Wed 18 Jan 2017
C. H. B. KITCHIN – Death of My Aunt. Hogarth Press (L. & V. Woolf), UK, hardcover, 1929. Harcourt Brace & Co., US, hardcover, 1930. Reprinted many times, including Perennial P682, US, paperback, 1984.
Universally acclaimed as a classic, including being included in H. R. F. Keating’s Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books, for example, but I fear Death of My Aunt is starting to show its age. I doubt that many of today’s mystery fans will find much of interest, even if they’re into Sherlock Holmes, say, a character with a lot more going for him than young mild-mannered London stockbroker Malcolm Warren.
For it is he whose aunt dies, unwittingly drinking the poison that kills her right in front of him. Other than the servants, there is no other person in the house save his Uncle Hannibal from a later marriage, so of course Malcolm, who tells his own story, is one of the two primary suspects.
So of course, being a reader of detective stories, Malcolm takes it upon himself to not rely on the capabilities of the police, but to solve the case himself, complete with a written list of all possible suspects, no matter how far away the live, plus the usual: means, motive and opportunity. Kitchen’s witty sense of humor adds immensely to the proceedings, with the emphasis on tracing the poison and when it could have been brought into the house.
Dated and relatively sedate, but for me, still a lot of fun to read. Surprisingly, since this case was so personal, Malcolm Warren made three more appearances as a detective: Crime at Christmas (1934), Death of His Uncle (1939) and The Cornish Fox (1949).