ABOUT THIS BOOK: “Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931.” Thus begins a classic crime novel published in 1933, a riveting portrait of the psychology of a murderer.
Each December, Adrian Gray invites his extended family to stay at his lonely house, Kings Poplars. None of Gray’s six surviving children is fond of him; several have cause to wish him dead. The family gathers on Christmas Eve – and by the following morning, their wish has been granted. This fascinating and unusual novel tells the story of what happened that dark Christmas night; and what the murderer did next.
MY THOUGHTS: This is not a ‘whodunit’ in the traditional sense, nor can it really be classified as a detective story, although there is some detecting done by the murderer’s brother. There is no mystery, because we know the story from the beginning, we are there for the kill. What it is, is a portrait of a family, none of whom particularly like one another, and what happens when one of them, who we know is not guilty, is charged with murder. It is also a story of how the true murderer is able to cast the seeds of suspicion elsewhere.
I can’t say that I particularly like this approach. I prefer a mystery. But having said that, I was kept interested to the end. There is some beautiful atmospheric writing – ‘The house was uneasy with the noises of old houses at night. Doors creaked and shadows seemed full of anonymous life; phantom steps sounded in empty corridors and on the black stairs.’ And the author has a beautiful turn of phrase when describing the relationships between the characters – ‘He persisted in loading his wife up with jewels, handsome clothes, and furs – “Putting his trademark on me, so that I can’t be mislaid wherever I go, ” said Laura bitterly. This action on his part caused other wives to say in envious tones, “It must be wonderful to have a husband like Richard Gray. That wife of his hasn’t done a thing for him, and he’s the most generous soul alive. Some women have all the luck.” Which, as Laura knew, was Richard’s crafty intention, and a new way of humiliating her. ‘
Anne Meredith was a pseudonym of Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973) who is best known as the author of the Arthur Crook series of detective novels published under the name of Anthony Gilbert. She was a highly esteemed writer of crime fiction and a member of the elite Detection Club, but the ‘Anne Meredith’ books were out of print for many years. I am interested enough to try the Arthur Crook series, if I can lay my hands on them.
Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2251341931