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The Red House Mystery
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Group reads > August 2016 - The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
Welcome to our August group read, The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne.

This thread is for people who may not have finished the book yet, so please don't post any spoilers here, but save them for the separate spoiler thread. Thank you.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
Must say I really enjoyed this book - hope others do too. I know Milne had a feud with P.G. Wodehouse, which I think Susan mentioned a little while ago... but Milne's writing style actually reminds me quite a bit of PGW and makes me wonder what he would have been like as a mystery author.

Milne wrote a lovely, funny short introduction to a reissue of the book in 1926, but this wasn't in the ebook version I read and only seems to be in the UK Vintage edition - you should be able to read the introduction by "looking inside" at UK Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-House-My...


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2146 comments I enjoyed the book and did liken Antony Gillingham to Lord Peter . I liked the many references to Sherlock Holmes. I found it to be a very light-hearted story, even though there was a murder committed. I did think that it was more a "How did they do it" rather than a "Who done it" but that did not spoil the story at all.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments I remember not liking this book when I read it as a teenager.

Will be interesting to see whether my thoughts are different fifty plus years later.


Lesley | 384 comments I read this with another group a year or two (or more) ago. Here is what I thought of it then.

The Red House Mystery was a fun locked door mystery that wasn't too taxing to work out who, but I never figured out why until the end. I liked the characters and how they modeled themselves on Holmes and Watson, though I thought they were more like Wooster and Jeeves - what ho chaps!
But the whole time I was reading it I was reminded of something else I had read, and it has only just now come to me - it had an element of the adventures had by the Famous Five and Secret Seven - hidden doors, secret passages, coded signals.
This line really said Milne to me, "Perhaps it was true that inspectors liked dragging ponds, but the question was, did Cayleys like having them dragged?" That struck me as so Pooh!
Since Milne only wrote this for his father, I wonder if he had as much fun writing it as those who read it? I guess maybe not since there was never another even though he was urged to write more like it by his publisher.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
I thought it was quite fun. It read like an exercise in whether he could write a crime novel, but it could have gone on to become a series had he wanted. He obviously didn't want, so that was that, but it proved his versatility as a writer. Wonder what his brother in law thought of it?! I must look that up...


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
Sadly, I can find nothing from P G Wodehouse about The Red House Mystery - although I do agree that the book reads as a Holmes/Watson meets Jeeves/Wooster - so there seems to be some homage (or borrowing at least) towards Wodehouse in the characters.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
Susan, I've noticed that the page for this book at amazon.co.uk quotes P.G. Wodehouse as saying "I love his writing", claiming this is an "editorial review" - but that's it. So I don't even know for sure whether he said this about The Red House Mystery or another book!


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
It's a very traditional country house setting for this one, isn't it, with the house party, breakfast on the sideboard and outdoor games. It all feels quite familiar, but the playful way Milne writes makes it a lot of fun to read.

I liked Gillingham and Beverly a lot and am rather sad Milne only wrote the one book in this vein!


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
Apparently, Milne was pressed by his agent to write another but didn't/wouldn't. I believe he read it for his father, so perhaps he was intrigued to see whether he could do it, but was not a mystery fan himself?

P.G. Wodehouse did try to reach out to Milne in later years. Milne failed, famously, to back him when Wodehouse was accused of - well, to put it kindly, rather naive acts when he was in occupied Europe (however, it is difficult to judge how anyone would act and Wodehouse was an author, not a politician or even a young, robust man at that point). They never did reconcile, but at least Wodehouse tried. I am keen to read Milne's biography and must get round to it.

As far as the story goes, it is a very traditional country house mystery. Indeed Ngaio Marsh uses a similar setting for HER first mystery, as did Agatha Christie and a whole host of other writers. It seems like a starting point for a series.


message 11: by Sandi (new)

Sandi | 6 comments Just got the book from my library. I'm almost finished with another, so will read Red House next. Everyone seems to have liked it, so I'm looking forward to it.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
Good to hear, Sandi.


message 13: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
Susan wrote: " I am keen to read Milne's biography and must get round to it."

