Reading the Detectives discussion

Thirteen Guests (Inspector Kendall #1)
This topic is about Thirteen Guests
26 views
Group reads > August 2020 - Thirteen Guests - SPOILER Thread

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Susan | 10122 comments Mod
Welcome to our August group read: Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon and originally published in 1938.

Farjeon is probably best known for his Ben the Tramp series, the first being No. 17. The reissue of Mystery in White was a huge success and one of the first GA reprints which led to a huge rush for publishers to reissue titles on their books - to our great delight as lovers of the genre. This novel is the first featuring Detective-Inspector Kendall and the second, Seven Dead has also been re-published.

On a fine autumn weekend, Lord Aveling hosts a party at his country house. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist, and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate - but John is nursing a secret of his own. Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Detective Inspector Kendall's skills are tested to the utmost as he tries to uncover the hidden past of everyone there.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2094 comments I do like Farjeon's writing, and although there were a lot of characters, they were well described so it was easy to identify them. I did feel sorry for the dog, but Farjeon also made sure I felt sorry for foxes and stags. I liked the fact the way Foss was kept out of the main party and only allowed glimpses of what was happening beyond his door. I was surprised that Kendall was so cooperative with the journalist and artist, but was pleased he was.


Roman Clodia | 833 comments I enjoyed this so it was a bit disappointing that Farjeon seemed to lose interest in the mystery at the end and simply have the detective write out the solution in his notebook- where was the big Poirot moment in the library? ;))

He seemed far more interested in the lovers which I was happy with and they were treated with more skill than can sometimes be the case.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "I enjoyed this so it was a bit disappointing that Farjeon seemed to lose interest in the mystery at the end and simply have the detective write out the solution in his notebook- where was the big P..."

Having just finished, I agree, RC - though I liked the fact that the detective doesn't actually solve it all and the final twist shows how important his loose end, the missing flask, actually was!

I felt this was a mystery where the build-up is actually better than the investigation, and for me it became less interesting in the second half - I started to glaze over with all the exact timings of when everything happened.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
P.S. I also found it a bit of a disappointment in terms of the mystery that I don't think any of the three deaths were actually murders - I make one self-defence, one manslaughter through a mix-up with poison in the flask and one an accident, unless I missed something, as it did all get a bit complicated!


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 776 comments Judy wrote: "P.S. I also found it a bit of a disappointment in terms of the mystery that I don't think any of the three deaths were actually murders - I make one self-defence, one manslaughter through a mix-up ..."


Legally, I believe that if you deliberately set out to poison Person A, and end up poisoning Person B instead, it is murder, not manslaughter. Otherwise you could get away with murder by claiming that your intended victim had left the room before you detonated the bomb, so the other half dozen victims didn't really count.

Did anyone actually claim that the third death was murder?


Roman Clodia | 833 comments Yes, I loved that final 'twist' about the flask!

Mysteries that depend on split-second timings usually turn me off as I go a bit googly-eyed, but this one didn't go too far.

Has anyone read any other books by Farjeon?


Roman Clodia | 833 comments I also laughed about the Liberal MP who didn't whether to join Labour or the Tories... and went for self-interest in the end ;)


message 9: by Sandy (last edited Aug 06, 2020 06:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sandy | 2846 comments Mod
I also loved the twist with the flask at the end. I had been wondering how the broken blue bottle was going to come into it after being so carefully pointed out by the author but I never suspected the significance. The ending reminded me a bit of Poirot's letting off people he likes.

I never warmed to the beautiful widow so didn't really like that romance. The other romance was quite sweet.


message 10: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
Rosina wrote: "Legally, I believe that if you deliberately set out to poison Person A, and end up poisoning Person B instead, it is murder, not manslaughter. ..."

That's a very good point, but I felt her plan to kill her grandmother was in itself more manslaughter than murder, as the motive was to ease her suffering.


Michaela | 366 comments Finished this, and besides the solution not being quite what Kendall had worked out, I liked the description of the people and much happening through listening at doors and through walls.

I liked that Bultin always was so smart, only to find out that the inspector was ahead of him. Having read a lot of mysteries with amateur detectives, I couldn´t do otherwise than grin. In the end though Kendall wasn´t quite right. ;)


Michaela | 366 comments I didn´t mind that there was no murder, as it was interesting to find out who had planned or accidentily committed which crime and when.

And I´m also no fan of the widow Nadine either, though I liked John Foss.


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

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2094 comments Yes. I thought John Foss was much too nice for the widow.


Roman Clodia | 833 comments Ha, I liked Nadine - and thought they made an interesting couple.


message 15: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2094 comments I liked Nadine but thought John had just had his heart broken, so would be better off without her. At least for a while.


message 16: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
I didn't quite understand what Nadine was supposed to have done to her husband before the start - did anyone follow that bit better than I did? I had the impression she had somehow broken his heart and he had died as a result, which put me off her.


