Could the covers of these British Library Crime Classic books possibly be any prettier?
Gorgeous. (Hands up who read that in the voice of Craig Revel-Horwood.)
Anyway. Weekend at Thrackley by Alan Melville is my book 8 for Bev's Mount TBR challenge, my 3rd. book for Becky's World at War challenge covering the category 'A fiction book set in the 1930s', and my 8th. book for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge covering the December category of 'House Party'.
Jim Henderson is down on his luck. A veteran of World War One, he's not been able to get a job, is thus very hard-up, and has to live in a lodging house with a Mrs. Bertram who, 'read the newspapers rather more than was good for her'. When he receives an invitation to a House party from an Edwin Carson, who claims to have been a friend of his father, he looks upon it as weekend of free food. He's even more pleased to discover that a friend of his, Freddie Usher, has also been invited, although Freddie has no idea why he's on the invitation list.
The two motor off to Surrey and discover on arrival that Thrackley is a large, forbidding establishment in the middle of some dark pine woods. Both of them start to wish they'd not come but standing on the entrance steps is an actress that Freddie's a bit keen on, so stay they do.
As well as the actress and themselves, there're a couple of artists, a Lady Stone and Carson's daughter, Mary. None of them have the first clue why they've been invited but Freddie was asked to bring the family jewels as Carson is an expert in precious stones and wants to see the collection.
The women of the group also have expensive jewellery on them. Jim is confused. He has no expensive gems for his host to study so why is he here?
As a whodunnit this really isn't. There is a dead body but it's way into the book and it's quite clear who did the deed. The book is more of a mystery story to be honest, a slightly obvious one if you read a lot of crime fic as I do, but that didn't matter a jot, the air of menace as the book proceeds and things turn nasty is quite tangible and the change of atmosphere is depicted very cleverly by the author.
Everything about the book is slightly unusual, it's written with a very light hand, Edmund Crispin springs to mind in regard to the humour that's very prevalent at the beginning of the book. I loved Mrs. Bertram, Freddie Usher is straight out of P.G. Wodehouse and Edwin Carson and his rather strange staff fitted into it all very neatly as traditional villains. It even felt a trifle Ealing Comedy-ish... all a bit bonkers... slightly like one of those Brian Rix farces we used to see on the telly, only with a menacing atmosphere.
This was recommended to me by a couple of people and I'm grateful to them as it was definitely one of the best BLCC books I've read. I think Alan Melville wrote quite a few more crime books including Quick Curtain and Death of Anton, both available from the BLCC.