When I was in elementary school, I spent many weekends attending house parties at some of the most elegant country mansions throughout England. I enjoyed activities like eating a full English breakfast served from silver chaffing dishes placed on the sideboard, choosing a costume for an evening of fancy dress, or debating over which gown I would wear for the dinner. Late in the evenings I would retire to one of the guest bedrooms, preferably one that overlooked a garden complete with at least one fountain, where I would lie in bed and listen to the furtive sounds of people slipping up and down the corridor outside my door. All provided through the pens of such masters as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.
True, country houses formal weekend parties didn’t exist in my real world, but that didn’t stop me. I had a vivid imagination and books that unlocked all these experiences for me through the talented authors who gave rise to the “Golden Age of Mystery”. Of course that list included Agatha Christie and others such as Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. There will always be a special place in my heart for mysteries that encompass that style and atmosphere.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I so enjoyed Weekend at Thrackley by Alan Melville. This book, first published in 1934, has recently been re-released as part of the British Library Crime Classics and is available electronically as well as in paperback. It is an excellent representative for this era of fiction. Below is the review I submitted after reading the book.
Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for this complimentary copy of Weekend at Thrackley by Alan Melville. It was a delightful return to the golden age of mystery writing with a style reminiscent of Margery Allington’s Albert Campion series. The characters were largely familiar ones to the setting of a weekend house party in the country back in the age when everything moved slower, people dressed for dinner, and parties at country mansions were common among a certain set.
Good and evil are clearly represented here with James Henderson representing all that is good and chivalrous with Edwin Carson being the evil counterpoint. As in all good fiction, Mr. Henderson does have his drawbacks and Mr. Carson does have something of a redeeming virtue.
Rounding out the cast of characters are some classic characters from that age of fiction, including a rather shallow but well meaning friend and an overbearing wealthy woman along with several other guests and staff who serve to round out the personalities of those within the pages. The mystery has more to do with who Mr. Carson is, why Mr. Harrison has been included in the invitation, and what is the overall purpose, beyond one glaring obvious one, of the entire weekend.
While I knew the answer to all these questions, especially the one that could be considered the “big reveal” at the end of the book, by the time I had read the first quarter or third of the novel, it was still enjoyable to read and determine if I was correct. Never for once did I doubt the triumph of good over evil, but I still enjoyed reaching that point.
If you enjoy that particular age of mystery and fiction writing that is characterized by Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and a host of others who wrote in a simpler, slower time, then you are likely to enjoy this. If you are looking for something that is filled with lots of fast action, edge of the cliff suspense, etc. then not so much. For me this was a thoroughly enjoyable read with characters I could easily see and an atmosphere that was fully experienced in my imagination.
If you are looking for a chance to go back to a slower, perhaps quieter era, if just for a few hours, this may be just the right ticket. It’s well written, and gives you an opportunity to step back in time, all from the comfort of your own air conditioned home, even using your digital reader if that’s what you prefer. Until next time, Happy Reading!