Thursday 31 March 2022

Read in 2022 - 7: The Murder at Sissingham Hall

What a contrast to my previous read! This book by Clara Benson is not only well written and edited (with very few errors that I came across), it also kept my attention so that I was looking forward to my lunch breaks and other occasions such as train rides, when I knew I would continue reading.

After eight years abroad, Charles Knox returns to England. He spends time with his oldest friend and his family, and before he settles down somewhere on his own, they are invited to a house party at a remote country estate. The hostess of the party is no other than the woman Charles was engaged to before he left the country - Rosamund married a rich man, much older than herself, and has been leading the typical life of a society lady before her husband decided they sell their London house and retreat to the country permanently.

Charles is curious and nervous about their first meeting, but all goes well, and a rather pleasant time is had by all, even though some of the other guests are not the type of company he would usually choose.

One morning not long after their arrival at Sissingham Hall, the Lord of the Manor and Rosamund's husband is found dead in his study. Of course it was not an accident, even though everybody wanted to believe that at first. The police are called, and the investigation begins.

As the place is so remote and the party of guests is small, the circle of suspects is quickly narrowed down to a handful of people. But can it really have been one of them? Charles, generally of a trusting personality, is not inclined to think bad of anyone. But even he has to admit that someone must have done it, and when the life of another house guest is threatened, it becomes obvious even to him that there has to be a murderer in the small group.

I really enjoyed this variation on the classic Locked Room / Country House Mystery. Charles and some of the other characters are very likeable, and the place and people are described well without going into unnecessary detail.

Interestingly, the author chose to write the story from Charles' perspective, even though her main character is one of the guests, Angela Marchmont. She actually solves the case (although she wishes she hadn't), and features in a series of books which I think I shall look into (this one is #1). I wonder if they are all written from someone else's perspective with her at the centre of each case.

I wonder now if I have downloaded this free Kindle version because I heard of it first at Monica's blog - it sounds like something she enjoys (a quick check with the search box on her blog shows no entries for "Benson", so maybe it was Nan's blog.)
Anyway, the author's website is here. The "about" section reads very well.


  1. Sounds like the sort of book I might like although writing it from a different point of view than the main character sound a bit odd. I shall check the library website

    1. Soon after Angela's character being introduced, the reader becomes aware of her importance. But the principal character is still Charles. I quite liked that set-up, it is certainly different from the usual.

  2. No, it wasn't from me your heard it this time, Meike - I've never heard of this author. You're right it sounds like a book I might enjoy, though, so I went to check if it was still free for Kindle. It was, so I've downloaded it now. When/if I might eventually get round to reading it, I don't know - I have sooo many books waiting...

    1. I know you have a huge pile of to-be-read books - mostly on Kindle, so one can't really speak of a "pile" :-)
      By the time you get round to reading and reviewing it, maybe I will have forgotten that I read it first, and go looking for it at the Kindle shop all over again...

  3. Meike, hi, not on topic, for info only; so, if you wish, please do delete once read.

    I noticed your comment on YP's blog re him not self isolating. His response leaves me speechless. In fact it leaves me angry beyond words. You may wish to read my comments on this link

    I had to make my feelings clear there since I am persona non grata on YP's blog (meaning none of my comments make it through his gate).

    It beggars belief that YP will happily follow "government advice" (careless at the best of times) instead of using his brain. Going out when at his most infectious? I can barely contain my anger. Just hoping there aren't many of his ilk out and about. And to think that my son and a group of his friends who, unfortunately, caught a variant of the virus all at the same time, self isolated between ten and fourteen days; religiously And they are youngsters (well, around thirty plus). Clearly more caring of others than a teacher in Sheffield.

    Ich bin ausser mir,

    1. Forget the link, Meike. John deems me impolite that I pointed out that YP's negligence - so, naturally, he has deleted a couple of comments directed at two of his other readers. Just as an aside: John works in health care. Has the world gone mad?


    2. A friend fell out with me.
      We ran into each other on Great Western Road: I kept an eight feet distance.
      When I rang him the next day Tom called me Cautious Timid Unadventurous Neurotic.
      Quite a Charge Sheet.
      I pleaded Guilty to all of them especially Molly Coddled his final accusation.
      I would like to be coddled by Molly especially James Joyce's Molly Bloom.

