    1. Hi Santosh. Welcome to the blog.

      Very true about the title. Couldn't have happened anywhere else, I guess.

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  10. Finished this last night, Neer. Found an old paperback copy on my shelves. And yes I had read it a while back but of course, I'd totally forgotten it. A nice cozy mystery for a chilly evening. I really enjoyed it. I'm going to include this on my List of Christmas Mystery Books coming up in December or maybe I'll just do a list of good Country House Mysteries. Thanks again for reminding me - sort of. :)

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    1. You are welcome, Yvette. Glad you enjoyed the re-read.

      Do post whichever list you feel like doing. Your lists are always great fun.

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  11. I really do have to read this one Neeru - great review, thanks.

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    1. Thanks Sergio. Please do read this, I look forward to your views.

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