Murder in the Snow: A Cotswold Christmas Mystery - Gladys Mitchell

‘There’s something horribly eerie about snow in the country. I’d never realized it before. It’s so silent. I’d rather have rain, and hear the sound of it.’
‘I miss the newspapers,’ said Jonathan. ‘The wireless is all right in its way, but—’
‘What did it say about the weather?’
‘Snow on high ground, spreading eastwards and south.’
‘Oh, dear! We may be cut off for days!’

There is much to like about Murder in the Snow (originally published as Groaning Spinney), most of all I loved the scene setting: Mrs Bradley visits her nephew and his new wife for the Christmas holidays in the Cotswolds and just as they settle in, the snow begins to fall. And keeps on falling, cutting off the village community from the outside world. As the snowfall stops and roads begin to clear, a body is discovered.

But this is not the only disturbance: a woman goes missing, and some poison letters make their rounds through the village. Yeah, it had a lot of similarities with Christie’s The Moving Finger (published nearly ten years earlier):

‘Oh, Lord!’ said Jonathan. ‘I do hope this isn’t going to begin. Have you got one?’
‘One what?’ asked Deborah, opening some retarded Christmas cards.
‘An anonymous contribution to your knowledge of my morals and conceits. I’ve got a beauty about you!’

I loved Mrs Bradley and her family, but didn’t manage to maintain an interest in the mystery. For all Mrs Bradley straight-laced attitude and witty snark, the story was a typical Mitchell construction – it lost momentum after the first third and only perked up occasionally from there on until the end.

But what an end! Mrs Bradley and her nephew literally try and hunt down the villain – on a fox hunt. Yes, it is dated. Very dated in parts, but some of the dialogue still makes me smile, even tho I have no idea how it progresses the plot. And let’s face it, that plot needed progressing. Badly.

‘But what I think isn’t evidence.’
‘It probably will be,’ said the Chief Constable, who, beneath a curmudgeonly manner, cherished an affection for Mrs Bradley’s gifts and was rather put out of countenance at what seemed to be her negative results in this particular case.
‘Smack it about, my dear, and let’s get action. The papers are beginning to be shrill.’
‘If that that bears all things bears thee,’ quoted Mrs Bradley in solemn and sonorous Greek, ‘bear thou and be borne.’
‘That’s all very well. But fair words butter no parsnips.’
‘Do you like parsnips?’
‘Not particularly.’
‘Would you agree that it does not matter to you, therefore, whether parsnips are buttered or not?’
‘Oh, but look here—!’


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