Review: The Red House Mystery

Like most people, I know A. A. Milne as the author of the Pooh books (though admittedly I haven’t read any of them) but to my delight I learned that Milne, a fan of the classic detective story, had written one himself. The Red House Mystery is sadly the only mystery he wrote, but it is such a delight! If you are in the mood for  a classic mystery which also gently mocks that genre or just fancy a cosy, this should be your next read.

Anthony Gillingham, our amateur sleuth (for let’s face it, the best sleuths are amateurs) stumbles into the middle of a country house murder and a locked-room murder no less. Arriving at the red house to visit his friend Bill Beverley, Tony finds that the host Mark Ablett has disappeared and his no-good brother Robert from Australia has been shot in the study, it’s a rum business as Bill would say. So Tony chooses a new profession and Bill agrees to play Watson to his Sherlock Holmes.

Bill by the way is just the sidekick anyone could wish for and with his “I say” and “what-ho” reminded me a lot of Bertie Wooster. Like Wodehouse’s world, the one Milne conjures here is one of eternal English summer, teas and tennis. It’s the idealistic pre-WWI England that never really existed but is always mourned, especially in the classic British mysteries. I recommend joining the characters with a cup of tea and a scone in this ideal world (where some people just happen to be murdered ;) ). Still, it’s all very cosy and fun and the characters as well as the narrator keep commenting on genre conventions and references abound.  The solution isn’t too much of a surprise, but otherwise there’s really not much Milne doesn’t provide. There’s a marvelous library, a secret passage, a Holmes and Watson pair of sleuths, a locked room murder and the police are baffled.

I can’t believe though that Milne would end the book with his sleuth saying that he was just getting into the swing of it and then not follow it up with a sequel! But there you go, you have been warned to make the most of this little gem!

As this mystery is a classic and was published in 1922, this counts for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge.

Other thoughts:

Things Mean A Lot

Novel Insights

Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

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20 Comments

  1. Great entry! I loved this one when I read it many moons ago. And, yes, it is a shame that Milne didn’t go on to write more.

    Got you updated on the progress site!

    Reply
    • That was super quick, cheers! :) And it is a shame about Milne, thankfully I have a pile vintage cosies to distract me from that loss! :)

      Reply
  2. I had half read this on my e reader til it broke ,I enjoyed what I read it was in the clasic country house murder ,all the best stu

    Reply
    • Oh, that is a reason to get anither ereader :) But the real book looks much better. Hope you get to finish the book, Stu!

      Reply
  3. I just finished my first Agatha Christie, Three Act Tragedy, and could see getting sucked into a few more mysteries this summer. This one sounds like fun!

    Reply
    • Yay, finally! :) Hope you’ll read her other even better mysteries, too. And this one is really lots of fun :)

      Reply
  4. I’m very glad to hear you enjoyed this as much as I did! Also, you should read Pooh! It’s very charming and funny and reads well at any age.

    Reply
  5. Oh, this does sound like so much fun! It has been a while since I read a vintage mystery but I always find them soothing… even with the murders! :D I haven’t read any Milne either, but remember Ana over at Things Mean A Lot writing about this a while back and I thought it sounded great then… and it still does! Thanks for reminding me to check this one out!

    Reply
    • They really are soothing what with the restoring of order and everything ;) Hope you’ll love this one, it’s very cosy!

      Reply
  6. I didn’t know Milne wrote cosy mystery! Although my co-worker has just loan me “Aunts are not gentlemen” by PD Wodehouse. This will be my first, let me make my mind abt Wodehouse soon! :)

    Reply
    • Sadly only this one, wish he’d written more. I really hope you’ll love that Wodehouse, I’ve read and loved it, but then Wodehouse can’t do wrong :)

      Reply
  7. Glad to know that you enjoyed Milne’s book, Bina :) I loved it when I read it. I loved Anthony Gillingham. I also felt sad that Milne wrote only one mystery. English summer, teas, tennis, scones – oh, what a beautiful picture you have conjured up!

    Reply
    • Tony was definitely fun, and Bill as well, loved their Holmes-Watson act :) Heh, have I tempted you away from myths to British cozies with that image? ;)

      Reply
      • I am definitely getting tempted :) I have a collection of cozy short-story mysteries and I am tempted to get into them right now!

        Reply
  8. I had no idea Milne wrote a mystery. I have added this to my TBR! Thanks, Bina!

    Reply
    • Too bad he didn’t write more, he was quite good at it. Hope you’ll enjoy it! :)

      Reply
  9. I’ve only read A. A. Milne’s Pooh series, several times as a matter of fact, but I do want to read this some day!

    Reply
    • I know now that I’ve been missing out on great stuff, not having read the Pooh series, I’ll have to change that soon :)

      Reply
  10. Mirjam

     /  July 10, 2011

    I have finished “The Red House Mystery” now and I think that it is really good. The atmosphere is cosy, the characters are true to life, I really enjoyed reading the novel. Of course there are some minor flaws, such as that you know from very early on who the murderer is, but I guess that that is due to the fact that it is Milne’s first crime novel. I wish he would have continued in that genre – such a great talent!

    Reply

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