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"Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931." Thus begins a classic crime novel published in 1933, a riveting portrait of the psychology of a murderer. Each December, Adrian Gray invites his extended family to stay at his lonely house, Kings Poplars. None of Gray's six surviving children "Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931." Thus begins a classic crime novel published in 1933, a riveting portrait of the psychology of a murderer. Each December, Adrian Gray invites his extended family to stay at his lonely house, Kings Poplars. None of Gray's six surviving children is fond of him; several have cause to wish him dead. The family gathers on Christmas Eve - and by the following morning, their wish has been granted. This fascinating and unusual novel tells the story of what happened that dark Christmas night; and what the murderer did next.


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"Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931." Thus begins a classic crime novel published in 1933, a riveting portrait of the psychology of a murderer. Each December, Adrian Gray invites his extended family to stay at his lonely house, Kings Poplars. None of Gray's six surviving children "Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931." Thus begins a classic crime novel published in 1933, a riveting portrait of the psychology of a murderer. Each December, Adrian Gray invites his extended family to stay at his lonely house, Kings Poplars. None of Gray's six surviving children is fond of him; several have cause to wish him dead. The family gathers on Christmas Eve - and by the following morning, their wish has been granted. This fascinating and unusual novel tells the story of what happened that dark Christmas night; and what the murderer did next.

30 review for Portrait of a Murderer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    Adrian Gray, a country gentleman, will be murdered by one of his six children on Christmas Eve, 1931. The seventy year old patriarch is hosting the Gray family's yearly holiday gathering. Adrian is a despicable tight wad who parents by using humiliation. His children either tolerate or despise him. One will take his life. Here are the players. Richard, married to a society woman, has been knighted but wants to obtain a peerage, an honorary title commanding even more respect. Unmarried Amy is Adri Adrian Gray, a country gentleman, will be murdered by one of his six children on Christmas Eve, 1931. The seventy year old patriarch is hosting the Gray family's yearly holiday gathering. Adrian is a despicable tight wad who parents by using humiliation. His children either tolerate or despise him. One will take his life. Here are the players. Richard, married to a society woman, has been knighted but wants to obtain a peerage, an honorary title commanding even more respect. Unmarried Amy is Adrian's housekeeper. She shrewdly counts everything, every slice of bread, and will calculate the cost of each item served at Christmas dinner. Olivia is married to unscrupulous financier, Eustace Moore. Moore is Adrian's financial adviser. Isabel had returned home after a disastrous marriage, scandal avoided, through the allowance provided by her husband. Ruth's marriage to lawyer Miles Avery showed promise. Miles, however, was satisfied with less earnings and not driven by ambition. The youngest child, Hildebrand was a penniless, bohemian, would be artist. The murder has now been committed. The reader having witnessed the criminal act follows the murderer's attempt to deflect the blame. Can the murderer concoct a well thought out plan before the body is discovered on Christmas Day? "Portrait of a Murderer" by Anne Meredith is a unique kind of mystery. We are privy to the murder and now follow the thinking involved in self-preservation as the murderer sets the stage to implicate a different family member. Will it work? An entertaining and most enjoyable read. Thank you Poisoned Pen Press and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Portrait of a Murderer".

