Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon
Thanks Poisoned Pen Press for supplying me with an early copy of Thirteen Guests!
Re(re)lease Date: September 3rd, 2015
"On a fine autumn weekend, Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist, and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate – but John is nursing a secret of his own.
Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Detective Inspector Kendall’s skills are tested to the utmost as he tries to uncover the hidden past of everyone at Bragley Court.
This country-house mystery is a forgotten classic of 1930s crime fiction by one of the most undeservedly neglected of golden age detective novelists."
One of JJF's (1883-1955) best known works was the play Number 17 which was made into a movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. He authored over sixty crime/detective novels in his lifetime, including Thirteen Guests which was originally published in 1936. (History lesson over, but I was confused about when it was written vs. published. Conclusion: it was all in the 30s and is being republished now in September).
FFJ has a witty, dry tone that mocks more than just his characters, it mocks human nature. But in that self-deprecating way that says, "I'm one of you and I understand you" but still fully mocking. I don't know why, but I love this. It has an edge to it that kept me reading!
Thirteen Guests is a mystery novel set in the 30s. Fun fact: the 30s is one of those decades where the eras are all mixed up. There is a house party with house guests going on a hunt, but some of the party aren't fond of horses and will be following by motorcar. There are the very early telephones and the still more common use of letters. It's the time period where the old way is still very apparent but the new way is slowly trickling in.
The story reminded me of a cross between Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You have the mysterious characters and plot, but then you have the Sherlockian attention to detail that outs it all! There are some definite clues along the way, but FFJ definitely withholds some key points until the reveal at the very end.
Because of FFJ's voice, I truly enjoyed all of the characters without really liking any of them (except Taverley who looks like Channing Tatum in my head). But that sarcastic edge sure kept me from trusting any of them to not be the murderer! I kept half expecting it to go off like And Then There Were None (it didn't so no spoiler), but it was just the narrator playing against me! Pretty unusually too, Thirteen Guests has a lot of main characters (I would argue 9 or 10)! Luckily FFJ does such an excellent and thorough job introducing them and the story that you don't get confused or mixed up, you know exactly which is which.
I really enjoyed reading this one and definitely appreciated Poisoned Press Ink sending me an advanced copy!
4 out of 5 stars.