Richard Hull ‘ s brilliant debut ( first published in 1934 ) is considered a masterpiece in the inverted detective fiction sub genre and features Edward Powell , a narcissistic , conniving young man with whom the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top . Edward lives with his Aunt Mildred in the Welsh town of Llwll . But Edward and Aunt M . are at opposite poles for almost everything that it is no wonder that Edward is seething underneath the effeminate exterior . His aunt ‘ s latest trick is the last straw and E . has finally decided to bump off the old lady . As he is well aware of the repercussions that might come with the suspicious death of his aunt ( who happens to be his only relative on whom he is also financially dependent ) , he decides to take his time to pull off the perfect murder . . .
This had me chuckling too often with it ‘ s highly entertaining narrative with liberal doses of snark despite the dark undertone . With Edward being unparalleled in his dim – witted attempts to do away with the rather astute old lady ( at least for me , I had never come across a murderous protagonist who is too dense as Edward that he shouldn ‘ t have even dreamt of doing away with someone in the first place . Of course , we come across some bungling idiots once in a while in crime fiction who leave a mile – long trail of clues or sometimes leave the job unfinished , but IMHO none can match Edward in terms of his characteristic delusional and unimaginably stupid thought process ) , the middle was somewhat of a drag . But the ending was gold . This might be perfect for a suspense fiction reader if you want to pick up something that would keep you entertained while not being too cozy .
Rating : 4 / 5
If you have already read The Murder of my Aunt , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book . If you have any interesting recommendations , please do share them . Until the next review then . . .
P . S
Speaking of blundering murderers like Edward , one can ‘ t help contrasting them with some of their ingenious counterparts who manage to commit the perfect crime . Check out P D James ‘ The Part – Time Job in which the protagonist goes to great lengths to exact his revenge on his school bully – the ‘ Queen of Crime ‘ has packed a brilliant twist at the end that will explain the title . It is to be noted that several of P D James ‘ short stories have the old sins casting long shadows theme and frankly , some are a tad disconcerting . If you are game enough for some ‘ perfect murders ‘ with sinister undertones , you can check out James ‘ Sleep No More . . .
Miss . Euphemia Pongleton , a penny – pinching unpleasant spinster is found strangled to death with her terrier ‘ s leash on the stairs of the Belsize Underground station on her way to her dental appointment . Her fellow residents of the boarding house ( somewhat grand – soundingly named Frampton Private Hotel ) […]
Sir Osmond Melbury is having a family gathering for Christmas at his country mansion Flaxmere but his sister is of the view that nothing good could ever come of the Melbury family gatherings . For a change , Sir Osmond has planned to liven up the Christmas festivities by having one of the guests dress up as Santa Claus and distribute the presents to his grand – children and the servants . Sir Osmond is found dead in his study with a bullet to his head by Oliver Wittcombe who is playing the Santa . While Oliver seems to have every opportunity to have fired the shot that killed Sir Osmund , he does not have an obvious motive . But almost every other member of the house party seems to have had their own motives but no easy opportunity as Oliver and also private suspicions about the identity of the killer . When the Chief Constable of Haulmshire thinks that he knows the family too well which could pose some difficulties for him but eventually realizes that there are too many things he does not know about the family . As the investigation proceeds , a startling discovery comes up : There were two Santas and not one . . .
The Santa Klaus murder is a classic country manor mystery . Sir Osmund ‘ s Santa plans need not fool you into thinking that he is the benevolent and affectionate man . He has always enjoyed a charged atmosphere and having people tip – toe around him . The patriarch demanded abject submission to his wishes from those around him and threatened them with reducing their inheritances if they chose to do otherwise . The family knows this to be no idle threat – his eldest daughter Hilda Wynford who was widowed at a young age with a child has not received any kind of support from her father because she married against his wishes except to be allowed at her father ‘ s house . ( Doesn ‘ t Sir Osmund bring to mind wealthy entrepreneur Aristide Leonides from Agatha Christie ‘ s The Crooked House ? ) The narrative is structured as written accounts of the days prior to the tragic Christmas Day starting from the day when the members of the house party began to trickle at Flaxmere by some members of the house party . We also have a detailed chronicling of the investigation by Col . Halstock , the Chief Constable of Haulmshire and one chapter narrated by the amateur detective of this book , Kenneth Stour who also happens to be the ex – lover of Sir Osmond ‘ s daughter Lady Edith Evershot . . .
Col . Halstock is more like Watson and Kenneth , Holmes . While we have seen detectives who deduce a man ‘ s physical profile from his stride or read into something as random as a splash of candle grease or ponder about the most trivial observations of one ‘ s day , Col . Halstock sees a dislodged cover of a typewriter in the study where Sir Osmund had been murdered and does not think for a moment about getting it checked for fingerprints . Let the above statement not put you off . I think hardcore crime fiction fans would love being one – up over the investigating officer and the amateur sleuth for a change . However , all these gaffes during the investigation could not be held against Col . Halstock simply because he does not have the facts at all or is often mislead by the accounts of the inmates of the house who are keen on safe – guarding their loved ones whom they think have a decent motive for murdering Sir Osmund . Some humor , a good pace and the discovery of a new clue or perspective with each chapter , Col . Halstock is definitely not a detective bad enough to put you off this case . With the timely inputs from Kenneth Stour and his own decent deductions , the narrative keeps the reader engaged and is very enjoyable . And no , I did not guess the identity of the murderer correctly despite flattering myself that I spotted a few key clues even before the misinformed detective on the case spotted it . . .
Despite the good pace of the multiple narratives keeping the readers hooked , I felt that the writing of certain scenarios could have been better – while certain family members attribute ” solid ” motives to few others , there is not a single private conversation or confrontation to add weight to their arguments that X / Y have a good motive to bump off the old man . All those suspects did not utter a single menacing word against Sir Osmund . While I never guessed the culprit , I would have liked a narrative from him about how he almost pulled off a perfect murder . . . Certain characters do not get a mention in the POSTSCRIPT chapter – after all the concern I had invested on the suicidal ex – chauffeur I would definitely like to know if his fortunes took a turn for the better or if Sir Osmund ‘ s Miss Lemon got her next job . . .
Rating : 3 . 75 / 5
Despite some flaws , you definitely would not regret getting a taste of Golden Age Crime Fiction writing from Mavis Doriel Hay , whom I think definitely needs wider recognition . Highly recommended from me . If you have already read the book , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book and also which cover do you prefer . Until the next review then . .