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    It’s Christmas 1931. *Pause - That’s it for Christmas, so if the lovely, traditional cover suggests that you might find here some warm, Christmas-infused tale or lesson in the Christmas spirit, you’ve been had. On the other hand, if like me you run with gusto in the opposite direction from heart-warming tales of the resilience of the human spirit and happy families where all value each other’s individuality, stick around, this novel is just right for you. So . . .where were we? Ah. It is Christma It’s Christmas 1931. *Pause - That’s it for Christmas, so if the lovely, traditional cover suggests that you might find here some warm, Christmas-infused tale or lesson in the Christmas spirit, you’ve been had. On the other hand, if like me you run with gusto in the opposite direction from heart-warming tales of the resilience of the human spirit and happy families where all value each other’s individuality, stick around, this novel is just right for you. So . . .where were we? Ah. It is Christmas 1931, thick snow lies all around an estate with a name, Kings Poplar. Imagine Downtown Abbey 15 years after the series ended. The aristocracy isn’t what it used to be, but some of the younger generation of those aristocratic families are caught by the sudden change. They believe it’s their right to be funded without gainful employ. The whiff of “scandal” is the greatest evil, to be avoided at all costs. The social hierarchy remains but is much less impactful than it once was. The “estate” is in disrepair. The lives of the nearby villagers have little to no connection or loyalty to the family. As in a few dozen other 1930s-era British mysteries, we have: • the requisite cold, judgmental and cantankerous father, Adrian Gray. He gets along with none of his adult children and respects neither their values nor their spouses. • His sons, Richard and Brand, and daughters, Amy, Olivia, Ruth and Isobel. • A son-in-law, Eustace, with whom Adrian has invested the lion’s share of the family’s liquid assets. Another is an attorney, married to Ruth. A daughter-in-law, Sophie, married to Brand, whom all – including Brand – consider common and taking advantage of Brand whilst producing babies that may not be his. Another daughter-in-law, Laura, married to Richard, rounds out the set and becomes one of my favorite characters. Here’s where the similarity to other mysteries ends. Portrait of a Murderer is not a whodunit. We are told in its initial sentence that one of the kids will kill Adrian over the holiday. Then he or she does so, and the reader is in the room when it occurs. Boom. Portrait of a Murderer is, on the one hand, a Columbo-like story focused on determining how the murderer slipped up and will become captured and, on the other hand, a far more interesting, well-plotted, intelligent tale anchored in the device of a murder mystery of the once-wealthy class, as well as the working class, between the wars. Their world has forever altered, but some of the family are moving forward, and some are clinging to a past they are unable to recapture. The sexism, anti-semiticism, classism – including a jarringly offensive perspective of Eustace, a Jewish investment professional, and Sergeant Murray, the police detective assigned to investigate the case – might be breathtaking to one accustomed to reading historical fiction written post-1990, where it is often toned down a bit. Portrait of a Murderer reminds the reader that anti-semitic views were commonplace, not rare or challenged at the time the novel takes place. Meredith’s writing is elegant and efficient. She presents a cast of characters whose values and concerns cause the reader to, initially, dislike them all. Then she turns almost every one of those presuppositions on their head, challenging the reader to look more closely. Where the reader first sees mere stereotypes, Meredith fleshes out the depth of each character’s thinking, their motives and weaknesses, as well as detailing the impact of Adrian Gray’s death on their goals, dreams and expectations. For some, his death means freedom. For others, it’s the end of the dream. More than a few are not interested in justice for the killer, since that means having their good names bandied about by the public. One of the strengths of Portrait of a Murderer is that it includes a focus on the impoverished and desperate, in the form of Brand’s family, in particular, the impact of poverty on Brand’s children, and his and his family’s total disregard for their lives and welfare. Meredith takes a chapter to show us an interaction between Brand and Sophie, at their then-shared home, and her language and approach is almost Dickensian in the absence of sugar-coating and description of the circumstances in which the children lived. The ending is unexpected, brilliant, and shows Meredith’s understanding of her characters and their motives. I couldn’t have asked for more in a mystery read. Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for providing a copy. About the author “Anne Meredith” is one of the pseudonyms under which Lucy Beatrice Malleson wrote. She lived from 1899 – 1973, and is better known for her detective novels written under the name “Anthony Gilbert”.