Christmas Review: Murder in the Snow by Gladys Mitchell

Murder in the Snow Gladys Mitchell

To me, every book is a romantic relationship. For a couple of hundred pages, I stare adoringly at the text, immersing myself in each word.

Sadly, Murder in the Snow didn’t turn into a great love affair. A quarter of the way through, my feelings started to sour. Another dozen pages in, and I was more than ready to break-up with the plot. I kept reading, but never managed to experience that special spark.

My failure to fall in love with this story is probably a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. Gladys Mitchell is a popular writer – some people rate her on a level with Agatha Christie – and in many ways Murder in the Snow is the perfect Christmas mystery.

Set in the beautiful English Cotswolds, the sleuth, Mrs Bradley, makes a spur of the moment decision (with the help of a kitten) to spend Christmas with her nephew, Jonathan, and his new wife, Deb.

The happy couple’s home, a picturesque country mansion, is quickly surrounded by deep snow. The reader’s introduced to a strange and sinister mix of characters, including an unpleasant land agent, accompanied by his seemingly charming cousin.

When mysterious guests arrive for Christmas, the characters tramp around the dangerous countryside in-between discussing a local ghost (a sozzled local vicar who met an unfortunate end).

At this point, I’d expected the obligatory murder, followed by a round-up of suspects and Mrs Bradley’s sharp-eyed conclusion. Instead this story wobbles around the local village, introducing an ever-growing cast of suspects and multiple anonymous letters.

After many weeks, the book finally staggers to a conclusion. Unfortunately, I’d already lost interest. This is probably my fault, as I was distracted by the real life holiday season.

Highs and Lows

Some of Gladys Mitchell’s longer descriptions are excellent, she paints a beautiful picture of the wintry landscape, yet I wasn’t as impressed by the supporting characters. Many aren’t given much page time, so come across as slightly two-dimensional, from the female academic to the local policeman. (Plus, while it’s good to have a female main character in a book published in the 1950s, but why is Mrs Bradley always described as ‘cackling’?)

Plenty of people will adore Murder in the Snow, but it wasn’t for me. The mystery-solving-process is full of twists and turns but the story could have done with more character development and a snappier conclusion.

Verdict: As you’ve already noticed, I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. It has strong points but – I feel – doesn’t stand out among the other festive murder mysteries I’ve read over the past few weeks. However, don’t let my opinion put you off. I’m sure some readers out there will view Murder in the Snow as a wintry treat!

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