      Tom has late onset asthma and has been hospitalised twice.
      An infected person releases the virus as they breath, even outside, hence the distance rule.
      I told him not to take it personally and that he should think of his wife.
      Thanks to my DNA I enjoy perfect health and wish to keep it that way.

    3. Hi Ursula,
      As this blog is mine, it is certainly up to me (and not the commenter, any other commenting folk) which comments I delete and which I leave standing.
      For now, I have decided not to delete yours.
      However, I much prefer comments to be on topic, and not instrumentalised for getting back at someone who for reasons that are none of my business has chosen not to publish your comments on their own blog.
      Thank you.
      Gute Besserung für Deinen Sohn und seine Freunde - and I hope you have not caught it as well.

      Jack, I hope you continue to enjoy perfect health. It is priceless and, once gone, hard to restore.

    4. Thank you, Meike, on more than one count.

      Yes, the Angel is fully recovered. He came out of isolation last Friday, just in time for Mother's Day which is, unlike in Germany, in March. We spent a glorious and happy Sunday afternoon on a sunny walk in the New Forest, complete with picnic and bird song.

      Luckily, March 2020 when the whole palaver started, his company set everyone up at home so despite having to isolate he was still able to work for the ten days he observed - if at a measured pace. It does appear that even when (relatively) mild the virus does zap energy levels.

      On your original topic: You wet my appetite. What is it with mansions, halls and murder that is so fascinating? A few years ago, I don't know what came over me, I re-read Agatha Christies (courtesy of our local library) by the meter. Well, I suppose that was the last time in my life Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot will have amused me and stimulated my own "little grey cells".

      With you on your walks, if by proxy only,

    5. Maybe we find mansions, halls and murders so fascinating because they provide an easy and welcome form of escapism. I have never (and in all likelihood never will) lived in such grand surroundings, and although there has been a murder in my wider circle of acquaintances about 20 years ago, it did not directly affect me on a personal level (apart from the understandable shock and horror, and sadness for those left behind). So, most of us will never have a close shave with capital crime; we enjoy solving the puzzle, I guess.

      In this particular case, I must admit I guessed correctly early on, but still enjoyed the rest of the book very much.

  4. Don't you love a book that keeps drawing you back to read more! This does sound like a good read and a good beginning on a series. It is interesting that the author takes a slightly different angle on the story.

    1. Yes, I found that interesting, too. A welcome difference.
      My current read has not yet managed to capture my interest in the same measure.

  5. So Angela Marchmont is only seen through the eyes of the trusting and amiable Charles?
    This interests me in itself never mind the murder.
    Angela wishing she had not solved the crime is intriguing, and she the main character.

    A strong sense of place in any novel (or your blog) always draws me.
    There is a pre-War hotel in Bayswater in Anthony Powell's novel *The Acceptance World*.
    Powell's Ufford Hotel is just the place I would like to have visited.

    Agatha Christie's *At Bertram's Hotel* is also rich in detail: A Miss Marples tale.
    It was filmed by BBC Television with Joan Hickson of whom I never tire.
    In my London days the place for afternoon tea was Brown's Hotel where I once saw novelist Irwin Shaw on a visit from his home in Klosters.

    1. *The Body in the Library - Part 1/ Full Episode/ Joan Hickson.*
      YouTube. Murder Mysteries.

      These settings remind me of my favourite places in the Cotswolds.
      Cirencester. Winchcomb. Stow-on-the-Wold. Snowshill. Moreton-in-Marsh.
      Chipping Campden. Cold Aston. Bourton-on-the Water.

    2. My Mum and I have been watching all the BBC Marples and Poirots that were on German TV over the past 2 or 3 years. We loved most of them; there were only a few we found a bit out of sorts.
      I have not read all that many Agatha Christie books myself, but know I could always turn to them if I should ever run out of reading material.
      She was a very interesting person herself; see my review of "The World of Agatha Christie" here:

      Yes, Angela Marchmont is seen through Charles' eyes. I very much like that about the book.

  6. I do love a good locked room mystery! This one sounds fun!

  7. Making a note if this one, sounds right up my street.

    1. Would be nice to know whether you liked it as much as I did.