Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story by Anne Meredith
|Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story by Anne Meredith|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A forgotten gem which makes a good, if rather unusual read. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: British Library Publishing|
Adrian Gray was not a particularly pleasant man, but that was no reason why he should meet his death at the hands of one of his own children as they celebrated Christmas at Kings Poplars in 1931. None of the six children were fond of their father and several had cause to wish him dead. Richard was the eldest and was married to Laura. He was a politician and keen to advance himself - and to get a title other than the knighthood which he already had - but such endeavours cost money which he didn't have. He'd also been indiscreet with another woman who was attempting to blackmail him and was hoping that his father would advance some funds to get him out of the mess.
Gary's eldest and only unmarried child, Amy, kept house for him and little more needs to be said about her other than that she was shrewd and shrewish. His second daughter, Olivia had married Eustace Moore: in the thirties he would have been (and occasionally was) called a bounder. He was in finance and some of his schemes had failed to deliver the returns their investors were expecting - and his father in law was amongst the investors, but Eustace was still hoping that Gray would advance him more funds, if only to keep him out of prison - and Gray out of the newspapers.
Isobel Gray had made a brilliant but disastrous marriage and after the death of her child (caused, she felt, by her husband) she asked to return home. Both Gray and Amy wrote to her begging her to reconsider: Amy felt that the struggle to feed another mouth would be too much and it was only when Isobel's husband said that he would make a generous allowance if she returned home that she was accepted (along with most of the allowance). Hildebrand was the youngest son and probably the greatest disappointment to his father, having become an artist in Paris, married badly and was living in squalor in London. He too was hoping that his father would provide him with some funds which would allow him to escape.
The youngest child, Ruth, was married to Miles Amery, a promising young lawyer, who, unfortunately had never achieved a great deal. He seemed content with what he was - much to the annoyance of some other members of the family. One of these people would murder Adrian Gray: we'll not only know who it is but we'll watch the murderer act and see the attempts made to cover the tracks. It's an odd situation as you might, just might, find yourself hoping that the murderer will get away with. There's a moment when you'll feel conflicted as a policeman, an honourable man, will engage your sympathies and you'll hope for success for him too.
It's an engaging story and despite knowing the truth, you'll wonder quite how it's all going to work out, as truth and results do not always meet on equal terms, even in fiction. Anne Meredith builds the plot steadily and meticulously: I wasn't certain how it would all work out until the final few pages. Characterisation is superb: you'll need to concentrate in the early pages to get all the actors straight in your mind, but you'll be well rewarded for the effort and there's the bonus of some excellent, pithy writing. On several occasions I found myself reading paragraphs again, just for the pleasure of the words. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Martin Edwards provides an excellent introduction to the book with a piece on Christmas crimes. He's also edited Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries. His non-fiction book The Golden Age of Murder is also exceptional reading.
You can read more book reviews or buy Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story by Anne Meredith at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story by Anne Meredith at Amazon.com.
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