Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story - Anne Meredith

The crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated, and the murderer was left staring from the weapon on the table to the dead man in the shadow of the tapestry curtains, not apprehensive, not yet afraid, but incredulous and dumb.

This is not a spoiler. This is the start of the book.

Unlike other murder mysteries, the book starts with the murder and even shows us who the murderer is. The suspense element in this story is based on whether the murderer gets caught in the story.

In a way, this was a lot like an episode of Columbo, where we also see the solution to the murder mystery at the start of the episode, then watch Columbo drive the murder nuts with questions until they trip up in their own web of lies.

Unlike in Columbo, there is no clever detective driving the murder to confession, and instead we, the readers, are fully relying on the Gray family to find out the truth. Unfortunately, most of the family are rather unlikable.

“A charming family débâcle,” Olivia agreed.

“Well, you must acknowledge this, Eustace. We do do things thoroughly; no skulking in odd corners for the Grays, once they get started.”

And yet! I really enjoyed this book. It took a while to get the story going and to get used to the characters and structure of the story, but there is something incredible thrilling in watching this train wreck and hoping that someone will slam on the brakes before an innocent person is hanged.

About the author: Anne Meredith and Anthony Gilbert were pen names used by Lucy Beatrice Malleson (15 February 1899 – 9 December 1973), a prolific English crime writer.

4* (out of 5*)

Original post: