Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Crime at Christmas - C. H. B. Kitchin

the current cold snap that we've been enjoying (well I've been enjoying it anyway) is due to end tomorrow, so I thought I'd better talk about 'Crime At Christmas' before the seasonal frost has quite disappeared (it was encouragingly spring like this afternoon).

'Crime At Christmas' isn't (obviously) just for Christmas, but it was one of the half dozen or so vintage titles (this one from Faber & Faber) that were impossible to avoid in any bookshop anywhere through November /December last year. I'm not generally very good at themed or seasonal reading but golden age crime and winter do seem to go well together. Murders aside this is comfort reading of the highest order - absorbing without being demanding, and set in a world of reassuring certainties.

I don't want to give to much away so (in case anybody did manage to miss it altogether) will just quote the blurb from the back. "It's Christmas at Hampstead's Beresford Lodge. A group of relatives and intimate friends gather to celebrate the festive season, but their party is rudely interrupted by a violent death. It isn't long before a second body is discovered. Can the murderer be one of those in the great house? The stockbroker sleuth Malcolm Warren investigates..."

I'll add to that, that I'd happily read more by Kitchin. I liked Warren who despite being a youngish man has something of the old maid about him (I'm not very good at spotting this kind of thing, but I wondered if he was meant to be gay, which I'd like in a book from 1934), his disapproval of parlour games certainly struck a chord with me, as did his dislike of bright young things. I really fell in love with this book for this description of Christmas though "Christmas! Stockings, holly, crackers, carols, too much plum pudding, and the vague depression which even in childhood had seemed to surround the whole business - and the summer still so very far away."

It's exactly how I feel about it, so it's good to see someone else write it. (I hope that doesn't make me sound more than usually miserable or curmudgeonly). On the up side there was absolutely nothing disappointing about retiring to bed with this particular book and enjoying its particular brand of mild cynicism - it made me very happy indeed.

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