The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne

Red House Mystery
Yes. That’s the same Milne of Winnie the Pooh. According to this article at Wikipedia.org, Milne’s four Pooh books completely overshadowed the rest of his writing. He even came close to regretting the Pooh stories as everyone compared the rest of his works to those four books. He was a victim of his own success….

The Red House Mystery is an intriguing mystery published in 1921 and was Milne’s only foray into the genre. One critic accused Milne of having an “intricate and clever but not realistic plot.” And that would be accurate; a very good read, but not one that you can solve as you go along. True, you can get closer than with many other titles, but Milne excludes the reader from two or three critical facts that prevent anyone from solving the crime. ‘Tis a shame. Does anyone know of a mystery writer that grants sufficient detail for the reader to solve along the way?

In this story, Tony Gillingham stumbles onto a murder and without permission proceeds to solve it. Tony was a wealthy chap who refused to simply flit around on his enormous fortune. He decided to see the world, by which he meant to see the world through various English jobs. Whenever he saw a job that took his fancy, he made a deal with the shopkeeper/owner. He would work for one month free. If the boss liked him, he would earn double wages on the second month. If the boss didn’t like him, then he would leave without pay.

He never left without pay. In this manner he experienced much of England and became a true Renaissance man. It was between jobs when he stumbled upon the Red House where his friend Bill was spending several weeks. Having been invited to drop in if he was in the area, Tony did just that. Upon arriving at the house, he discovered that a murder had just taken place. He proceeded to offer his assistance to the household, which had yet to gain entry to the locked office. Over the next two or three days, Tony and Bill discover secret passages, intrigue, and plots within plots.

This story is worth reading, but one warning. There is quite a bit of language in this book. Read it at your own discretion. You can buy an edited reprint from here. The original text is here and librivox.org has provided the audio book.

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2 thoughts on “The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne

  1. “Does anyone know of a mystery writer that grants sufficient detail for the reader to solve along the way?”
    [And lead you along so you THINK you know what’s coming?]

    …I know one author who can: J. K. Rowling! And she did it 7 times in a row, leaving us rooting for Harry’s perspective everytime, cleverly averting our gaze from the obvious-in-hindsight truth!

  2. The question is a good one. I don’t know of any author that gives sufficient evidence. (I would challenge the idea that Rowling writes mysteries. In my view, she writes fantasy and that is much more predictable by it’s very nature.)

    The only mystery writer that does a reasonable job of giving clues (that I know of) is Mary Higgins Clark. That reminds me that I need to review on of her books in the next week….

    As an aside, in the movie “Clue” which IS based on the board game, this very subject came up. One character complains vehemently about mystery writers and the fact that they withold information.

    Over Christmas, I listened to some Sherlock Holmes short stories and to a Mary Higgins Clark story. I noticed that neither book properly gave the reader all of the necessary facts.

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