Tag Archives: My Library

The Red House Mystery by A.A.Milne

I discovered the existence of this novel by accident while reading up on Winnie the Pooh (as you do) and decided I had to have a copy. So I got my mitts on a bargain from eBay and revelled in reading a real old-fashioned murder mystery on my daily commute.

The first thing that struck me as I opened my battered copy, was the lovely dedication to Milne’s father at the start of the book:

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 to write one. Here it is: with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.

A.A.M.

It reminded me of something I read about John Buchan’s Thirty-Nine Steps, where he said that there weren’t enough of a certain kind of adventure stories so he wrote one! And then I felt sad, as in my copy, a re-print it had a further note alluding to the fact that Milne’s father died before he was able to read it. It seems as if Milne enjoyed writing for people very much which makes me feel that his stories are quite special.

The story itself is a typical mystery with an English country house setting. The Red House, belongs to Mark Ablett, and it is the scene for the dramatic murder of his brother Robert, who is something of a black sheep and has just arrived from Australia to visit Mark. Robert is found dead in a locked room on the day that Tony Gillingham decides to visit his friend Bill who also lives at the house. Tony and Bill decide to investigate.

I really enjoyed reading The Red House Mystery. Tony and Bill make the perfect Holmes-Watson partnership unravelling the many clues, and it was great to just read something a bit fun. I enjoyed Milne’s writing and found that I could see echos of Pooh Bear about Bill. At times Tony is a little arch in his manner but that’s part of what makes the dialogue between the two characters so entertaining. Tony, an amateur detective with a photographic memory ponders;

“Of course 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 neither have the energy or the means to make proper inquiries; and in short, when you’re doing the whole thing in a thoroughly amateur, haphazard way.”

It’s an entertaining journey trying to figure out has happened, and it’s possible to guess at least half of the situation from the clues while being kept in the dark enough to be surprised. What really makes it a joy to read though is Milne’s unique voice.

The Red House Mystery is the perfect book to snuggle up with on a cold night with a cup of mulled wine or hot tea.

Oh and you can read most of it for free on Google reader (although I think there are some missed pages), or get a taster to see if you want to buy a copy.

Have you read anything else by A.A.Milne?

Reunited with my 1984 and others…

I’m visiting my Nan this weekend who is both a lovely grandmother and a great friend. She is kindly storing some of my things for me while I’m in a smaller living space including all my ‘read’ books. Here are some pics of my beloved books including my favourite penguin classics and a 1955 copy of 1984 which I’m retrieving to re-read for my next book group.

My Nan is also a book lover and has given my a couple of lovely John Buchans to put on my endless TBR.

Can you spot any of your favourite books in my jumbled up collection? Does anyone else have an unhealthy obsession with battered penguin classics?

Bookish Acquisition – A. A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery

A. A. MilneI was thinking the other day about how I love Winnie the Pooh (tiddly-pom…) and decided to read more about A. A. Milne on the internet. To my surprise I discovered that he had also written quite a few other novels including a mystery which I thought sounded right up my street. So I had a quick look on eBay and found a 1939 copy of The Red House Mystery, originally published in 1922. Here’s a little synopsis from Wikipedia;

The setting is bachelor Mark Ablett’s English country house loaded with guests, including a British major, a wilful actress, and a young jock athlete. Mark’s long-lost brother Robert, the black sheep of the family, arrives from Australia and is found murdered in a locked room. Mark Ablett has disappeared so Tony Gillingham and his friend Bill decide to investigate, progressing almost playfully through the novel while the clues mount up the theories abound.

A willful actress, a black sheep, a murder…doesn’t it sound quite wonderfully exciting?!

Anyway, I can’t wait to receive my copy in the post Red House(Royal Mail strikes permitting) and find out what A. A. Milne’s other writing was like. You can still get The Red House Mystery new and judging from the reviews on Amazon apparently it’s quite good! I will be posting my own thoughts once i’ve got my mitts on it.

Have you come across lesser-known novels by famous authors that you enjoyed?

