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Literature / Mystery in White

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Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story is a detective fiction murder mystery written by Joseph Jefferson Farjeon, first published in 1937.

It all starts on a train, now snowbound and forlorn on a cold Christmas Eve of 1936. With the train going nowhere, one car’s passengers decide to risk trekking across the open tundra to reach the nearest train station at the village of Hemmersby. But in the white-out, all they find are a series of ditches, and eventually a house—its door unlocked, tea boiling on the stove, fireplace roaring with warmth, and not a soul around to answer them.

Trapped in the house is a neat group of characters: Jenny Noyes, a platinum blonde chorus girl; aristocratic (and argumentative) siblings David and Lydia Carrington; aspirational but fever-ravaged clerk Robert Thomson; elderly bore Mr. Hopkins, droning on about his time in the Yukon or India; and Sir Edward Maltby of the Royal Psychical Society. And along the line they will be joined by various other uninvited guests, as somewhere, also, is the reason behind the abandoned house: the people who abandoned it, perhaps a murderer or two…


The story provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Blackmail: Martha Wicks has been extorting money out of Harvey Strange for the past 20 years.
  • The Bore: Mr. Hopkins, who is only ever referred to as "the bore" for the entire first third of the novel. He is such an insufferable example of the trope that all of his carriage-mates are willing to face a snow storm just to get away from him.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The mere fact that the party ends up in Valley House while the mystery there plays out would be enough, but that all of this should happen on the 20th anniversary of John Strange’s murder just blows everything past all probability. Lampshaded by Maltby, who believes there must be some supernatural agency puling the strings.
  • Dirty Old Man: Mr. Hopkins spends most of the novel perving on Jessie, much to her annoyance and everyone elses's.
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  • Extremely Short Timespan: The entire story progresses between early afternoon of December 24th and the morning of December 25th.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: At the end the official version of events the police go with puts the blame for all the murders on Smith the Cockney, even though he was only responsible for 2 of them.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The supernatural aspects of the story are heavily implied to be true, but never outright confirmed.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Martha Wicks, née Shaw, turns out to be considerably more ruthless than either her brother or husband.
  • Snowed-In: The story kicks in when a train to Manchester is snowed in. Later the protagonists are snowed in on Valley House.
  • Twisted Christmas: The story is set on Christmas, and the holiday plays an important part of events in the present and in the backstory of the plot.


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