Portrait of a Murderer
This is the fiftieth in the British Library Crime Classics run of novels, which began in 2014 with the unexpected Christmas hit Mystery in White. The series has brought forgotten crime stories – often drawn from the 1930s and 1940s – to a whole new audience and this latest first saw the light in 1933. It begins: “Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931. The crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated…” It has a classic “cosy crime” set up, with an extended family being drawn together to Adrian Gray’s big old house on Christmas Eve, but the execution – in more ways than one – is anything but cosy. For a kick-off, we learn who the murderer is fairly early on which thrusts the reader into more psychological territory. And the author - Lucy Beatrice Malleson writing under a penname – has plenty of pointed comments to make about the pursuit of wealth. As an antidote to the idylls usually found in 1930s crime fiction, this is the very definition of an undiscovered gem.