A Double Dose of Ulysses

Savidge Reads has inspired me to join Dovegreyreader‘s Team Ulysses and very sweetly fetched me a copy from his local secondhand bookshop. But I had already bid on one on a nice Penguin Classic on Ebay after carefully selecting  a  so now I have two. Whoops!

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Is anyone else following Team Ulysses? How are people getting on? If you read it before did you love it and was it as difficult as people say?

Also, I’ve just moved to WordPress from Blogger as the publishing tools and dashboard seem significantly more sophisticated (Google, sort it out!) and am settling into my new home so hope people like the new look.

Booking Through Thursday Belatedly & More Bargain Books

Having just discovered Booking Through Thursday today, my contribution is a little belated but here it is anyway:

Q: Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

A: I had to downsize my accommodation before travelling, so I actually put all my ‘read’ books into storage. So I only have TBR’s in my room now, except for those which I’ve read recently which I kind of put to one side. My read and unread books are definitely not partying, they are in fact, estranged!

On another note, I did a bit more book buying today. I felt compelled to pop into my local charity shop today – not for myself you understand, but for my boyfriend. His birthday is coming up and being a frugal pair, we like to collect all sorts of bits of inexpensive random stuff to give each other. So after perusing the bookshelves, I discovered the following:

The Guide to Family Photography, by Reg Mason – My boyfriend loves photography and so I thought I would pick this little gem up for him. It’s probably pretty useless from a theory point of view as it was printed in the late seventies, but I couldn’t resist it’s fabulous combination of step by step cartoons, interspersed strangely with images of Prince Charles. I thought that this one was Mills & Boon-worthy actually!


Then because my man is always moaning about how he’s getting old now, I snapped up Happy Birthday (you poor old wreck). A compilation of messages to ‘old people over 21’ by young children, including such wisdom as;

“Cats have birthdays like us. No one nose what cats thik about birthdays probly nothink.” Denis Hutchinson, 8

“When you die you don’t have birthdays” David Pollick, 7

OK, so it’s not that hilarious but it was birthday-related and only a quid. I also saw a copy of the original Jane Fonda workout book, which I was sorely tempted by but resisted. Although there were actually two copies so if I change my mind…

A Perk of the Job

Warning! Second-hand book-shop in close proximity to new office alert!

Popped in to my new offices in Wimbledon today so that they could check my passport and make sure that I am not illegal and lo and behold, there is a really great bookshop just a short distance away called Copperfield’s.

Actually I did spot it when interviewed (not that it influenced me in any way at all!) but resisted the urge to go in after telling myself I have too many books on my ‘to read’ pile already!

But today I wasn’t so steadfast, and was drawn like a moth to a flame to their stack of Penguin Classics craftily placed by the entrance.

Copperfield’s has all the hallmarks of an excellent second-hand bookshop – happily jumbled looking books stacked on a table outside, good prices and most of all that lovely lived-in feel and bookish smell which makes you feel you can browse for ages. Plus, just look at the signage, it just says ‘come into our little treasure-trove!’.

I was fairly restrained and purchased two lovely Penguin Classics –

Savidge Reads got me into Susan Hill’s creepy stories and blurb on the back of The Bird of Night, by Susan Hill (1976) made me think it might be an interesting little number for £1.

“Francis Croft, the greatest poet of his age, was mad. His world was a nightmare of internal furies and haunting poetic vision. Harvey Lawson watched and protected him until his final suicide. From his solitary old age Harvey writes this brief account of their twenty years together [secret gaylords perhaps?!] and then burns all the papers to shut out an inquisitive world.”

Then I spotted The Bachelors, by one of my favourite authors Muriel Spark (1960). Not one I’ve heard of but had a fabulous cover and I love everything she writes. Plus it has a great plug on the back from Evelyn Waugh who writes;

“I am dazzled by The Bachelors. It is the cleverest and most elegant of all Mrs Spark’s clever and elegant books.”

Well, that convinced me to hand over my precious £1.50 and snaffle it into my handbag.

I always have the excuse that I need the reading material for my commute, plus I have discovered that there is a Lush in Wimbledon too. A book and a luxurious bath. What could be a better combination?