Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon was first published in 1937. It is of course one of those British Library Crime Classics and has been very popular with bloggers recently, and rightly so.
Its subtitled A Christmas Crime Story, and I had decided to keep this one to read around Christmas, however the festive season has crept up on me so quickly and silently this year (is it the unseasonally warm weather?) that I almost forgot to read it last week.
I can’t say it got me into the mood for Christmas, which was my original idea for reading it around now, but it is a very good read, quite creepy and atmospheric. Initially I was a wee bit disappointed that the setting is not actually a snowed up train, which is what I thought from the cover.
It has been snowing for days and so it’s not really a huge surprise when a train full of passengers gets stuck in the snow near the village of Hemmersby. After waiting for a long time for something to happen, some of the passengers who have been chatting to each other decide to get off the train and make their way over the fields, hoping to be able to continue their journey home somehow.
The weather is much worse than they had expected and they have to find shelter from the snow, a large country house looms up at them through the blizzard conditions. The front door isn’t locked, fires are blazing away in the hearths, the table is set for tea, and the kettle is boiling away, but there is nobody around. It’s like the Marie Celeste.
There’s a portrait hanging above the fireplace in the hall, it’s of an elderly man and his eyes seem to follow everyone around.
You get the idea, as I said it’s an enjoyable read even although I was slightly disappointed that the story swiftly moved away from the train as I do love a train setting, but then – I’m not averse to an old spooky country house setting either.