Michaela | 366 comments Obviously she treated him very badly, and they quarrelled the whole time, but he couldn´t leave her till he finally died.


message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
Thanks, Michaela. Do you think she was unfaithful? I wasn't sure - given all the references to her dazzling beauty I thought perhaps the authorr was hinting at that.


Michaela | 366 comments Judy wrote: "Thanks, Michaela. Do you think she was unfaithful? I wasn't sure - given all the references to her dazzling beauty I thought perhaps the authorr was hinting at that."

May well be, though it´s not mentioned expressively!


message 20: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2094 comments I thought somewhere, someone said she plays with men and then drops them.


Pamela (bibliohound) | 369 comments I enjoyed this, I thought it was a lot better than Mystery in White. I was a bit worried when I read there was going to be a stag hunt, but it was used well as a backdrop for the movements of the suspects without any gory detail.

I wasn't keen on Nadine, but I liked Anne, John and the cricketer chap and I really enjoyed Kendall interviewing the mystery writer.


Piyangie | 116 comments Read and finished. This is my first reading of the author so didn't know what to expect, but overall this was a fun read. I enjoyed the satire, perhaps more than the mystery. I also liked the amateur sleuths doing a bit of detective work and assisting the police.

I felt that Inspector Kendall was given less prominence in the story although many chapters were devoted to his interrogations.

Of the characters, I liked Anne, John, Taverley and Nadine. But as many have expressed here I too don't think a union between Nadine and John would be wise. In my opinion, they are quite ill-suited.


Sandy | 2846 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "I enjoyed this, I thought it was a lot better than Mystery in White. I was a bit worried when I read there was going to be a stag hunt, but it was used well as a backdrop for the mo..."

I had forgotten the detective's interview of the mystery author. Thanks for the reminder; I enjoyed it as well.


Indeneri | 32 comments I've just finished this and agree that there was no actual murder.

Link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I almost gave up half way through, waiting for the murder. But once the first body turns up the story starts to race through to the end.

I thought it a bit unlikely that the chef would just admit to having poison on him, and two other people would overhear the conversation in the staff corridor at the same time and both have a use for the poison. The walls at Bragley court must be made of paper, everyone can hear everything in the adjoining rooms.


Susan | 10122 comments Mod
I thought Nadine had a volatile marriage and had been labelled as a vamp and something of a temptress, but was generally kind - she did scoop up John Foss to help him, after all.


Pamela (bibliohound) | 369 comments Nadine had already spotted John in the train queue and we are told he was handsome. Not sure she'd have scooped up an ugly man (or a woman) with such alacrity :)


Michaela | 366 comments Pamela wrote: "Nadine had already spotted John in the train queue and we are told he was handsome. Not sure she'd have scooped up an ugly man (or a woman) with such alacrity :)"

You´re definitely right there!


message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
Indeneri wrote: "I thought it a bit unlikely that the chef would just admit to having poison on him, and two other people would overhear the conversation in the staff corridor at the same time and both have a use for the poison. The walls at Bragley court must be made of paper, everyone can hear everything in the adjoining rooms. ..."

Haha, great point, Indeneri - also, despite the thin walls and echoing corridors, nobody seems to be at all cautious about discussing secret things where they can be overheard!


Susan | 10122 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "Nadine had already spotted John in the train queue and we are told he was handsome. Not sure she'd have scooped up an ugly man (or a woman) with such alacrity :)"

Fair enough, but who could blame her for that? ;)


message 30: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
I did wonder if Farjeon was having a slight pop at Christie with his very famous female detective story writer whose books sell such huge numbers? I don't think he was a member of the Detection Club. Did anyone else wonder this?


Roman Clodia | 833 comments I thought it was more a riff on the fact that Christie amongst others pokes fun at the female novelist: apart from the wonderful Ariadne Oliver there's also the awful writer in Death on the Nile all ajangle with beads and scarabs!


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9072 comments Mod
Just found a good review of this book - I'm slightly wishing I had found this one before reading it, since it includes a handy list of characters! But probably better read after the book really since it does discuss some of the plot, though without real spoilers.

https://crossexaminingcrime.wordpress...


Piyangie | 116 comments I was entertained highly by guest overhearing things and Inspector Kendall, knowing this as a fact, relying on them for information on each other and their whereabouts.

The female crime authors were generally satirized in all these detective fictions I feel. Agatha Christie is no better. I thought she did with Ariadne Oliver what exactly Farjeon does here with Edyth Fermoy-Jones.


back to top