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In a gloomy flat off Islington High Street, Chief Inspector Brett Nightingale and Sergeant Beddoes find an old woman dead. The Princess Olga Karukhin, who fled from Russia at the time of the Revolution, has lived in terror of being discovered ever since.

Olga's grandson, Ivan, appears to have run from the scene, but is later seen returning to the flat as though oblivious to the terrible crime. Taking place between 22nd and 24th December, Nightingale's enquiry takes him across London, culminating in the wrapping of the mystery on Christmas Eve.

This never-before-republished novel from 1958 has a noticeably different feel to the neat puzzles and country house mysteries of crime fiction's golden age, revealing the darker side of police detection in an evocative urban setting.

219 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1958

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About the author

Mary Kelly

14 books5 followers
Mary Kelly was an English crime writer best known for the Inspector Brett Nightingale series. Writing in the 1950s and 1960s, Kelly was celebrated for the sense of refreshingly dark suspense in her mysteries. Her novel , published in 1961, won the Gold Dagger Award.

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5 stars
52 (7%)
4 stars
142 (20%)
3 stars
333 (48%)
2 stars
131 (19%)
1 star
25 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 108 reviews
Profile Image for Adrian.
552 reviews196 followers
December 17, 2020
This book was nominated as a possible monthly read in English Mysterious Club. Unfortunately it didn't win, but enough people wanted to read it, that we put it up as a buddy read, and lo here is my review.

Well the reason I wanted to read this was because of the title, I love Christmas, and also I'm a real detective story fan. So here we are.

Ok I gave this about 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.0, it was an interesting story with some enjoyable characters, and my first introduction to Inspector Brett Nightingale. I loved the location settings, the intricate storyline and I would read another Brett Nightingale......


There were odd times when I drifted away from the story briefly
I couldn't work out what period it was set in.

Hence why I only gave it 3.5 stars. Nothing wrong with it, and as I said I would certainly read more, in fact I want to read the first in the series just to see how this started.
Profile Image for Sharon Barrow Wilfong.
1,117 reviews3,942 followers
December 17, 2021
My first book by the author.

Strengths: I love Inspector Nightingale and Officer Beddoes. Kelly does a great job making these two protagonists interesting and sympathetic. This is a primary ingredient as far as I'm concerned. I want to care about the good guys.

Also: the story developed very well as far as presenting the mystery and making it intriguing. I read the book at night before going to bed in a few sittings and it was a book I looked forward to coming back to. That's an essential ingredient in a "cozy read".

I suppose if I were to find a weakness, it would be I found the end part a little hard to follow at first, although it is made finally clear. I think the problem was that Kelly decided to uncover the mystery through dialogue and it was a little harder to put the pieces together. But, nevertheless I was able after a small struggle. That's the only reason I left off a star.

In short: I will want to read more of the author's mysteries.
Profile Image for Susan in NC.
855 reviews
November 20, 2022
2.5-3 stars, for it was ok. Started off intriguing, with old lady found dead in her room. Apparently she was a Russian princess, and had a secret stash of valuables when she escaped Russia after the revolution. I gather she had sold off some in the 1920s, but now (in the 1950s), was living in one dingy room with rather simple-minded adult grandson.

This was apparently Mary Kelly’s third Inspector Nightingale mystery, I would have liked to read the first two. This was read for the Reading the Detectives group December read. I felt like I had walked into the middle of a movie, as the inspector and his sergeant, Beddoes, have a shorthand language, as most longtime coworkers do, but I couldn’t always follow what they were getting at. It was frustrating, and I listened to the audiobook mostly, which helps a bit, as the tone of the narrator can give clues as to meaning, but not always.

There was a young woman involved in the plot, and I wasn’t sure what the married Nightingale’s interest was with her - she was very young, late teens perhaps, so it felt creepy. Eventually it seemed like he wasn’t sure if she was working with a gang of crooks, or an innocent witness caught up by circumstances. There were some exciting action scenes in a snowstorm (keeping up the Christmas vibe), especially at the end, but I skimmed it, as I had somewhat lost interest.

