“Christmas Presents” by Angela Thirkell
Published in The Demon In The House by Moyer Bell (1996) pages 149-150
“The Great Snow began on the evening of December 19th. Shoppers smiled as they hurried home, speculating on the chances of a White Christmas.” (page 11)
“It snowed all day and all night. On the 22nd it was still snowing. Snowballs flew, snowmen grew. Sceptical children regained their belief in fairyland, and sour adults felt like Santa Claus, buying more presents than they had ever intended.” (page 11)
The snow that inspired thoughts of a white Christmas quickly turned into a blizzard that threatened to ruin Christmas plans. Traffic soon ground to a halt and even the trains became snowbound. The 11.37 from Euston came to stop near the village of Hemmersby and inside one of its third-class compartments six of the main characters of J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Mystery In White are beginning to realize that they’re not going to reach their holiday destinations anytime soon. The old man, the clerk, the chorus girl, the brother and sister, and the elderly bore eventually decide to leave the train and see if the branch line at Hemmersby is fairing any better. Though they don’t all leave at the same time, they all somehow manage to navigate through the blinding snow to the same country house.
They are glad for the shelter from the storm, but they quickly realize that something isn’t quite right with the house. There’s a nice fire going and tea has been set out but the house is completely deserted. And then there’s that bread knife on the kitchen floor…
The last person from the train to arrive is the elderly bore and he brings some disconcerting news with him. A passenger in the compartment next to the one they had been in has been found murdered. Naturally, they all begin to wonder if one of them could be the murderer but as the story progresses and more people show up at the house they begin to realize that the mystery of the house is every bit as important as the mystery on the train.
“Christmas has got to be Christmas, wherever you spend it.” (page 80)
I really enjoyed Mystery In White! While the mystery itself wasn’t all that suspenseful the story was entertaining and there were a lot of great characters. They’re making themselves at home in someone else’s house, determined to have a cheerful Christmas while simultaneously trying to solve the murder. I think this is going to be one of my yearly Christmas reads!
From The Cover: ‘The horror on the train, great though it may turn out to be, will not compare with the horror that exists here, in this house.’ On Christmas Eve, heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea – but no one is at home.
Trapped together for Christmas, the passengers are seeking to unravel the secrets of the empty house when a murderer strikes in their midst.
This classic Christmas mystery is now republished for the first time since the 1930s, with an introduction by the award-winning crime writer Martin Edwards.
This Edition: Paperback published by The British Library (2014)
You Might Also Like: Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers
Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year and now the Christmas countdown has really begun! While you’re making your list and checking it twice hopefully you’ll be able to make some time to do a little holiday reading. From heartwarming family stories to murder mysteries, there are so many great books set during the Christmas season! I’ll be sharing a few of my favorites as we go through the month and I’d love to hear about some of your favorite holiday books.
Happy reading this holiday season!
So on Christmas Eve Miss Hickory went to sleep early and she slept soundly until a loud sweet chiming awoke her. Like elfin bells the frosted twigs and icicles that covered her tree clashed and tinkled and rang out merry tunes. As her tree chimed, all the other trees joined in the chorus until the orchard shook and thrilled with carols.
by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
(Scholastic, 1974) pg 71