Book Review: The Red House Mystery

The Red House Mystery

By: A.A. Milne

Dover Edition Published 1998, First Publication 1922 by E.P. Dutton & Company

Perhaps you are a tad perplexed by that little paragraph of information up there. “A.A. Milne? Author of a mystery?” Yes, surprisingly enough, he was! Although, if you are a fan of his Winnie the Pooh stories, you won’t be surprised to hear what a splendid book this is.

The Red House Mystery is the perfect English Country mystery tale. Centering around the country estate of a pompous man who mysteriously disappears in suspicious circumstances, the story is fast paced and lively. Milne’s amateur detective, Antony Gillingham, becomes entangled in the happenings quite by accident. The “attractive gentleman” is likened to a grown-up Christopher Robin by Douglas Green in the Introduction of the Dover edition. He’s quite right, too. Antony is brilliantly smart, an impeccable gentleman and endlessly fascinating while still retaining his child-like awe of life.

Antony has a smashing sidekick named Bill Beverly, his “Watson,” if you will. There is a running dialogue between the two of them thinking of themselves as Holmes and Watson.  Antony and Bill are thrilled to be involved in the mysterious happenings and their excitement is barely containable when they find clues or new leads. The story is quite a fantasy – the kind of mystery all the lovers of detective stories wish they could find in real life. Lots of strange suspects and plenty of clues but not too much danger for our detecting team.

Sadly this is Milne’s only foray into the Mystery genre, even though it garnered him admission into the prestigious Detection Club in 1930. It seems he felt he had perfected his own version of the mystery story with this effort (a sentiment in which I am inclined to agree with him) and had no inclination to continue the characters in their own series.

As much as I delighted in reading the novel itself, I enjoyed Milne’s dedication at the beginning most of all:

TO JOHN VINE MILNE

My dear Father,

Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So, after all that you have done for me, the least I can do for you is write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.

A.A.M

Truer words were rarely spoken, I think. I’ve found that fellow detective story aficionados are almost without exception “really nice people.” It’s as though that trait is a barometer of character. Of course there must be many nice people who happen to dislike detective stories, but the ones who do appreciate a good murder usually are rather keen folks.

Luckily for us, The Red House Mystery has had numerous re-printings and the paperback copies are available cheap on Amazon and Half.com. If you’re looking for one of the vintage hardcover copies, Ebay has some beauties.

I highly recommend it to all those “really nice people” out there. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Pip, pip cheerio friends!

(By the way, this novel seems to bear no resemblance to the 1947 film called The Red House with Edward G. Robinson. I hadn’t heard of it until I was searching online for bargain copies of the book, but now I’m quite intrigued about it. Anyone seen it?)
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11 Comments

Filed under Book Review

11 responses to “Book Review: The Red House Mystery

  1. This looks awesome! I love A.A. Milne and mysteries, so this definitely a must-read. I forwarded the link on to my mother who, like other nice people, loves mysteries. Great review! I can’t wait to read this!

  2. How funny! Nice people DO love mysteries!

    This looks so great – I never knew Milne wrote a mystery (though I did know he wrote more than the perfectly wonderful Pooh books). I’ll have to read it!

  3. Sarah and Emma – Welcome along! Thank you both so much for commenting! I’m thrilled to have introduced you to Milne’s mystery and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And Sarah, thank you for sending my link to your Mom. My Mom is also a nice person who adores mysteries and she is reading this right now! :D

  4. Miriam

    I am looking forward to this new treasure trail…Thank you!! (and thanks to Sarah for the forward ;-)

  5. Loved this! You should do more pieces on books, Casey.
    I have a copy of that Robinson film, but it’s such a poor quality dupe that I’ve never been able to watch it through: a shame, as it looks rather good and the reviews make it sound very intriguing. But you’re right: it was based on a book by George Agnew.

  6. Miriam- Hi! Thanks for commenting! I’d love to hear what you think of Red House. Do let me know! :D

    Matthew- Well, thank you very much sir! I shall! Thanks for the info about the Eddie G film. Maybe if we do some digging we can find a copy online somewhere. It does sound intriguing.

  7. Casey -
    This guy’s seen it:

    http://moviesinbw.blogspot.com/2010/02/what-secret-hides-in-red-house.html

    Despite the fact that he has the same appalling copy that I’ve got, he sat through it all!

    Hope things are good with you!

  8. Thank you so much for the link, Matthew! He really makes it sound fascinating. What a terrible shame no one has a clean copy of it!

  9. I must read it! Good thing you wrote the post, otherwise I wouldn’t know it exited :)

  10. *existed.

    I knew I’d mess up that comment!

  11. Roisin – Haha, thanks for commenting! I’m happy to have introduced you to AA Milne’s other work. :) Enjoy!

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