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NOVEL: An English Murder
AUTHOR: Cyril Hare
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1951
Some people like mystery novels because of the clever plots and the puzzle to be solved…whether or not it was the butler that actually did it (usually not), or perhaps the foreign guest with a mysterious past, or the black sheep younger brother, and how, and why…and they’ll stay up all night to find out just what happened.
Other people like mystery novels because of the atmosphere and setting…it’s an immersive literary visit in space and time, to a charming village in Botswana, or Scotland, or Sweden, or a college town in the Midwest, or, as is often the case, an English country house.
Other people, I’m quite convinced, appreciate the moral clarity of a classic mystery—the wrongdoer is eventually confronted, adjudged, and appropriately punished, law and order save the day, the good people are cleared, and the detective, amateur or otherwise, is admirable and brilliant, and ties it all up by the end.
One reason I like An English Murder so very much is that this novel succeeds on all of these levels. It’s one set in an English country house, old fashioned and historical, filled with an assortment of people gathered for the Christmas holiday, snowbound, and surprised and distressed when the murders begin. It’s a fascinating look at a time, after WWII, when social change was rapid, the aristocracy was weakening, and customary ways and traditional class distinctions were fraying.
The plot is an exceedingly clever one, with the motive hinging very much on the law (Cyril Hare was the pen name used by Alfred Gordon Clark, an English judge). I won’t tell you more…suffice to say that the murders are very English indeed, and that the mystery is quite satisfactorily resolved at the end. The social order is restored (along with a lesson in history and governmental reform), leaving the survivors vindicated and considerably wiser for the experience.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 1/2 Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
Lead-In Image Courtesy of J Walters / Shutterstock.com
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 email@example.com
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