Book Review: The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne (Two Stars)

Book Review: The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne

Two Stars

“He wanted an audience, even for his vices!”

Red House is not so much a murder mystery as a who-dun-it-of-manners. Published in 1922 (before Milne’s famous children’s books), it owes as much as a debt to P. G. Wodehouse as Arthur Conan Doyle. Not bad writing, not good either. Milne would eventually find his measure in the hundred-acre wood.

“It’s very hampering being a detective, when you don’t know anything about detecting, and when nobody knows that you’re doing detecting, and you can’t have people up to cross-examine them, and you have neither the energy nor the means to make proper inquiries; and, in short, when you’re doing the whole thing in a thoroughly amateur, haphazard way.”

The story itself revolves around a young man deciding to solve a crime by consciously, and superficially, employing the technique of Sherlock Holmes. (Milne played cricket with Doyle.) That he makes many wrong guesses increases the fun. The perceptive reader suspects the real crime and culprit long before the amateur sleuths.

“We knew their answer was wrong, and we had to think at another.”

Quibble: the labeling of dialogue is so confusing that the reader is repeatedly forced to stop and puzzle it out.

“There is no point looking for a difficult solution to a problem, when the easy solution has no flaw in it.”

“Silly old ass” mimics the rhythm of a similar phrase of Christopher Robin.

“It’s a question of your instinct instead of your reason.”