I’m not sure I’m a fan of Kelly’s writing, a bit too elliptical for my taste, not sure what she’s trying to say; I don’t know if it’s because this is book three in a series. I might feel differently if I tried book 1, and understood the relationships and slang Nightingale and Beddoes share. Speaking of slang, the two officers kept referring to a Hampstead gang or group, so I think they were referring to a burglary gang, and thought the old lady’s death and the theft of some of her remaining valuables were connected to the known thieves, but I couldn’t really follow their discussions about it. Definitely causes me to lose interest, when I can’t follow what’s happening!

Profile Image for Susan.
2,601 reviews599 followers
November 17, 2022
Mary Kelly wrote in the 1950's and 1960's and, although only a handful of her books have currently been re-published, lovers of Golden Age crime live in a era where many of these forgotten authors are being re-released and we are lucky to be able to read them. For Mary Kelly won The Golden Dagger for her book, 'The Spoilt Kill,' and this mystery, 'The Christmas Egg,' is the third in her series, featuring Inspector Brett Nightingale. Her books are more character driven than many of the time and so are interesting from that perspective. Also, these original mysteries have so much more depth than modern mysteries which attempt to pull off that Golden Age feel, being often so much more lightweight than the books and authors they copy.

There is little that is fluffy or light in this Christmas mystery. It begins in a London hovel, where a once wealthy Princess, who fled Russia in the revolution, is found dead. Her only family is a rather dull grandson, who works at St Pancras station. Inspector Brett Nightingale and Sgt Beddoes soon discover that, although living in poverty, Princess Olga had given away expensive jewels to her neighbours and, before long, they are questioning where her collection has gone and what lengths someone would go to in order to get their hands on it.

Oddly, this is the third, and last, of the Brett Nightingale series and yet the character remains somehow out of reach and there is a lack of resolution which I found quite intriguing. Overall, I am pleased I tried this book, and this author, and would like to read more by her.
5,559 reviews51 followers
November 21, 2014
For those who somehow believe that women weren't writing good mysteries before P.D. James, I introduce Mary Kelly. Kelly's well-written, well-plotted and superbly characterized books seem to be forgotten now, and I certainly don't know why. It's a bitter cold pre-Christmas season in London, when the body of an elderly woman is found in her bed. Inspector Brett Nightingale finds that she's a Russian princess, a refuge from the 1917 Revolution, living with her nondescript grandson. But an eminent jeweler tells the police that although she was living in penury, she had a fortune in jewels, which she was getting ready to sell. Nightingale is helped by his sarcastic sergeant Beddoes. Even his love of opera comes in handy in unexpected ways.
Profile Image for Любен Спасов.
236 reviews39 followers
January 4, 2021
Когато от „Еднорог” обявиха, че ще издават на български колекцията със забравени криминални романи на Британската библиотека, много се зарадвах. Засега обаче от преведените само „Убийство в метрото” ми хареса.

„Коледното яйце” има интересен сюжет, напълно в стила на класическите криминални романи, но ми вървеше толкова бавно, че едва я дочетох. Финалът ми беше логичен, което за мен винаги в плюс, но определено по средата се отегчих и нямах търпение да приключвам с тази книга. Излишни подробности, скучни разговори, които може би трябваше да доведат до някакво напрежение, но при мен не се получи.

Третата звезда я давам най-вече заради края на историята и сюжета като цяло. Надявам се следващите заглавия от поредицата да ми допаднат повече.
Profile Image for Heather.
316 reviews7 followers
December 2, 2020
A slow mystery of sorts with confusing muddled dialogue. The premise is good, but ultimately a coherent plot line is never fully realized.
Profile Image for Ренета Кирова.
987 reviews22 followers
February 28, 2022
Ретро криминален роман, различен по начин на структуриране и написване. Изказът е по-описателен, а разследването тече бавно и последователно с много отклонения за характерите на героите. Забързано стана чак към края и даже имаше малко екшън. Бързо се чете, но като цяло аз си падам по книги с действие, а тази не можа да ме грабне така. Въпреки това давам три звезди, защото ми допадна стилът на авторката.
Profile Image for dee (zuko’s girlfriend).
34 reviews7 followers
January 1, 2023
I should have listened to Martin Edwards when he explained why exactly Mary Kelly wasn’t celebrated unlike other crime writers.