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    EXCERPT: Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931. The crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated, and the murderer was left staring at the weapon on the table to the dead man in the shadows of the tapestry curtains, not apprehensive, not yet afraid, but incredulous and dumb. ABOUT THIS BOOK: "Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Chri EXCERPT: Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931. The crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated, and the murderer was left staring at the weapon on the table to the dead man in the shadows of the tapestry curtains, not apprehensive, not yet afraid, but incredulous and dumb. ABOUT THIS BOOK: "Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931." Thus begins a classic crime novel published in 1933, a riveting portrait of the psychology of a murderer. Each December, Adrian Gray invites his extended family to stay at his lonely house, Kings Poplars. None of Gray's six surviving children is fond of him; several have cause to wish him dead. The family gathers on Christmas Eve - and by the following morning, their wish has been granted. This fascinating and unusual novel tells the story of what happened that dark Christmas night; and what the murderer did next. MY THOUGHTS: This is not a 'whodunit' in the traditional sense, nor can it really be classified as a detective story, although there is some detecting done by the murderer's brother. There is no mystery, because we know the story from the beginning, we are there for the kill. What it is, is a portrait of a family, none of whom particularly like one another, and what happens when one of them, who we know is not guilty, is charged with murder. It is also a story of how the true murderer is able to cast the seeds of suspicion elsewhere. I can't say that I particularly like this approach. I prefer a mystery. But having said that, I was kept interested to the end. There is some beautiful atmospheric writing - 'The house was uneasy with the noises of old houses at night. Doors creaked and shadows seemed full of anonymous life; phantom steps sounded in empty corridors and on the black stairs.' And the author has a beautiful turn of phrase when describing the relationships between the characters - 'He persisted in loading his wife up with jewels, handsome clothes, and furs - "Putting his trademark on me, so that I can't be mislaid wherever I go, " said Laura bitterly. This action on his part caused other wives to say in envious tones, "It must be wonderful to have a husband like Richard Gray. That wife of his hasn’t done a thing for him, and he's the most generous soul alive. Some women have all the luck." Which, as Laura knew, was Richard's crafty intention, and a new way of humiliating her. ' Anne Meredith was a pseudonym of Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973) who is best known as the author of the Arthur Crook series of detective novels published under the name of Anthony Gilbert. She was a highly esteemed writer of crime fiction and a member of the elite Detection Club, but the 'Anne Meredith' books were out of print for many years. I am interested enough to try the Arthur Crook series, if I can lay my hands on them. 3 stars. Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the 'about' page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    This is not a traditional mystery where a crime is committed and the criminal is tracked down. Instead, the criminal is revealed to us when the crime is committed, and what awaits is whether he'll be caught or not. I was very much disappointed with this structure, for, in my opinion, it robbed the suspense entirely. The ambiguity of who'd done it is what makes a murder-mystery interesting. Those who read and love the genre understand the pleasure we derive in playing the amateur sleuth, collecti This is not a traditional mystery where a crime is committed and the criminal is tracked down. Instead, the criminal is revealed to us when the crime is committed, and what awaits is whether he'll be caught or not. I was very much disappointed with this structure, for, in my opinion, it robbed the suspense entirely. The ambiguity of who'd done it is what makes a murder-mystery interesting. Those who read and love the genre understand the pleasure we derive in playing the amateur sleuth, collecting clues and putting the pieces of the puzzle together, to find who committed the crime. But all that pleasure is lost here, as we learn who the criminal is in the very act of the crime. Added to it, the characters were very unpleasant. The rivalry between the siblings and their open antagonism was tiring. I couldn't even sympathize with the victim when his character was revealed. The author tries to pour some sympathy on the perpetrator, by dwelling on his state of mind and the genius of his artistry with the use of the "portrait of a murderer", to little effect. To me, he was nothing but a self-serving, deluded man who has no human sympathy. The story is more or less revolves around the inner thoughts of the criminal and other characters, with very little police involvement, giving the overall impression of a psychological thriller rather than crime fiction. And still more, I was of the impression that this was a Christmas mystery, but I didn't feel any seasonal touch! The only thing I positively liked is the author's writing, which at least helped me through to the end. It was a big disappointment on the whole, for all the reasons I've stated. I was truly looking forward to enjoying this, and perhaps, that may be the reason why I feel strongly let down.