Written by Sir William Magnay and published in 1918, this book is a classic Country House Mystery - not too difficult to guess at, but not so easy as to instantly make the reader lose interest, either.
Two friends, Gifford and Kelson, are invited to attend the annual Hunt Ball at a country house and arrive at the nearby small town in the afternoon in time to change into their evening clothes. At the same time, a stranger to whom both friends take an instant dislike arrives, claiming to have been invited to the ball as well, and insisting on sharing the same carriage from the train station to the hotel.
Because one of Gifford's cases has been accidentally forwarded on the train to another town, he has to stay behind at the hotel and wait for the case with his evening clothes to arrive.
He decides to make use of this unexpected extra time by going for a walk to the manor, which he fondly remembers as the place of many holidays during his boyhood, when it belonged to relatives of his. Later, he is described to the reader returning from his walk and clearly very upset about something.
He makes it to the ball eventually and finds Kelson, but does not see the unpleasant stranger anywhere. When the friends return to the hotel late at night, they learn from the owner that the stranger has not been seen since he set off for the ball earlier.
The next day, the hotel owner still has not heard or seen the missing guest, but the friends are not worried - he just seems to them to be the type to go adventuring with some lady. However, the stranger's adventure turns out to be a lot less fun - he is found dead in a room at the manor, with the only door locked from inside.
At first, the verdict seems to be suicide, but the stranger's brother soon arrives on the scene, convinced that his brother would have never taken his own life. At least two of the people who were present at the ball fall under suspicion; then a surprise witness turns up, a case of blackmail becomes apparent, and finally, the reason for Gifford's upset mood when he returned from his walk the previous evening is revealed.
The story would not be complete without a (very obvious) love story, but it is not a romance novel as such. The main emphasis lies on solving the mystery of how and why the stranger died - a combination of the classic Country House and the Locked Room mysteries.
I enjoyed "The Hunt Ball Mystery"; it was not very challenging (and therefore very good for my train rides to and from work), but suspension was kept at a level high enough for me not to lose interest after the first two chapters. A free ebook from the kindle shop, as you may have guessed.
the author: Sir William Magnay lived from 1855 to 1917. He was an
English Baronet; his father was Mayor of London. Magnay wrote about 25
novels, most of which were published during his lifetime. "The Hunt Ball
Mystery" and another two were published after his death. He was married
and had a son, who was a First Class cricketer from 1904 to 1911.