Many years ago I read and enjoyed A. A. Milne: His Life by Ann Thwaite - has anyone read any other bios of him?

I see he also wrote an autobiography, It's Too Late Now The Autobiography Of A Writer 1939 Hardcover - it would be interesting to read that, but it looks to be out of print and unavailable.


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
Sandi, hope you enjoy it - will look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Leslie | 592 comments Ella's Gran wrote: "I read this with another group a year or two (or more) ago. Here is what I thought of it then..."

I read it with that group too -- 4 years ago now (which shocks me!). I found it a pleasant mystery of the Golden Age and thought that Gillingham would have made a good recurring character if Milne had decided to write more.

I did figure out the solution fairly early which is a minus in my book (though it didn't prevent me from enjoying the book in any way).


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Leslie wrote: "I thought that Gillingham would have made a good recurring character if Milne had decided to write more. "

Well, maybe. But I think I would have tired of him fairly soon. He doesn't seem to me to have sufficient gravitas to have staying power. And he would have had to have some excuse to drag Bill along with him in every case somehow, wouldn't he? Would be he be nearly as enjoyable without Bill?


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
Well, Gillingham could have developed in future books, had he had the chance I suppose. He would have necessarily needed Bill. He could have found another willing participant and said, "Ah, you remind me of my old friend, Bill, who acted as a Watson to me!" or the two men could have started a detective agency, or gone on holiday together.

I actually think you are right and Milne saw that this was an exercise, rather than the beginning of a series. Still, he could have carried on and there was obviously a market, as his publisher did try to convince him. If this mystery were better known, a modern author could continue the series - so many seem to take known series/characters now and write sequels.


Carolien (carolien_s) | 543 comments I do wish Milne had written more adult fiction. I enjoyed this mystery and would have loved a series. I read The Sunny Side: Short Stories and Poems for Proper Grown-Ups a while ago which is a collection of some of the work he wrote for Punch and it just made me wish for some longer works by him.


Sandy | 2923 comments Mod
Carolien wrote: "I do wish Milne had written more adult fiction. I enjoyed this mystery and would have loved a series. I read The Sunny Side: Short Stories and Poems for Proper Grown-Ups a while ago w..."

I've been reading his Punch stories, free on kindle, and enjoy them very much.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
I must search out more by Milne. He sounds a very interesting man and has been over-shadowed by Winnie-the-Pooh. I do love Pooh bear though and once took my children to play Pooh Sticks at the original bridge :)

http://www.pooh-country.co.uk/ep_pooh...

There is a fabulous shop, packed full of Pooh goodies...


message 21: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
That shop sounds great, Susan. I've always liked Milne's children's poems even more than the Pooh stories - I think I tended to read the poems to my kids more.

Just came across a nice article about Christopher Milne and how he came to terms with his legacy as he got older - a shame this article doesn't have a byline, as it is by someone who was friendly with him. I suspect it was originally published with a byline and the name has been lost somewhere...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/47...


message 22: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Well, Gillingham could have developed in future books, had he had the chance I suppose."

Just noticed that Gillingham suggests near the end of the book he would like to solve some more mysteries - so maybe Milne was thinking of writing more but then changed his mind?


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
Yes, the book ended with a suggestion there would be more. I wonder why it never happened?

All my children loved Pooh - he is a universal character, I feel. I forgive Milne all his short-comings for his children's books/poems.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
I am so intrigued by Milne that I have started to read his biography. A little online research led me to this: A. A. Milne: His Life.


message 25: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
That's the one I read many years back after hearing a talk by the author - I remember it being very good.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
It is enjoyable so far, Judy. I'll let you know what I think when I finish. I also have the new biography of Evelyn Waugh on my TBR list...


message 27: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
I will be interested to hear what you think of both, Susan! Just found this recording of A.A. Milne reading a Winnie the Pooh story in 1929 - he has a great speaking voice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Sr3-...