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is not a traditional mystery, as the reader is aware of who the murderer is from the beginning of events. It is set over Christmas, 1931, when a house party of disgruntled family members converge on the family home of Adrian Gray. It is soon apparent that this is not to be a Christmas full of merriment and cheer, but of unhappy marriages, thwarted ambitions, financial issues and long held grudges. Indeed, before long, Adrian Gray is murdered by one of his children and the person responsible This is not a traditional mystery, as the reader is aware of who the murderer is from the beginning of events. It is set over Christmas, 1931, when a house party of disgruntled family members converge on the family home of Adrian Gray. It is soon apparent that this is not to be a Christmas full of merriment and cheer, but of unhappy marriages, thwarted ambitions, financial issues and long held grudges. Indeed, before long, Adrian Gray is murdered by one of his children and the person responsible attempts to evade suspicion. Although this is an interesting premise, I did not really have much sympathy with any of the characters and struggled to sustain my interest in the story. Although we were introduced to the - much more interesting, in my opinion - sergeant in charge, Ross Murray, his character was sadly not really built on. Overall, something of a disappointing Christmas crime story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    full post here: http://www.crimesegments.com/2020/12/... Warning: cute and cozy this book is definitely not. While it begins at a family gathering at Christmas, nobody's going a-wassailing, nor is there even the slightest hint of sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting tingling too -- this is the story of an unpremeditated but cold-blooded murder, the person responsible, and the aftermath. The usual Christmas tradition at the Gray house is for the Gray children to come to the family home. Out of six, th full post here: http://www.crimesegments.com/2020/12/... Warning: cute and cozy this book is definitely not. While it begins at a family gathering at Christmas, nobody's going a-wassailing, nor is there even the slightest hint of sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting tingling too -- this is the story of an unpremeditated but cold-blooded murder, the person responsible, and the aftermath. The usual Christmas tradition at the Gray house is for the Gray children to come to the family home. Out of six, there are two already living at Kings Poplars; the remaining four had long ago left to make their way in the world. Yuletide is not necessarily a happy time for this family, because, as we are told early on, patriarch Adrian Gray is, "on good terms with none of his children." We learn why this is over the first forty-something pages, and we also learn why it is that, as the back-cover blurb notes, "None of Gray's six surviving children is fond of him; several have cause to wish him dead." Christmas morning rolls around, and Adrian has failed to join the family for breakfast or for the usual Christmas task of reading the lessons. When he is found dead in his library, it was thought at first he'd suffered a stroke but when the police arrive, it doesn't take long to figure out that Adrian's demise was anything but natural. The killer, however, is ready for them, having arranged things so that the accusing finger points elsewhere. I won't reveal any details, but this setup makes for very tense reading right up to the end as an innocent person is arrested, tried, and sentenced. Will justice be served or will a murderer remain free to walk the streets? Although the forty-plus pages in part one are mettle-testing to even the most patient of readers, do not give up -- the information gleaned from there will serve you greatly in the long run. This is the sort of crime novel I love reading, answering the question of why rather than focusing on the who. As Carolyn Wells is quoted as saying in the introduction, it is indeed a most "Human Document." I couldn't put it down once I'd started.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    3.5 stars -- in form, this is a really interesting book. There are several sections that take the form of a traditional multi-POV , a diary from a murderer, etc. which lend to the conceit of this book. Exactly what the title implies, this is a close study of a murderer before, during, and after their crime, and within that project, this is a very successful book. Preference wise, I don't prefer that a puzzle mystery reveals whodunnit almost immediately, so it wasn't wholly successful for me pers 3.5 stars -- in form, this is a really interesting book. There are several sections that take the form of a traditional multi-POV , a diary from a murderer, etc. which lend to the conceit of this book. Exactly what the title implies, this is a close study of a murderer before, during, and after their crime, and within that project, this is a very successful book. Preference wise, I don't prefer that a puzzle mystery reveals whodunnit almost immediately, so it wasn't wholly successful for me personally as a mystery. That said, I really admire the writing and execution & would recommend if this sounds like one that would jive with your own preferences

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    None of the characters in Meredith's novel are very nice, not least Adrian Gray, who meets his death at the hands of one of his own children as they celebrated Christmas at Kings Poplars in 1931. Its an inverted crime novel, in that we know who did it, rather, the interest is created in will the person manage to get away with it. After the initial and lenghty introduction to the family, which takes a fifth of the book and borders on the tedious, the story gets going Meredith gets to show her ski None of the characters in Meredith's novel are very nice, not least Adrian Gray, who meets his death at the hands of one of his own children as they celebrated Christmas at Kings Poplars in 1931. Its an inverted crime novel, in that we know who did it, rather, the interest is created in will the person manage to get away with it. After the initial and lenghty introduction to the family, which takes a fifth of the book and borders on the tedious, the story gets going Meredith gets to show her skill in what becomes a compelling study of the key characters with engrossing period detail. There’s a chapter after about a fifth of the novel in which the murderer narrates, and talks us through the crime. It’s noir writing of the highest quality, and the real highlight of the book. The book is from the British Library Crime Classics series, and was recommended by Martin Edwards on his Goodreads page, usually a recommendation to take on board, and certainly this was the case here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan in NC

