An English Murder by Cyril Hare (1951)

Dr Wenceslaus Bottwink is staying at Warbeck Hall (no connection to Perkin Warbeck regardless of what local tradition may say) conducting research into 18th century British history. A small house party is due to gather for Christmas made up of the ailing Lord Warbeck, his son Roger (leader of a fledgling group of fascists), his cousin Sir Julius (socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer), Lady Camilla and Mrs Carstairs.

There is some awkwardness here as Dr Bottwink is neither upstairs nor downstairs but due to a lack of staff Briggs, the butler, has arranged that he should be treated as one of the party. It is however altogether proper that Sergeant Rogers, Sir Julius’ official protection officer, should eat in the servants’ hall, although Briggs is horrified that he is given full run of the house in order that he can fulfil his duties.

There are tensions of varying degrees and natures between the guests and this climaxes with a sudden death on the stroke of midnight as Christmas Day begins. Other deaths follow and although Rogers does his best it is only the foreign outsider Dr Bottwink who can see enough to solve this most English of murders.

Having read this before I knew what the one important detail was here and by half-way everything else had fallen back into place. Funnily though I had a strong memory of one character making a trip through the snow, only to find that it was actually someone else.

This is Hare at his most Hare-ian and is a great read as Warbeck Hall and its inhabitants adjust to a new post-war reality.

Vintage Mystery Challenge

Fulfils “When – During a weather event”.




5 thoughts on “An English Murder by Cyril Hare (1951)”

    1. I try to read in publication order where I can and there is a recurring character whose life circumstances change during the books but there’s no significant spoilers from reading out of order.

      I enjoyed Suicide Excepted the most and then alongside An English Murder (which is a standalone book), Tragedy at Law is Hare’s most celebrated book, which I did like, but was overshadowed for me because I read The Beast Must Die and Green for Danger in the same month and those two are on a different level.

      Liked by 1 person

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