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
That's really interesting, Judy. Where do you track down all this stuff?! I am really enjoying the biography so far. Like many people, I expect, the only thing I'd really heard about was his relationship with his son. However, the author suggests his closest relationship was with his brother, Ken. He is still at school at the moment, but is certainly having a great childhood with a very tolerant and forward thinking father.


message 29: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
I actually found that recording at YouTube by chance while searching for something else, lol. Glad to hear you are enjoying the biography, Susan.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
Thanks. Sometimes one book leads you somewhere else, doesn't it?


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
I was just looking up some info about Milne and I see he did write at least another couple of mysteries - a novel called Four Days' Wonder which was published in 1933 and a play called The Fourth Wall, aka The Perfect Alibi, which was staged in 1928 and filmed as Birds of Prey in 1930.

Both these works seem to be very obscure, but I'm fascinated that they exist at all! I've seen a brief suggestion that Four Days' Wonder is really a spoof mystery, but that makes it all the more intriguing.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
Actually, I was looking to see what there was of Milne's available in print, Judy. I came across, "The Sunny Side," which seems to be a collection of pieces Milne wrote for Punch. I would be interested to read more, but I can't find anything else in print; although I also came across, "Two People," a novel, which is available second hand. I shall do some more book sleuthing when I can as I'm very intrigued by Milne.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Once-Time-St...

I came across this too: Once on a Time

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Happy-Days-M...

Happy Days

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Once-Week-Al...

Once a Week

https://www.amazon.co.uk/If-May-Weeds...

If I May

So there are some books out there that I need to explore!


message 34: by Sandy (last edited Aug 15, 2016 05:50AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sandy | 2923 comments Mod
I have been (slowly) enjoying Once a Week. I have only read the first two stories, but I like the dry humor. I believe that book and some other Punch collections are free, or 99 cents, on Amazon US. I grabbed a bunch.


message 35: by Judy (last edited Aug 15, 2016 01:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
That's very interesting, Susan and Sandy - thanks for the details of all these books! I'd definitely like to read more by Milne.

While trying to find out about his mysteries, I came across a 1975 interview with P.G. Wodehouse, where he had just been reading one of the books you mentioned, Susan, Two People, and said he enjoyed it even though he didn't like Milne - he also mentions that he thinks Milne was jealous of him.

http://www.theparisreview.org/intervi...


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
I will be interested to read about their 'feud' in the biography, Judy. I have just got to the point where Milne has recently married (hints it was not a huge success) and WWI has led to him, despite his pacifist leanings, joining up. Again, echoes of all the books we have read so far suggesting that golden generation being virtually wiped out changed everything.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
That's a good article, Judy. I like the bit about meeting Maugham and thinking, oh no, do I need to talk! We've all had that feeling, haven't we?!

I think Milne was, like so many people, a contradiction. A man who was not self made - there was some unpleasantness when he went off to war on half pay, as most people at Punch had allowances and did not need the money. He was aware always of his class, of his ability and of how he needed to pay the bills.

I must admit that I have never warmed to Wodehouse. Jeeves has never appealed to me and I don't really find him funny. I suspect my sympathies will be with Milne...


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...

This is a link to the forthcoming biopic about Milne.


message 39: by Jill (last edited Jun 19, 2017 10:00AM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I remember browsing the Mystery section in the library and saw this book. When I noted the author, I thought it might be mis-shelved but of course it wasn't. I checked it out and loved it......and I agree with you all that he could have continued a series featuring Gillingham with a little bit of tweaking of the character.

I found a quote from Milne that is really quite touching.

"If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you."


message 40: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2146 comments I'm amazed that it is nearly a year ago we read this. The fact it has stayed with me, means I must have really enjoyed it. I have his The Sunny Side: Short Stories and Poems for Proper Grown-Ups which I look forward to reading very soon


message 41: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
Thanks for the link, Susan - I can't wait to see the film! Will hope to read something else by Milne in preparation. I love his comic verse.


Susan | 10344 comments Mod
I did really enjoy his biography, which I think was something you mentioned before? It was fascinating and one of my best reads of the year.


message 43: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9274 comments Mod
For Milne fans, just bumping this thread to say that the new biopic Goodbye Christopher Robin is about to be released- this weekend in the U.K. and I think in a couple of weeks in the US.


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