    DNF - really not my kind of book, good writing for bits, but verbose and confusing in parts. Failed to hold my interest once Adrian Grey is murdered and his body is discovered. Family full of miserable marriages, greedy, grasping snobs, shallow, nasty people - and one murderer. We know early on who did it, so I read the epilogue and decided it wasn’t worth any more of my reading time. Too many books...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Certainly a very unusual mystery. We know the murderer, more of a Columbo style mystery. Incredibly anti-Semitic showing just how prevalent hatred of Jews was in the 1930ies. Hard to read in places for this aspect alone. If you are looking for a whodunnit this is not the one to go for. Ok, amusing in places, but leaving a tad of an unpleasant after taste.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    In each episode of the TV series Columbo, the script immediately identified the perpetrator of the crime, and the viewer’s pleasure came from watching the disheveled, deceptively dim homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo inexorably hone in on the malefactor’s trail. But that trick (known as the “inverted detective format” long predates Columbo, first appearing in 1912’s The Singing Bone. Portrait of a Murderer — a 1931 novel by Anne Meredith, one of Lucy Malleson’s several pen names — also follow In each episode of the TV series Columbo, the script immediately identified the perpetrator of the crime, and the viewer’s pleasure came from watching the disheveled, deceptively dim homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo inexorably hone in on the malefactor’s trail. But that trick (known as the “inverted detective format” long predates Columbo, first appearing in 1912’s The Singing Bone. Portrait of a Murderer — a 1931 novel by Anne Meredith, one of Lucy Malleson’s several pen names — also follows the inverted detective format and pretty well. And the book really does live up to its title. The novel reveals — in its very first sentence, no less — that the loathsome Adrian Gray is to be murdered by one of his six children. So no spoiler there. About a fifth of the way through the novel, Meredith reveals which one. And, even though I knew the perpetrator, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching to see if the killer would get away with the crime, and the book provides a great window into the mind of a murderer. Further, Meredith does an amazing job with keeping what could have easily fallen into a cliché: a 70-year-old patriarch reunites the family for Christmas at the old homestead and one of the six children or their spouses takes advantage to slay the old dragon. The novel sometimes waxes too philosophical, and I ended up skimming once in a while, but I’d still recommend it to readers looking for something different. In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley, British Library and Poisoned Pen Press in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    The crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated, and the murderer was left staring from the weapon on the table to the dead man in the shadow of the tapestry curtains, not apprehensive, not yet afraid, but incredulous and dumb. This is not a spoiler. This is the start of the book. Unlike other murder mysteries, the book starts with the murder and even shows us who the murderer is. The suspense element in this story is based on whether the murderer gets caught in the story. In a way, this was a lot The crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated, and the murderer was left staring from the weapon on the table to the dead man in the shadow of the tapestry curtains, not apprehensive, not yet afraid, but incredulous and dumb. This is not a spoiler. This is the start of the book. Unlike other murder mysteries, the book starts with the murder and even shows us who the murderer is. The suspense element in this story is based on whether the murderer gets caught in the story. In a way, this was a lot like an episode of Columbo, where we also see the solution to the murder mystery at the start of the episode, then watch Columbo drive the murder nuts with questions until they trip up in their own web of lies. Unlike in Columbo, there is no clever detective driving the murder to confession, and instead we, the readers, are fully relying on the Gray family to find out the truth. Unfortunately, most of the family are rather unlikable. “A charming family débâcle,” Olivia agreed. “Well, you must acknowledge this, Eustace. We do do things thoroughly; no skulking in odd corners for the Grays, once they get started.” And yet! I really enjoyed this book. It took a while to get the story going and to get used to the characters and structure of the story, but there is something incredible thrilling in watching this train wreck and hoping that someone will slam on the brakes before an innocent person is hanged.