Book Review – Envious Casca – A Christmas Whodunnit


ON OUR BOOKSHELVES – Originally Published December 21, 2014


NOVEL: Envious Casca, aka The Christmas Party

AUTHOR: Georgette Heyer



It seems seasonally appropriate to write about this murder mystery in December; it takes place in an English country house, with a group of fractious relatives gathered together to celebrate Christmas (chiefly by getting into loud arguments with each other, as they are, for the most part, exceedingly ill-tempered).  When the cantankerous head of the family is found dead in a locked room, the house party is, more than ever, at each other’s throats.  Among others, there’s a merry but annoying uncle, a sullen nephew, a gold-digging fiancé, an aspiring avant garde playwright, and a shady business partner.  Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard does his best to investigate the crime, while the quarrelsome suspects all seem to have a distant relationship with the truth.

Georgette Heyer is most famous for her historical romance novels (in fact, she essentially established the genre, as well as the “Regency romance” subgenre), but her contemporary “thrillers” are also entertaining, and quite clever.  I find there to be something rather comforting in detective fiction of this classic type: the mystery is investigated and resolved, the villain punished, and the moral order again restored.  Good reading if you happen to be snowbound, or if you need a little escape from your own difficult relatives.

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): Three Whistles




Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Heads In Beds, Jacob Tomsky

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

Up At The Villa, W. Somerset Maugham


Image: Schubbel/


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at