Book Description (from Amazon.com)
In middle of a cold snap, with snow swirling round the imposing Easterham Manor, Nigel and Georgia Strangeways enter the warmth of the Victorian estate. But upon their arrival, the couple quickly learn that all is not as cozy as it seems. The whole house is pervaded by a sense of foreboding: a room is haunted, the cat is possessed, and the specter of the enigmatic Elizabeth Restorick looms.
Confounded by the guests’ strange reactions to the very mention of Elizabeth’s name, Nigel never gets the chance to form his own opinion of the young woman. The next morning, Elizabeth Restorick is found hanged and naked in her room, a hint of a smile playing on her painted lips.
Could her apparent suicide be more than just that? Would this beautiful girl, sensuous, compassionate, full of vitality, have taken her own life? Or did someone take it from her?
With too many loose ends to count, planted evidence, and motives mounting, Nigel must delve into Miss Restorick’s colourful past to solve this tragic mystery.
About the Author (from book introduction)
Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, who was born in County Laois, Ireland, in 1904 and raised in London after his mother’s death in 1906. He was educated at Sherborne School and Wadham College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1927. Blake initially worked as a teacher to supplement his income from his poetry writing and he published his first Nigel Strangeways novel, A Question of Proof, in 1935. Blake went on to write a further nineteen crime novels, all but four of which featured Nigel Strangeways, as well as numerous poetry collections and translations.
During the Second World War he worked as a publications editor in the Ministry of Information, which he used as the basis for the Ministry of Morale in Minute for Murder, and after the war he joined the publishers Chatto & Windus as an editor and director. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968 and died in 1972 at the home of his friend, the writer Kingsley Amis.
Well, I must say I was surprised by several elements of this book. For one thing, although set in England in 1941, the World War raging at that time warrants only the occasional passing mention. The people in this story seem little affected by the war’s events. The second thing I found intriguing was the prominence of a drug culture in that day and place, as marijuana use figures prominently in the plot.
Oh, there’s actually one more thing. The title is by way of a spoiler of sorts.
We do indeed meet the corpse in the snowman early on, but it takes the rest of the book to offer an explanation for this gruesome discovery.
It is frequently the case, especially in the “golden age” books, to offer alternate theories and comment on each of them at some length before finally getting to the solution. This device is, I expect, to allow the reader to attempt to arrive at a solution before the author gets around to providing one–perhaps it gives them a chance to exercise their “little grey cells.” But this is a process that I do not enjoy, and in this book I felt there was rather too much of this if … then exploration.
Still in all, there is much to like about this book and I found it an enjoyable read. It is inventive, the characters are well-drawn, and the story is masterfully told.
My thanks to Crime Classics Advance Readers Club for providing a copy to read and review.