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    In the bleak midwinter... Every Christmas, the Gray family gather at the home of their elderly father, Adrian Gray – a rather unpleasant, miserly sort of man who has produced an equally unpleasant bunch of children on the whole. This Christmas, in 1931, only a couple of the children are there out of any feelings of affection – most are trying to screw money out of the old man. There's Richard, a politician who desperately wants a title, but feels he needs to put on a show of wealth to impress the In the bleak midwinter... Every Christmas, the Gray family gather at the home of their elderly father, Adrian Gray – a rather unpleasant, miserly sort of man who has produced an equally unpleasant bunch of children on the whole. This Christmas, in 1931, only a couple of the children are there out of any feelings of affection – most are trying to screw money out of the old man. There's Richard, a politician who desperately wants a title, but feels he needs to put on a show of wealth to impress the people who could grant his wish. Eustace is a son-in-law, married to Adrian's daughter Olivia – a dodgy financier, his whole reputation is on the line if he doesn't manage to raise a substantial sum of money urgently. Brand is the most wayward of them all, having run off in his youth to try his hand at being an artist. Despite his talent, he's now working as a low-paid clerk and wants money so he can take off back to Paris to try to revive his career as a painter. Daughter Amy has never left home and has to find ways to run the house on the meagre allowance her rich father allows her. Isobel is home again after her marriage failed – she seems to have faded into a ghostlike presence, but are there passions burning beneath? Only Ruth seems happy, married to a man who seems quite content with what he's got and wants nothing from the old man. As Christmas Eve fades into Christmas Day, one of these people will murder Adrian... In fact, we find out quite early on who murders Adrian and why. This is an “inverted mystery” where the bulk of the story rests on whether and how the murderer will be caught. It's also a psychological study of the murderer and of all the other people in the house. Most of the book is in the third person, but we are allowed inside the murderer's head as the crime is committed and as s/he attempts to cover his/her traces – and it's a scary place to be. This murderer has a philosophy of life that puts little value on anything except the achievement of her/his desires – and the death of his/her father is a small price to pay. But s/he doesn't want to pay the larger price of being caught and punished, so s/he's more than willing to sacrifice another family member to the inevitable meeting with the hangman. Well, I think that's more than enough his/hers and he/shes for one review, so I'll leave you to find out the rest of the plot by reading the book. However, the story also has a lot to say about the society of the time, some of it intentional and some perhaps more inadvertent. The Gray family were once landowners but the old gentry are fading now and they have gradually had to sell most of their land. Meredith strongly suggests a matching moral decay in the gentry class – in the Grays specifically, but one feels she's making a wider point. Through Eustace, the financier, we see the rise of the new rich and their morals don't seem much better. Unfortunately Eustace is also the subject of a rather unpleasant undertone of anti-Semitism – not unusual for the time, of course, but somehow it seems a little worse than usual in this one, with several glancing but rather offensive references to physical as well as moral deficiencies. Richard is the social climber, and his story also shows the subtle ways men could be cruel to their wives in the days when divorce was still scandalous. To be fair, though Eustace comes off worst, none of Meredith's characters are shown in a wholly shining light. There's quite a lot of moral ambiguity in how the story plays out and again I felt only some of this was intentional, while the rest felt like Meredith's own prejudices peeping through. But that doesn't make it any the less absorbing – after a slowish start when I wondered whether it would grab me, I found myself increasingly reluctant to put the book down. It's not really because of any great suspense – it's relatively obvious what direction the story will take. But the interest is in the slow reveal of the mind of the murderer and in the attitudes of the other characters towards him/her and each other. There's no excess padding here and no reliance on dramatic, incredible twists. Instead, there's excellent writing and a believable study of a mind that may not follow normal conventions but has a kind of compelling logic of its own. And the deliberate unpleasantness of both the victim and the person the murderer chooses to take the rap means there's a kind of debate as to whether the murderer is actually the worst of them in moral terms. Fascinating stuff – I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book itself is lovely – a special hardback edition to celebrate this being the 50th in the British Library's Crime Classic series, and this year's Christmas issue. As well as the usual informative introduction from Martin Edwards, it also contains an interesting short essay from him on the history of Christmas related crime fiction. It's the perfect Christmas gift for the crime fan in your family – especially if that happens to be you! NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This is a novel primarily interested in portraying characters. And rarely have I encountered a less likable batch of people (or people I wish could escape from those people). The murderer's identity is revealed halfway through, and the rest is a matter of bringing home evidence to the culprit. Content note: very anti-Semitic. This is a novel primarily interested in portraying characters. And rarely have I encountered a less likable batch of people (or people I wish could escape from those people). The murderer's identity is revealed halfway through, and the rest is a matter of bringing home evidence to the culprit. Content note: very anti-Semitic.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cleopatra Pullen

