Mark Lawrence's Reviews > The Lone House Mystery

The Lone House Mystery by J. Jefferson Farjeon
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Oct 25, 2012

it was ok

[I'm planning to re-read this at the hospice with Celyn this weekend and review soon.]

[I've added this book to Goodreads because it wasn't here!]

Congratulations, you’re on your way to being a forgotten author. That's what this book tells me.

As a child I read and enjoyed (several times) a book called The Lone House Mystery. If it had a dust jacket it was long gone when I got to the book. The front cover declares it ‘A Collins Junior Mystery’. The spine reports the author as one J.Jefferson Farjeon. Shortly after joining Goodreads.com I tried to find the book in their database (containing millions of titles) and rate it. It wasn’t there and none of the 11 million members have added it to the list of books.

It wasn’t until I rediscovered the book on our shelves at home recently that I was convinced I’d got the details right. But I had. Inside the front cover in my mother’s handwriting is a large declaration of her ownership with a painted border. She would have been quite a small girl when she got the book new in 1949.

The book may not be mentioned on Goodreads but J.Jefferson Farjeon is. The site lists 10 of his books and says he wrote at least 70 others. The write up for Farjeon (1883-1955) includes:

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Joseph Jefferson Farjeon was always going to be a writer as, born in London, he was the son of Benjamin Farjeon who at the time was a well-known novelist whose other children were Eleanor Farjeon, who became a childen's writer, and Herbert Farjeon, who became a playwright and who wrote the well-respected 'A Cricket Bag'.

The family were descended from Thomas Jefferson but it was his maternal grandfather, the American actor Joseph Jefferson, after whom Joseph was named. He was educated privately and at Peterborough Lodge and one of his early jobs, from 1910 to 1920, was doing some editorial work for the Amalgamated Press.

He also wrote a number of plays, some of which were filmed, most notably Number Seventeen which was produced by Alfred Hitchcock in 1932, and many short stories.

When he died at Hove in Sussex in 1955 his obituary in The Times wrote of his "deserved popularity for ingenious and entertaining plots and characterization".

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So, 80 books, obituary in the Times, a play for Hitchcock, born of actors and writers, descended from Thomas Jefferson ... and the 11 million members of Goodreads have given 10 of his 80 books a grand total of 11 ratings.

Time is the fire in which we burn and also the tide that drowns us.

Extraordinarily few writers are noticed at all and the vast majority of those are lost from memory with the passage of five or twenty-five years. Sixty-some years has all but erased J.Jefferson.

So. I read his book again. I started reading it to my daughter but she got bored – it is rather dry and dated – and since it’s short and I knew the story I finished it for my own nostalgia.

The book was written and set very soon after the war. Three posh children outwit common and vulgar crooks. It has some similarities with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five in that respect. The book isn’t without charm or imagination though, and I do enjoy the ‘rather’, ‘do be a sport’ ‘I say’ ‘keep your pecker up’ ‘jolly rotten’ etc. The strong moral messages and reiteration that our three children are made of the right stuff are ... directed at children. Nobody here is complex except perhaps for a repentant thief – it is a children’s book after all and it was entertaining when I read it in 1972/3/4 less so now.

The plot is implausible and discordant notes are struck when the crooks produce pistols and shots are fired and our children blithely carry on defending the house they’re ensconced in with a hose pipe. Possibly the proximity to the war put a different perspective on things at the time ... I don’t know. It seems bizarre now – as does the curious lack of emotion from their family who lose them from a train into a snow storm and don’t find them for three days. Most would expect the thaw to reveal frozen corpses . . .

So in the end, putting nostalgia aside, I’ll give this 2* for ‘ok’. It has dated, and it’s too dry for today’s 8-12 year olds who have so much else on offer, and too shallow for the 13+ who might read past the old fashioned language.

So back on the shelf it goes and J.Jefferson’s shade can slip back into the nameless horde of thousands of other popular authors who we’ve forgotten that we forgot.


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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 25, 2012 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Stefan (last edited Apr 07, 2013 12:33PM) (new)

Stefan I find it interesting there's so little on Joseph Jefferson Farjeon when compared with his sister - Eleanor Farjeon. But then again, much of J. Jefferson's work was done in the thriller/mystery genre, which often lacks staying power over time.


Mark Lawrence she wrote a famous hymn... but I forget which... Morning Has Broken?


message 3: by Stefan (new)

Stefan Good memory. Yes she did (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morning_...). Also noted for her significant contributions to children's literature (even having the the annual Eleanor Farjeon Award named after her), which couldn't be more of a contrast with the obscurity her brother's works, such as 'The Lone House Mystery'.


message 4: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Burroughs I love this "review" and am linking to it from my facebook author's page. I had my own childhood read [The Summer Birds] that was difficult to track down, and once I did discovered a new reading friend--Sherwood Smith--who also had remembered it fondly and had reviewed it here. Thus is the magic of goodreads.


message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul One of the most interesting reviews I've read in quite a while


Red Panda My copy is also without a dust jacket and is the same shade of mustardy yellow as the one in the picture. Mine also used to belong to my mum. I read it as a kid and quite enjoyed it. My wife has recently unearthed it and is currently reading it.


Mark Lawrence Paul wrote: "My copy is also without a dust jacket and is the same shade of mustardy yellow as the one in the picture. Mine also used to belong to my mum. I read it as a kid and quite enjoyed it. My wife has re..."

Cool to hear!


message 8: by Agnes (new)

Agnes Conway Sounds dreary. The William books are from a similar era and similar class, but I still love them, and still laugh. Off to check if they've been reviewed...


message 9: by Clay (new)

Clay Ashby Your review of this book and its author was chilling, intriguing, and kept me interested throughout. My review of your review is 5 stars. I'll skip the reviewed book, though.


message 10: by Lanko (new)

Lanko Damn... depressing indeed when you realize so very few authors, even among prolific, talented AND known by public and press at the time, actually do stand the test of time.


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