Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon

thirteen guestsLucky for some…

😀 😀 😀 🙂

Twelve guests are invited to the country house of Lord Aveling for the weekend. They’re a mixed group – Lord Aveling has political ambitions so some are people he hopes will back him, there’s an influential newspaper columnist he hopes will give him some good publicity, an artist who’s painting his daughter, an actress for whom he has… ahem… other plans, and a couple of people he doesn’t really know, but has invited along at the request of others in the party. When John Foss trips and sprains his ankle at the railway station, one of the invited guests decides to take him along to the Hall for treatment, and Lord Aveling insists on him staying till he’s better. Superstition says it’s unlucky to be the thirteenth guest, but to John’s relief he’s not the last to arrive. Which, as it turns out, is lucky indeed, since soon the hall is awash with corpses…

This is a fairly typical Golden Age country house mystery, first published in 1936. It gets off to a good start, with John’s accident and his arrival as a stranger to the company providing a good excuse for all the various characters to be introduced to him, and therefore to the reader. The characterisation isn’t terribly in-depth, with some of the characters being ‘types’ rather than individuals – the cricketer who plays with a straight bat, the shifty strangers, the obnoxious journalist, etc. But with such a large cast it would be difficult to fill them all out in a reasonable space and the novel is fairly short, as they tended to be back in those happy far-off times.

The plot is quite complex and there are lots of red herrings running…er…swimming around, so Detective Inspector Kendall has his work cut out for him when he finally arrives. Fortunately, he’s a wily old fox who can see through people’s lies and evasions, and spot clues that others would miss. He forms an unlikely alliance with the obnoxious journalist, who acts as a kind of unofficial investigator on the inside. Eventually all will be revealed – but with an unexpected twist in the tail that adds an extra layer of interest.

J Jefferson Farjeon
J Jefferson Farjeon

The writing is pretty good if somewhat dated in style, which shows through particularly in the dialogue of which there’s a lot. There’s a rather unlikely and not terribly romantic romance going on as a sub-plot, but again this is really a device so that two of the characters can have intimate tête-à-têtes to keep the reader informed of what’s going on. It starts and finishes well, but I found the middle dragged a bit as Kendall carried out interviews with all the various characters. And in the end, the explanation is pretty much presented to us by the characters telling each other what really happened. In retrospect, I do think it was fair-play, but too fiendishly convoluted for my poor little brain to fathom. Overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to people who enjoy these old-style mysteries. But, in truth, the more I read of the ‘forgotten classics’, the more I realise how good the ones are that haven’t been forgotten. Enjoyable, but not to be compared to the likes of Christie, Marsh or Sayers.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 65…

Episode 65


Well, the TBR now stands at 151 which is down 2 on last week – still well over a year’s worth though. Unless I can find a way to read one book with each eye simutaneously, while listening to an audiobook… hmm! Might be worth a try…

Here are a few that are rising slowly to the top of the pile…



the murder of king james iCourtesy of Yale University Press in a gorgeous brick-sized hardback. Have I mentioned that I love YUP? Many of the best bios and histories I’ve read in the last couple of years have come to me via them. Will the authors be able to convince me to forgive them for not naming their book The Murder of King James VI and I? We shall see…

The Blurb says A year after the death of James I in 1625, a sensational pamphlet accused the Duke of Buckingham of murdering the king. It was an allegation that would haunt English politics for nearly forty years. In this exhaustively researched new book, two leading scholars of the era, Alastair Bellany and Thomas Cogswell, uncover the untold story of how a secret history of courtly poisoning shaped and reflected the political conflicts that would eventually plunge the British Isles into civil war and revolution. Illuminating many hitherto obscure aspects of early modern political culture, this eagerly anticipated work is both a fascinating story of political intrigue and a major exploration of the forces that destroyed the Stuart monarchy.

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the girl who wasn't thereCourtesy of NetGalley. I was very impressed by Ferdinand von Schirach’s earlier novel, The Collini Case, so I have high hopes for this one…

The Blurb says Sebastian von Eschburg, scion of a wealthy, self-destructive family, survived his disastrous childhood to become a celebrated if controversial artist. He casts a provocative shadow over the Berlin scene; his disturbing photographs and installations show that truth and reality are two distinct things.

When Sebastian is accused of murdering a young woman and the police investigation takes a sinister turn, seasoned lawyer Konrad Biegler agrees to represent him – and hopes to help himself in the process. But Biegler soon learns that nothing about the case, or the suspect, is what it appears. The new thriller from the acclaimed author of The Collini Case, The Girl Who Wasn’t There is dark, ingenious and irresistibly gripping.

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thirteen guestsNetGalley again. The covers alone are enough to make me want to own all of these British Library Crime Classics. But since I ran out of space a long time ago, I’m grateful that Poisoned Pen Press bring out Kindle editions. Bit worried about the dog stabbing though…

The Blurb says On a fine autumn weekend, Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist, and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate – but John is nursing a secret of his own.

Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Detective Inspector Kendall’s skills are tested to the utmost as he tries to uncover the hidden past of everyone at Bragley Court.

This country-house mystery is a forgotten classic of 1930s crime fiction by one of the most undeservedly neglected of golden age detective novelists.

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horrorology coverAnd NetGalley again! I loved Stephen Jones’ previous anthology Fearie Tales and some of the authors I most enjoyed in it appear again in this – Angela Slatter, Michael Marshall Smith et al. Just the thing for the run up to Hallowe’en and I’m sure one or two of these stories will make it onto Tuesday Terror!

The Blurb saysIn the Library of the Damned, hidden away amongst that vast depository of ancient wisdom, there exists a certain bookcase where the most decadent, the most blasphemous of tomes sit upon a dusty shelf. And amongst those titles – that should never be named – there is one volume that is the most terrible, the most hideous of them all.That book is the Lexicon of Fear. But, long ago, some of its pages were ripped from the binding and spirited away by a lowly student of the ancient science of Horrorology, who was determined the secrets contained therein would one day be shared with the world.

And now that day has come. These are the words that comprise the very language of horror itself, and the tales they tell are not for the fainthearted. But be warned: once you have read them, there is no turning back. Soon, you too will know the true meanings of fear . . .”  Oooh! Don’t tell the porpentine!

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?