Was too excited to pick up this book because I wanted to feel the vibes of the festive season, but I don’t know what did the author intend to describe. Maybe I couldn’t comprehend her writing style, but there’s no warning at all. I felt a lack of coherence throughout the narrative. The character was uttering something and then BOOOM! an epiphany strikes and you are entering another scene.

I loved the puns at a few places plus the element of humour was the only entity saving the plot. An over-excited Beddoes, a tired old detective Brett and a dream girl Stephanie; all three characters are shaped well. At some places, it seems that the inspiration for the book was from Marlowe’s classic “The Jew of Malta”, at least the character of Majendie reflects Barabas through his attitude. The story didn’t have any plot at all. Those who are giving it 4 stars, I would definitely love to interact with them to know what made them love this work. Maybe if I would have read the first two works in this series, things would have been better, but now I don’t find the courage to digest another work of Kelly. I think even Kelly knew that lack of life in her work and that’s why she eventually stopped writing.

I believe that Kelly knew to play with words. She just lacked the skill of building a unified narrative which formulates the backbone of any literary work.
Profile Image for Sylwka (unserious.pl).
398 reviews41 followers
December 9, 2022
Gdy na domach migają światełka, a w sklepach słychać najbardziej świąteczny przebój grupy Wham!, to nachodzi mnie ochota na literaturę ze śniegiem i karpiem w tle. Dlatego odpowiednio nastrojona postanowiłam skusić się na propozycję wydawnictwa Zysk i S-ka i już w pierwszych dniach grudnia sięgnęłam po kryminalną powieść pod tytułem Tajemnica pustego kufra. Świąteczne śledztwo Mary Kelly.

Olga Karuchin i jej skarb.
"Dwudziesty drugi grudnia, Londyn. Nadkomisarz Brett Nightingale oraz sierżant Beddoes otrzymują wezwanie do zaniedbanego mieszkania w dzielnicy Islington. Znajdują ciało starszej kobiety i odkrywają, że należący do niej kufer został niedawno splądrowany. Zmarłą okazuje się księżna Olga Karuchin, emigrantka z trapionej krwawą rewolucją Rosji, z jej kufra zaś zniknął skarb…
W ogarniętej przedświąteczną gorączką stolicy przewija się barwna parada kolejnych podejrzanych: poniewierany przez księżną wnuk, bogaty jubiler, żądni zemsty komuniści… Nightingale oraz Beddoes mają twardy orzech do zgryzienia."

Czyta się szybko, ale…
Muszę przyznać, że mam z tą książką pewien problem. Gdyż pomysł na fabułę może nie jest najbardziej oryginalny, ale w sumie nie miałam do niego żadnych zastrzeżeń. Nastrój też mi podpasował. Tu i tam pojawiły się wzmianki o świętach, a tu i tam prószący śnieg dopełniał klimat.

Sama akcja, jest w miarę dynamiczna, ale też mocno zagmatwana i czasem naszpikowana zbędnymi monologami, które pasują do całej fabuły jak „pięć do oka” (wywód Brett’a dotyczący młodszych kobiet). Bohaterowie w tej przyspieszonej akcji niestety nie mają szansy się rozwijać. Ot, po prostu są i jakoś żaden z nich nie zapadł mi mocniej w pamięć.

I może z tymi płaskimi, tendencyjnymi bohaterami „przetrawiłabym” tę historię całkiem dobrze, gdyby nie rozwiązanie zagadki. Nie chcę spojlerować, ale tak niedorzecznej sceny między trzema zamkniętymi osobami w samochodzie się nie spodziewałam.

Stąd ciężko mi tę książkę ocenić. Bo literacko i klimatycznie jest ok, ale część kryminalna pozostawia ona wiele do życzenia.

