“MURDER FOR CHRISTMAS,” by Francis Duncan, Sourcebooks Landmark, 345 pages (f)
There is much to like about “Murder for Christmas,” Francis Duncan’s 1949 Mordecai Tremaine detective murder mystery. Readers get an old-fashioned whodunit wrapped with a snow-dusted English country manor house and a disparate gathering of suspicious guests for Christmas. There are hints of Agatha Christie’s long-running play “The Mousetrap” here, as everyone at a multi-day Christmas house party becomes a suspect when one of their number is found dead underneath the Christmas tree, dressed in a Father Christmas robe. The local constable, aided by Duncan’s amateur detective Mordecai Tremaine, must work quickly to uncover the killer before he or she strikes again.
The trouble with “Murder for Christmas,” really — more than the dated language — is the main man himself, Tremaine. A memorable literary detective should be highly distinctive — think of Sherlock Holmes’ observation skills and anti-social