In 4 weeks time Christmas will be done, the Doctor Who special will have done its thing, and I'll be wondering if I can decently slope off to bed yet. Tonight I'm wondering much the same thing, the weekend bought some very sad news with it, and today has deposited an outrageously increased service charge in my letterbox - the idea of going to bed and staying there seems very attractive right now.
Certainly more attractive that Christmas preparations - I had both good intentions and high hopes of getting presents bought yesterday, but not much came of it. I bought some books for my God son (one of which I'm tempted to pinch) and some books for me, because who goes to a bookshop and only comes out with things for other people?
One of the books for me was an eye catching reprint of Cyril Hare's 'An English Murder', it sounded excellent (and indeed is excellent) but annoyingly about a chapter in a realised I'd read it before. I couldn't find it on here, so it must have been quite a long time ago, and I didn't remember who did it, nor can I find another copy in my flat, but nonetheless to many very specific details were familiar. I'm less bothered by that now I've had a good hunt and can't find a duplicate, and happy to have a copy of a particularly appealing murder mystery.
The Englishness of the murder is clever, it's a classic snowbound country house mystery written and set in 1951 (or at least set there abouts). Old Lord Warbeck is at deaths door, when he goes Warbeck Hall will most likely fall victim to death duties, and so he's gathered a last Christmas party. His son, Robert, who is leader of a fascist group, a Jewish historian who is undertaking research on the political life of a previous Lord Warbeck, his cousin Julius, who is also chancellor of the exchequer, the girl he'd like his son to marry, and his late wife's dear friend, now married to an up and coming politician and very ambitious for him.
It's an ill mixed group, everybody hates Roberts politics, even Camilla, who would very much like to marry him. Everybody is almost as sniffy about Dr Bottwink - it's blatant anti-semitism on the part of the characters, drawn as unattractive (as it should be). It's interesting in how it illustrates how deeply this prejudice still ran even after the war - deep enough for Hare to highlight the hatefulness of it and for it to be entirely recognisable at a time when we like to think such attitudes were no longer acceptable.
It's a clever, entertaining, mystery which hinges around an obscure point of constitutional practice and pokes at the class system at the same time. There's an elegiac note about it that feels appropriate for this time of year, a nostalgia for the glory days of country houses, as well (perhaps) as an acknowledgment that not all change is bad.
Altogether it's a gem of a book, with both a decent mystery to unravel, and plenty of well observed detail to think about. I'm very glad to have met with it again.