“Can I help?” said Antony politely.
“Something’s happened,” said Cayley. He was breathing quickly. “I heard a shot–it sounded like a shot–I was in the library. A loud bang—I didn’t know what it was. And the door’s locked.” He rattled the handle again, and shook it. “Open the door!” he cried. “I say, Mark, what is it? Open the door!”
When you think of A A Milne you of course picture Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin et al. What you don’t think of is a detective novel and a well crafted whodunit. But the Red House is exactly that.
I was lucky enough to win a Vintage competition to receive books each month for a year and this was the first one that came through the letterbox.
It might show its age because of the 1930s dialogue and some of the social conventions about class but that aside it is a gentle and thoroughly though through detective story.
The twist, and Milne displays with references plenty of knowledge of the genre and the importance of the twist, is that the detective in this case is a novice. Anthony is to a degree playing with the idea of being a sleuth when he turns up and is one of the key witnesses to the moment when a crime is discovered. With a great deal of logic he picks apart the case and raises some fundamental questions about what actually happened in the locked room.
Against a backdrop of a weekend at a country house a tale of jealously mixed in with a few chips on shoulders and revenge are mixed into a lethal combination.
Anthony picks his way through the different relationships and by deliberately taking an independent line is able to crack the case.
Milne clearly knows a great deal about detective fiction with references to Sherlock Holmes but makes sure his additional to the whodunit canon is done with a great deal of respect. He puts in just the right mix of suspense, drama and humour to make this an enjoyable read.
If one of the tests of a book is whether or not you would want to read another by the same author then this passes because you would be quite happy to read on about the adventures of the aspiring detective.
having got used to the slightly 1930s style you are introduced to a writer clearly familiar enough with the detective story format to have a bit of fun with it. references to Sherlock Holmes make it clear that Milne knows what he is talking about.
But rather than use the Christie approach of a well known detective figure entering the scene Milne introduces a character that has been drifting round not quite sure what to do with his life.
Anthony Gillingham has an uncanny ability to remember details of things he has casually seen and an enquiring mind. as a result it is he, not the police, that starts to uncover the mystery behind the death of the red House owner’s brother.
But can he work it out completely? Time will tell…
When i was kindly sent The Red house a thriller published by Vintage Classics penned by A.A. Milne the first reaction was surprise. Not having any knowledge that the author of Winnie the pooh had written a thriller it was at first a surprise.
But after an introduction by the author himself that explains part of the problem with having a public idendity linking you to one particularl type of writing he gets into a decent triller.
Starting with an upstairs and downstairs feel as the story of the unwelcome brother returning aftr an absence of 15 years you don’t have to wait long for the sound of a shot, a locked door and a dead body on the other side.
Obviously this has a dated feel because it is set in a different era but in terms of engaging the reader Milne hooks you in pretty quickly and has a style where he makes asides to the reader sharing certain details about the importance of a character before ploughing on with the story.