Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The Wintringham Mystery (Cicely Disappears) by Anthony Berkeley

Publication Date: 
1927

Length:
260 pages

This story was originally published as a serial in the The Daily Mirror, in 1926. It was then called The Wintringham Mystery but later renamed Cicely Disappears, when published in book form. Personally I prefer the original title much better. Famously, Agatha Christie entered and won a contest through the paper which asked for ideas about how to solve the book's mystery. (Actually, her husband entered the contest, but it was Agatha who was behind the actual idea.) She could not solve it and this fun fact made me want to read the book even more. I had not heard of this author before but he is just one of many writing during the wonderful Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Recently reissued it is considered a classic. 

Summary:

Stephen Munro is a former army officer who is forced to take a job as a footman to support himself. Completely unsuited to the job and having to humble himself to learn his duties he is nonetheless determined to do his best. He takes up his employment at the country manor house of Lady Susan Carey and to top off his ineptness for the job, is subjected to the embarrassment of some former friends arriving for a weekend stay and recognizing him in his new role. The ultimate humiliation is when his love interest, Pauline Mainwaring appears with her new fiance and Stephen is forced to confront his feelings towards her all while trying to remain an aloof, neutral footman. 

As the weekend unfolds, a seance is suggested, just for fun, by one of the guests. When Lady Carey's niece, Cecily disappears after the lights go out, everyone feels it must be a prank she is pulling on them for fun. But with time it begins to feel suspicious when she doesn't reappear. Stephen, Pauline, and some of the other guests begin to work together to find Cecily and discover an intricate, sinister plot hiding within the cozy Wintringham manor. 



My Thoughts: 

I really enjoyed this book. The character of Stephen was endearing and I enjoyed the chemistry between him and Pauline. It was written in a simplistic style which reminded me a bit of the old Nancy Drew stories I grew up with. One of the things I always enjoy about older novels is the strong vocabulary. This book had this sprinkled into the story and gave it that classic feel without being too difficult to read quickly. 

The mystery was pretty detailed and I certainly didn't figure things out. I thought it was cleverly done and kept you guessing right up to the last chapter. It would definitely fit into the "cozy" genre in that there was nothing too gruesome of shocking. A good read and by an author that was new to me which is always a good thing. 

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