I can't get enough of vintage crime and thrillers at the moment so it's just as well there is a more general vogue for them right now which is seeing plenty being re discovered. J. Jefferson Farejeon is a particularly good find, it genuinely is baffling why he dropped so completely out of the public eye for so long. I loved 'Mystery in White' which was last years tremendously (and deservedly) successful Christmas offering from the British Library and enjoyed 'Thirteen Guests' just as much.
I can't resist a golden age country house murder, I'm not sure if it's nostalgia precisely (I never lived in a country house before the war) but there's something irresistible about the mix of snobbery, upstairs downstairs tension, teatime and cocktail rituals, the claustrophobia of the setting, and the clipped dialogue.
In 'Thirteen Guests' John Foss has had a bad day, in a bit of a daze he buys a train ticket to an unknown destination (he simply asks for the same station as the person in front of him at the ticket office). Disaster strikes when he has a bad fall getting off the train, a fellow passenger (a very glamorous fellow passenger) takes pity on him, packs him up, and takes him to the house party she's on her way to join.
John makes 13 guests in all which gives him a momentarily superstitious shiver, which in turn is exacerbated by a house full of incompatible guests and disturbing emotional undercurrents. Bad things soon start to happen; a painting is damaged, a dog killed, and then murder committed. John, stuck in an anti room is on the edge of the action, but also in a position to hear, and sometimes see, more than might be expected.
'Thirteen Guests' also does something else I find irresistible in a murder mystery, but as it's the final twist I won't reveal more.
Farejeon is a delightful writer, his plot holds up - though plot isn't entirely the point of a book like this, not for me anyway, the background colour is delectable - much more to the point. But best of all he has a way of veering off for a moment with a bit of humour or a general observation that's delicious. If I quoted an example it probably wouldn't look like much, but reading the book they are things that make me stop, smile, and generally feel pleased with the world for allowing me to be comfortable and so well entertained for the moment.
I say this every time, but the British Library crime classics series is excellent. It's a really well chosen collection (I can't bring myself to say curated, though in this context it might almost be appropriate) doing a really interesting job of opening up the genre and bringing some very good books back into print.