cover image Murder After Christmas

Murder After Christmas

Rupert Latimer. Poisoned Pen, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-7282-6121-8

First published in 1944, this entry in the British Library Crime Classics series from the virtually forgotten Latimer (1905–1953) offers some festive Christmas trimmings, if little else. Frank and Rhoda Redpath have decided to invite Rhoda’s stepfather, Sir Willoughby Keene-Cotton (aka Uncle Willie), to spend Christmas at their country house, because Mussolini’s decision “to take sides in the current European unpleasantness” has made it impossible for the old gentleman to occupy his villa in San Remo. Having such a “scandalously wealthy” houseguest makes the Redpaths popular indeed during the holiday season, with neighbors and distant relatives showing up en masse for their Christmas party. Shortly after Father Christmas, played by Uncle Willie, delivers his gifts for the guests, his body is found on the lawn, lying near a capsized snowman. Superintendent Cully’s investigation into the death is hampered by the compulsive need of everyone concerned to lie to the police. The book overflows with too many running gags (one regarding mince pies) and too many suspects, motives, and secrets—both old and new. This creaky old chestnut is no classic. (Oct.)