J. JEFFERSON FARJEON “Secrets in the Snow.” Short story. Included in Best Stories of the Underworld, edited by Peter Cheyney (Faber & Faber, hardcover, 1942; reprinted 1949). Original publication as yet unknown.

   When a Christmas Eve motor-coach gets stuck in a snowstorm, a young woman named Janet, anxious to get to her destination and the house party waiting for her, decides to tag along after her taciturn seat companion, who heads off in the storm in the direction she is going. He tries to dissuade her, telling her that he’s from Scotland Yard and that he’s on a job.

   She persists and begins to follow him anyway. Strangely, however, she discovers another set of footprints also on the trail she is following. Both are moving faster than she can, and she is all but lost when thankfully she comes to a small cottage with a fire going in the fireplace and a hot teapot set out on a small table.

   She is alone, she thinks, but no, a small wizened caretaker pops his head in. But why he is a carrying a shovel, which has been recently used? Then, as she is changing into a warm set of closing, he disappears into the snow, and she hears a small cry out in the darkness.

   Intrigued? If you’re not, you’re a much more a non-curious person than I. Also, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, this story may remind you of a full-length novel, Mystery in White, which was also written by Farjeon and first published in 1937. A reprint edition came out in 2014, and I reviewed it here.

   The mystery in “Secrets in the Snow”  is wrapped up neatly and efficiently. It’s a crime story, not a detective tale, so fairness to the reader does not come into play, but its lack of length also means it’s short enough to not wear out its welcome.  This one was fun.