Profile Image for Robyn.
1,687 reviews
January 16, 2022
Discounted | So dull that I actually fell asleep reading, twice. Boring enough that I'm not going to bother with a dull review.
Profile Image for Adam Carson.
403 reviews14 followers
December 12, 2019
I really struggled to get into this book. Partly, this was because I was expecting a typical golden age murder mystery - and really, this book is more about a jewellery robbery. Frankly, I find jewellery robbery stories somewhat dull!

There were other issues - I liked that the plot was reasonably fast paced, but at times this made it somewhat confusing. I struggled to remember the cast of characters, partly because most were given so little time to develop and grow.

The police were uniformly useless, until right at the end when, for seemingly no reason, Nightingale suddenly understood everything, which he shares in great detail. The books denouement is the weirdest unrealistic scene between three people in a car, with the third not speaking. So confusing was this, that I had to keep turning back to ensure I hadn’t missed something!

Finally, I did not enjoy Nightingale’s inner monologue regarding younger attractive women, or his seeming lack of affection about his wife. Unnecessary and frankly slightly creepy.

Set at Christmas, and snow all around but not particularly festive. All in all, I didn’t enjoy.
Profile Image for Paulina Łucja.
68 reviews4 followers
December 21, 2022
Wymęczyłam tę książkę, bohaterowie miałcy, przez to że akcja trwała 3dni to nie było w niej żadnych niewiadomych a sama końcówka ciągnęła mi się niemiłosiernie
Profile Image for Vanya Prodanova.
674 reviews26 followers
December 18, 2019
Обожавам поредицата на British Library Crime Classics, въпреки че ми идват малко трудни на езиковото ниво на места, но именно в това им е чара. :Р

Тази книга не беше кой знае какво обаче. Някак си очаквах малко повече. Мисля, че имаше твърде много действие за трите дни, в които се развиваше разследването. Отделно не я чувствах много сезонна, независимо от описанията на снежната буря и очевидната връзка с Коледа.

Отделно, още в предговора те предупреждават, че тази авторка не се фокусира върху мистерията, а върху изграждането на образите и да си призная това навреди на цялото усещане, но пак ми беше приятно да я прочета, де, макар и да не беше кой знае какво. :)
Profile Image for Sandybeth.
147 reviews
December 12, 2020
I read this with a reading group and was looking forward to a festive read, Sadly it did not happen with this novel, which is apparently the third in a series. Because of this there was no gentle introduction to the main characters and it seemed as if there was an ongoing thread too. I didn't finish it and I really did try, but it all got a bit complicated and confusing and I did not like Nightingale or the other detective. All in all a disappointing read.
Profile Image for Leah.
1,354 reviews204 followers
November 24, 2019
’Twas three nights before Christmas...

Three days before Christmas, Inspector Nightingale is called to the scene of a suspicious death. An elderly woman has been found dead in her bed, and given her age it may have passed as natural but for the fact that she appears to have been robbed. Her trunk, which she always kept securely locked, is empty. Nightingale soon discovers she was a Russian Princess who had fled to Britain during the Revolution, bringing with her many fabulous jewels and valuable pieces of art. There has been a recent spate of burglaries and Nightingale suspects this is the latest, somehow gone wrong, leaving Princess Olga dead. But where is the Princess’s grandson? And why is there a note of the name and address of a local dealer in jewellery in her room? Nightingale and his sergeant, the rather cheeky and irreverent Beddoes, set out to investigate...

This isn’t a whodunit – although there is a mystery element around the grandson, the police are never in much doubt that the robbery ties in with the others, and the bulk of the story is about following Nightingale, and occasionally Beddoes, as they try to identify and catch the thieves. It’s very well written and both the settings – first the busy pre-Christmas streets and alleyways of Islington and later the blizzard-bound countryside of Kent – are used to great effect. Nightingale and Beddoes make a great team, obviously fond of each other and with a kind of rapport that comes from having worked together before. Each has full confidence in the other and they are more like equals than superior and subordinate, and there’s a lot of humour in their interactions.

