Being a lover of locked-room mysteries, and a childhood fan of the Pooh books, I immediately headed over to Amazon to check this thing out. Once there, I made the happy discovery that the book was not only available for FREE as a public domain book on Amazon Kindle, but that I had actually downloaded it almost exactly seven years ago, but had never gotten around to reading it! I rectified that oversight this weekend, and the following are my thoughts on Milne's one and only mystery novel, The Red House Mystery.
|Photo by Phil Hearing|
The basic premise of the book is that the owner of the Red House, Mark Ablett, is hosting a group of acquaintances at his manor and receives a letter from a brother who is supposed to be stashed away in Australia but is, instead, coming to see him in England that very afternoon. While the group of friends takes themselves off for a round of golf, Mark and his live-in cousin/estate agent/personal assistant, Cayley, busy themselves about the house, awaiting the arrival of the rogue brother, Robert. Robert arrives and is shown into the office, Mark can't be located, eventually there is the sound of a gunshot, and when the main character - our amateur Sherlock Holmes - Antony Gillingham, arrives on the scene, Cayley is madly pounding on the door of the office, demanding to be let in.
Gillingham is an independent Jack-of-all-trades, and currently in the area for pleasure, but recalls that a friend of his, Bill Beverly, is staying at Red House, which puts him Johnny-on-the-spot moments after the murder takes place. For, oh yes, there is a murder. Brother Robert lies dead on the floor of the office, brother Mark is nowhere to be found, and cousin Cayley is acting mighty suspicious. What follows is the rather parody-like attempts of Bill playing Watson to Gillingham's Sherlock, with a somewhat dim Inspector Birch playing the backseat role of Lestrade.
It's not hard to quickly see through the plot and know who did what, but nevertheless, it was almost comical enough to overlook the clear leaning upon classic British mystery writers. Locked rooms, secret tunnels, midnight escapades, attempted misdirection, unrequited love...it's not Dame Christie nor Sir Arthur, but I read it in a weekend and enjoyed it for what it was: a grown-up version of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. 😊 Plus, Milne wrote it because his dad liked mysteries, and I think that's a pretty sweet reason to write something. 😍
WOMNS Rating: 3.5 stars (which I'll bump up to 4, because it's FREE)
Worth Reading? Yes, especially if you're down with a cold or have nothing better to do.
No Kindle? You can find multiple formats and ways to read it by visiting this page on Project Gutenberg.