Erin Britton’s 12 Murders for Christmas – 5: Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan

Five Golden Guns 

Mordecai Tremaine, lover of romance magazines, amateur detective of some repute, and unobtrusive man-about-town, has accepted an invitation to spend Christmas at Sherbroome House, the country pile of one Benedict Grame. (Why do people keep accepting such invitations? Have they never read an Agatha Christie?) Tremaine does not know Grame well, they have met only once in fact, and so he would not have agreed to spend Christmas at Sherbroome where it not for the mysterious postscript included on the invitation by Nicholas Blaise, Benedict Grame’s private secretary. According to Blaise, something is very wrong at Sherbroome and Grame is likely to need the services of a good detective.

When Tremaine arrives at Sherbroome House the day before Christmas Eve, he finds that most of the guests are already there and that the festivities, as well as the intrigues, are already in full swing. Yet, while on the surface everything seems to be all joy and light, one of the guests is going to have a far from happy Christmas. As Christmas Day dawns, a scream wakes the household and they soon discover that there are more than just presents under the tree … someone seems to have murdered Father Christmas.

Murder for Christmas is a delightful festive murder mystery. In Mordecai Tremaine, Francis Duncan has created an engaging and sharp-eyed detective who seems just as keen as readers to find out exactly whodunit. Tremaine’s fame as an investigator may now unfortunately precede him, but he remains gleefully eager to assist the police in any way he can and he’s grateful to all who can involve him in a mystery.

The collection of guests who are spending the festive season at Sherbroome House are the perfect cast for this kind of crime novel. Aside from Benedict Grame and Nicholas Blaise, the house party includes a young couple whose love is in danger of being thwarted, an MP with a colourful past, a spinster sister with a secret to hide, an eminent scientist, a glamourous beauty not suited to country life, a gambler with a passion for practical jokes, an ice queen, and a loyal old friend with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Everyone has something to hide; the real question is whose secret is relevant to the murder?

Despite the many secrets and lies being shared among the suspects, Mordecai Tremaine’s investigation is a sedate, hearteningly cordial affair. He wants to identify the murderer, but he certainly doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or to overstep the bounds of civility. For this reason, Murder for Christmas is a wonderfully cosy read and a great way to while away a winter’s evening. There are lots of twists and turns, as well as plenty of odd incidents to unpick, before the identity of the murderer is neatly revealed. Long out of print, Murder for Christmas is certainly worthy of being reissued and it is likely to be a big hit this festive season.

Erin Britton
Personal 4
Group 4

Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan
9781784703455|Vintage pbk Nov 2015

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