Pages: 396 pages
Published: May 1, 2010 (First published 1941)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Fiction & Literature, Mystery & Thriller, Historical FictionSynopsis:
‘Tis the season-to be dead…
Resigned to spending Christmas at Lexham Manor, Mathilda Clare wasn’t sure what she dreaded most–the foul temper of Nat Herriard, the filthy-rich old Scrooge who owned the place, or the sweetness-and-light of his brother, Joseph. Joseph had concocted a guest list brilliantly headed for mayhem… acid-tongued young Stephen, his sly sister Paula, and Nat’s sharp-dealing partner, with a finger in some strange pies. “There’ll be murder before we’re through,” Mathilda laughed. And she was absolutely right. This it is no ordinary Christmas, when the holiday party takes on a sinister aspect when the colorful assortment of guests discovers there is a killer in their midst. The owner of the substantial estate, that old Scrooge Nathaniel Herriard, is found stabbed in the back, and the six holiday guests find themselves the suspects of a murder enquiry.
For Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard, ’tis the season to find whodunit. Whilst the delicate matter of inheritance could be the key to this crime, the real conundrum is how any of the suspects could have entered the locked room to commit this foul deed. The investigation is complicated by the fact that every guest is hiding something-throwing all of their testimony into question and casting suspicion far and wide. The clever and daring crime will mystify readers, yet the answer is in plain sight all along….
Previously Published as “Envious Casca”
Georgette Heyer is well-known for her regency romances but some readers may not know that detective novels are included among the many novels she published during her lifetime. These mystery novels are a bit reminiscent of Agatha Christie. Now, I am not saying that Heyer could ever take the crown from the reigning queen of mystery, but that doesn’t mean we should not recognize talent when we see it. A Christmas Party adds a different element to the typical country house murder and I believe that Heyer and Christie fans alike would enjoy this one.
Lexham Manor is decorated top to bottom for Christmas. The Herriad family is all assembled together, much to the chagrin to everyday Scrooge and family monarch, Nat Herriad. Family and friends are just trying to get through the animosity and celebrate this joyous occasion. Until a sinister death puts a halt to all celebrations. It’s up to Inspector Hemingway to solve this perplexing puzzle.
What I can tell from just this first read of a Heyer detective novel is that she goes into heavy detail. The characters and their background, the scenery and the plot were all so particularly detailed that it makes the reader feel that they are within the story. Heyer definitely did not leave no stone unturned. Most of the characters have a despicable trait and an annoying character. But that makes the suspect pool tantalizing because anyone could be the murderer. Now, I did figure out who the killer was pretty quickly, a factor that usually annoys me. However, in this case, it made me want to read more. Heyer’s writing just kept me hooked.
Inspector Hemingway is a funny detective. His blunt demeanor and patronizing attitude reminds me of Hercule Poirot (another connection to Agatha Christie). But like Poirot, Hemingway does have the tendency to explain things out. That is not necessarily a bad thing but it just takes away the element of surprise, a feature I love in Christie novels.
After reading all through Christie’s novels, give Georgette Heyer’s detective novels a try. Heyer’s wit and humor encompasses well with the atmosphere of mystery and suspicion. This is a definite read for both mystery and holiday read lovers.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars