Portrait of a Murderer:
A Christmas Crime Story
by Anne Meredith
First published in Japanese in 1933
Poisoned Pen Press 4/3/2018
Portrait of a Murderer is a classic, and an unusual mystery, as the first sentence of the book tells you outright that Adrian Gray, 69, was killed by one of his children at Christmas. And even though it is presented as a Christmas story, there isn’t much Christmassy spirit to it.
Adrian had 6 children. Each of them is presented to the reader, as well as their spouses. The whole Gray family is basically insufferable, father as well as children, and several have major financial problems. And all gather in the family home for Christmas 1931. Each of them has a motive to kill their father.
She saw life as a landscape stretching into the distance, with no enclosing walls or comfortable house with doors that locked to keep the pilgrim within; and Richard strove to make it secure, narrow, and exclusive.
The second part of the book starts with the journal of the murderer, or at least the son presented as such. Even though it seems obvious he did it, as he says, later on during the inquest, some sentences here and there introduce doubt in the reader. Did he do it, or one of his brothers? Was it an accident? Was it premeditated?
The end of the book introduces an interesting point of view on the whole thing, that was totally unexpected for me, even though there were a few clues.
It was interesting to read a mystery written in the 1930s, with the emphasis more on the social surroundings of the whole business. And on the inner workings of a murderer’s mind. As we presumably know who did it, it was interesting to see how he tried to put the blame on one of his brothers, how the other characters were led to accuse the wrong person, and how they slowly got to the truth.
I liked how the author finally brought some surprises when you thought there was no more room for any.
I’m grateful of the effort to republish mysteries by this author who’s been for the most part forgotten.
VERDICT: An unusual classic mystery, where you know early who did what. But why?
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
What’s your favorite classic crime story?
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