It’s almost as Christmassy as turkey and Santa – the Christmas murder mystery. An old country house with lots of visitors, a celebration, a scream in the night and Hercule Poirot, or Albert Campion or Inspector Wexford on hand to solve it. No way of contacting the outer world, but there’s a murderer on the loose, and who knows who is going to be next?
These days that kind of murder mystery, aka the Christmas whodunit, isn’t around as much as it used to be, but it could be. After all, we still get romance stories where the participants are snowed in—one of my favourite romance tropes, if done properly. Snuggling by the fire on a fur rug wrapped in a comforter purloined off the nearest bed, toasting marshmallows—perhaps not the last bit if they’re naked.
I’ve never had a country house Christmas, with or without a murder. Maybe I should put it on my list. I won’t call it a bucket list. I just have a list of things I want to do. Next year I get to fulfil another one when I go to New Orleans. I’m going to the RT Convention, but I’m also going to have a wonderful touristy time with a friend from Glasgow.
But back to the country house. They are beautiful at any time of the year, and rightly so, because they were designed that way. There are lots of nooks and crannies, plenty of places to get up to nefarious activities, like, oh, a bit of murder. Or a bit of clandestine loving. But in reality, the larger country houses these days aren’t really isolated. They have helipads, satellite systems and lots of staff. These days, unless it’s royalty, the staff are more involved in looking after the house and its treasures than they are the occupants, but with most of the treasure houses open to the public, there are fewer opportunities to get snowed in. Blenheim, Chatsworth, Longleat—these places are businesses. Mind you, a murder at Longleat would be interesting, because it’s a wildlife park with lions and giraffes and elephants. A wonderful place for a murder, but only a fictional one, you understand!
However there are lots and lots of private houses of a good size, places that could conceivably be cut off for a few days. More likely in the early months of the new year than Christmas, but a bit of poetic licence and some unseasonable weather would take care of that.
Makes me want to go and write one. A bit too late for this year, but maybe I should think about next?