The Princess’s backstory as a Russian émigrée adds another element to the story, and gives it the human interest aspect that can sometimes be missing in stories about thefts and police hunts. And the jeweller whose name is found in her room is a great character – a shrewd businessman with his own Russian background, is he the gossipy charmer he likes to portray, or is this a cover for shady goings-on? Nightingale’s constantly changing opinion about him and other people who might or might not be involved is a lot of fun and gives us a real feel for his character, as an honest man who wants to think the best of people but whose job means he has to consider the worst of them too.

The first half of the book sets up the story and introduces the characters, and then the second half becomes more of an action thriller as the hunt for the jewel thieves hots up. I found the whole thing a quick, interesting and enjoyable read that kept me turning the pages – I ended up reading it all in one day which is unusual for me. Apparently Kelly only wrote a few books and then stopped, which is a real pity since on the basis of this one she was clearly very talented. I hope the BL might reissue the two other Nightingale books sometime. And with its Christmassy timing and snowy settings, this one is a perfect read for the festive season. Highly recommended!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

Profile Image for The Librarian's Granddaughter.
360 reviews29 followers
December 15, 2020
This book is yet another British crime novel that I read this year. The action takes us to the modest room of a long-forgotten Russian princess. She is lying dead in her bed, and her grandson's escape a little earlier and her empty chest speak of a robbery that did not go exactly according to plan. Brett Nightingale is the man tasked with solving the difficult mystery. Christmas is only days away, and he has a premonition that will both help him and get him in trouble. The story was quite interesting and I really liked the writing style of the author. Not to mention the beautiful cover.

I liked the image of the detective. He is definitely intelligent, although he is not able to foresee everything that could go wrong. The story of Princess Karukhin, her family and her escape to Britain was intriguing. She has brought treasures with her and the only person she is willing to show them to is a jeweler who is definitely not indifferent to shiny objects. Throughout the book, I wondered if he was guilty or not. I changed my mind several times. The action was quite dynamic and the last pages were full of challenges and twists. What I didn't like was how chaotic the story went in places.

I was pleased with the image of Nightingale's colleague. He is in stark contrast to the detective. By no means is he stupid and I was interested in his scenes. Stephanie was a character I didn't like from the beginning. For a long time I wondered if she was somehow involved in everything, or if she was just a little stupid and fascinated by the wrong man. The jeweler and the detective were in a constant game of cat and mouse, which amused me a lot. Ivan was very strange to me and for a long time I thought that they must have killed him. I was surprised by his actions at the end of the book.

There is no way that British crime is not written with typical British humor. Ah, I'm such a fan of it. The mystery was exciting. I also really like stories about royal Russia and I read with interest about the princess and her family. The author also has a very interesting biography and I am sure that her other works are just as good. I definitely recommend this crime novel perfect for fans of the genre, as well as a nice gift for the upcoming holidays.
Profile Image for Tracey.
908 reviews26 followers
December 9, 2020
2.5 stars.

This was such a disappointing book, and I was so looking forward to it. I love Faberge Eggs and a mystery thrown in I thought would be wonderful. I feel like I would at a firework display when all the fireworks don't go off.
This apparently was the 3rd book in a short series by this author and for some reason, the publishers republished this one but not the others. It looked like a stand-alone book from the description. Very disappointing. :(
Profile Image for LettriceAssorta.
334 reviews109 followers
November 23, 2021
Bella la nuova collana Vallardi dedicata ai classici del giallo della British Library; ho letto tutti i libri che ne fanno parte con grande soddisfazione. Oggi in particolare vi parlo di INTRIGO A LONDRA, una delle due recenti uscite, entrambe impreziosite da una suggestiva atmosfera natalizia. Se come me amate le situazioni misteriose, gli avvenimenti irresistibili e gli imprevisti accattivanti, tenete presente questo titolo, potrebbe fare al caso vostro.

Siamo negli anni Cinquanta e manca qualche giorno a Natale. In una casa fatiscente viene ritrovato il corpo senza vita della principessa Karukhina.

"la principessa Karukhina un tempo dormiva in un letto con intarsi in madreperla, tra lenzuola di seta che venivano cambiate ogni giorno e con piumini d'oca e pellicce bianche come coperte. Nelle pareti costantemente spruzzate d'acqua di rose della sua camera da letto dall'alto soffitto erano incastonate delle placce wedwood jasperware. E pelli intere d'orso polare erano stese, come banchi di ghiaccio, sul pavimento lucido. La stanza buia e angusta in cui giaceva ora serviva sia da camera da letto e sia da soggiorno."

