What a little treat! This slim volume informs me, on the back, that it’s the only detective novel ever written by Milne, best known as the author of the Winnie the Pooh books. I love Pooh, and I love detective novels, so this seemed like an obvious choice. I noted a few weeks ago that it begins with a tone very like Pooh. I was encouraged.
I thought this was a delightful little book. For starters, I have the Vintage Books “Rediscovered Classic” (as pictured), which opens with a new-for-the-edition introduction by the author. These 3 1/2 pages are worth reading in themselves. Milne is clever and funny, and bothered by the trends of literary taste. He discusses the merits of what he believes to be the perfect murder-mystery. I thought his brief critique of the genre and his own book were very funny and ironic.
This is a mystery in the amateur-sleuth-plus-sidekick tradition. (Holmes and Watson are constantly referenced.) Our protagonist, Antony Gillingham, is a gentleman of leisure who happens upon the Red House just as a murder has apparently taken place in a locked room. Assisted by his friend, Bill, a guest at the Red House (his Watson), Tony sets upon the mystery. Who killed Robert, evil brother to the man of the house, Mark? Where has Mark disappeared to? And what is Cayley, Mark’s right-hand man, up to? There are secret passageways and croquet sets involved. It’s very classic. Tony and Bill make a cute team, and Milne’s tone remains remarkably faithful to what I love about Pooh: tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating, and picturesque. It’s great fun.
When it was over, I felt sad. I do have other reading to do, but this was such an enjoyable experience. I liked that it was short; it was just right for my weekend and just right for the moment in the way that books sometimes are. But I’m also sorry it’s over. I may have to go hunt up some Wodehouse next, what ho!