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The Red House Mystery (Vintage Classics) Kindle Edition
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|Kindle Edition, 31 Mar 2012||
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I think the problem that I had here is that the first dozen or so pages were given over to one of Milne’s essays in which he basically claimed that this is the perfect mystery novel. It’s not the perfect mystery novel – it’s a deliberate imitation of the classic detective novel, but it just doesn’t add anything. I think perhaps he was hoping to parody the genre, but the outcome is just a novel that’s kind of okay but mostly unnecessary, and a weird addition to the literary canon of the man who created Winnie the Pooh.
The truth is that despite what my uncle said, I’d been looking forward to reading this. I’ve always liked detective novels, and this one is something of a classic. Unfortunately, it’s more like a fantasy novel by Richard Dawkins – written by someone with talent who was working with the wrong genre.
THE RED HOUSE MYSTERY involves a murder in a British country house where a small number of invited guests have been staying. Although the mystery in this book is well constructed, and although fair clues are presented for half of it, my chief objection is that the remaining half is "solved" entirely by a letter of confession written by the guilty party. To be more precise, we readers and the two amateur detectives (but not the police) are able to figure out the secret of WHO was killed and WHO killed him, but not WHY he was killed. And, in hindsight, it turns out that we readers and the two amateur detectives are chiefly able to reach a fairly certain conclusion about the identity of the killer because our correct conclusion was based on a totally WRONG idea about that person's motive for the murder.
My other main objection to this mystery is that the "telling" of its story is very shallow. The characters are all two-dimensional with no deeply presented feelings about anything. The two amateur detectives, Antony [sic] Gillingham and his friend Bill Beverley, often refer to each other as "Watson" and "Holmes"--with Beverley, the "Watson" one, often exclaiming how much "fun" he is having, and Gillingham, the "Holmes" one, coming across a key clue (an old theatrical poster) by convenient luck near the end ... and taking mysteriously unmotivated mercy on the killer.
Finally, in the last two pages as "Holmes" presents the many strands of his reasoning to "Watson," he totally forgets and misrepresents (or rather Milne himself totally forgot and misrepresented) the clearly established (and CRUCIAL) sequence of two events: when the owner of the Red House told his house-guests that his ne'er-do-well brother was coming to visit, and when he told that same information to a nearby neighbor, the mother of the young woman he planned to marry.
If I were giving this novel a letter grade, it would be a weak "C+". Incidentally, within the first 50 pages I correctly guessed everything that could be solved in this book, not because I'm any sort of good detective, but merely because I happen to be quite familiar with HOW mystery writers construct their plots.
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Most recent customer reviews
Well written and would recommend for adults or teens.