INTRIGO A LONDRA è il tipico giallo all'inglese con un delitto incartato nel mistero e un'indagine alla ricerca della verità. L'ambientazione è fatta di finestre sgargianti rosso e argento, tocchi di ovatta e fili di lucine, ma anche di uno squallido appartamento di Islington, dove vive un' enigmatica principessa che custodisce un baule pieno di gioielli da capogiro. La morte improvvisa della donna, il ritrovamento del baule privo dei tesori e il nipote irreperibile, fanno scattare immediatamente le indagini. L'ispettore capo di turno si chiama Brett Nightingale e analizza il caso, avvolto dal clima uggioso dell'Inghilterra e dal compiacimento generale per il Natale che si sta per celebrare.

Negli ultimi tempi mi sono imbattuta spesso nella descrizione della figura dell'ispettore rappresentato sempre  con le stesse caratteristiche: ubriacone, divorziato e mal in arnese. Che noia! In questo caso invece, il personaggio è appena accennato dal punto di vista dell'aspetto fisico, vengono accentuate alcune caratteristiche caratteriali e si entra poco nel merito della sua vita privata: il perno attorno al quale tutto ruota è l'indagine investigativa. Devo dire che questa scelta narrativa mi è piaciuta.

Dinamico, elegante, consigliato agli amanti del giallo inglese tradizionale. Manca l'effetto wow, ma la piacevolezza c'è tutta.

Casa Editrice: Vallardi
Pagine: 240
Data di uscita: 04-11-2021

Profile Image for Jill.
995 reviews
December 25, 2021
This book starts with an elderly woman found dead in her bed. She is in fact a Russian princess who had fled to England during the Russian Revolution. She lived in poverty, however it would seem that she did in fact have a fortune under her bed. When she left Russia she brought with her the many treasures belonging to her family. When police are called to her room, having been found dead, they found the trunk in which the jewels etc were kept, but it was empty. Inspector Brett Nightingale follows up the history of this woman in order to find who has stolen the treasure. At first the woman's grandson is suspected, but then the search widens, and brings us a lot of possible suspects. This then is a police procedural, which was ok if rather slow. It does however pick up speed in the second half of the book where there is a lot of action
I have rounded up to 4 stars, but really it is a weak 4 in my opinion. I would try another book by this author, but it seems there are not many available.
Profile Image for Tom Ewing.
Author 1 book56 followers
December 31, 2019
Well-written with a marvellous sense of fifties London, from the squalid Islington flat the book opens in to the high-end record shop where vital clues are uncovered. Red herrings and misunderstandings complicate a fairly simple plot, but the setting and characters are vivid. Loses its way a little once it leaves the city and heads out into a Kentish blizzard for its more thriller-ish denouement - fortunately the quality of the writing sees you through.
Profile Image for Dave.
1,110 reviews28 followers
December 31, 2020
Not to my taste—I’m not a big fan of police procedurals, especially when the pacing is bizarre (17 pages for an awkward,mostly inconsequential meeting between the teenage girl and the detective?), and the “detection” is a lot of guesswork followed by a ten-page explication. Maybe it’s meant to be more about the characters—except that I don’t much care for/understand the characters.

It’s got a lovely cover. It’s set at Christmas. I like the egg. It may be just what you want. Happy New Year!
Profile Image for Sally.
930 reviews
December 11, 2019
I thought the premise was good, but it was slow going. I found it confusing and tedious until the snowstorm.
Profile Image for Tony DeHaan.
163 reviews
December 24, 2019
Nothing better to start off your Christmas holiday than with a Christmas Crime novel! A dead impoverished Russian princess, her stolen jewels, her alcoholic son, a jeweller, and a Fabergé egg...
Profile Image for Sasha.
274 reviews4 followers
December 29, 2019
An enjoyable seasonal mystery; more of a thriller than a crime puzzle
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