    It has taken me a while to write this review because I needed time for the book to settle before I could decide how I felt about it. One of its strengths, and weaknesses, was because it isn’t a conventional crime story. We learn who the murderer is fairly early on with the rest of the novel spent watching from the wings to see if they will get caught. Now considering the book was written in 1933 this was a brave move, although this author was quite established under another pen name Anthony Gilb It has taken me a while to write this review because I needed time for the book to settle before I could decide how I felt about it. One of its strengths, and weaknesses, was because it isn’t a conventional crime story. We learn who the murderer is fairly early on with the rest of the novel spent watching from the wings to see if they will get caught. Now considering the book was written in 1933 this was a brave move, although this author was quite established under another pen name Anthony Gilbert. However it does mean that for people like me who don’t particularly enjoy the thought of anyone going unpunished, especially for murder, it makes the read a little bit more traumatic than I expect the author intended. Anyway back to the story. We have a patriarch Adrian Grey, an elderly and not particularly nice man, who has his children to stay for Christmas 1931. There are six children in all, and some of them have bought their partners, and although a grand house like King Poplars should have room enough for them all to rub along nicely, it appears not. One of his children, or their partners kills Adrian Grey. Not such a happy Christmas after all! Could it be Richard the politician who needs some hard cash to make a little problem disappear? Surely it isn’t younger daughter Amy, the one who stayed behind to keep house and resent any reckless use of her tightly budgeted household? Or Isobel who made an unwise marriage and has returned home with whatever bloom she possessed faded until she is almost the background? Or the son-in-law Eustace who is financier who seems to have dragged the old man into a bit of bother money-wise? Or younger son Brand? He’s the one who is different and ran away to Paris to become an artist and whose blousy wife and mucky children were most definitely not invited to join the Christmas cheer. Surely it can’t be Ruth the happily married daughter who appears to want nothing from her curmudgeonly father? Well we do know it was one of them, and to be honest few of them have enough positive traits to outweigh the negative ones. As it happens we are put inside the head of the murderer at the point of the killing and know who has done it, what they did to hide any evidence and how they acted post discovery. And this is the bit I liked, this witnessing a fairly unpleasant brood as they try to hide, or minimise, any motive they may have, or in plain speaking are willing to throw each other under the bus if it keeps them in the clear. A Portrait of a Murderer on balance was a more interesting than an entertaining read. It shone a light on the fading prospects of those who were clinging to their upper class status at a time when everything was changing and fast. Adrian Grey was far from the only wealthy landowner who was having to cut his cloth a wee bit tighter after all. I’m quite glad I chose to read this out of season, it would probably have put a bit of a dampener on my Christmas dinner but there is no doubting that the British Library Crime Classics has done us all a favour by bringing this book back from obscurity for our enjoyment, whatever the weather.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michaela

    Well written, but not the mystery I expected.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Judy Lesley

    Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for a digital galley of this novel. This novel written in 1933 is not so much a mystery as a psychological look at a murderer and the reasons for the crime. The family gathered at King's Poplars in 1931 to celebrate Christmas. Adrian Gray had not expected anything but trouble with his adult children but he got more than he had expected when his murder took pride of place in the emotional stew surrounding the lives of his family. This is just not a favo Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for a digital galley of this novel. This novel written in 1933 is not so much a mystery as a psychological look at a murderer and the reasons for the crime. The family gathered at King's Poplars in 1931 to celebrate Christmas. Adrian Gray had not expected anything but trouble with his adult children but he got more than he had expected when his murder took pride of place in the emotional stew surrounding the lives of his family. This is just not a favorite style of mystery for me and, therefore, I didn't enjoy it very much. I do know that my preferences are strictly my own so I am trying to be fair to the author. The murderer is revealed early on and the first half of the novel is spent showing the emotional feelings of all the people gathered at the house with their squabbles, bickering and disagreements. None of them was a sympathetic character so it really mattered little to me who had actually done the deed of murder. What was important to each of the characters was money. The police presence happens at about the halfway point and from this point the book held my attention so I read the last half with more interest than the first. Still, even the police investigation did not raise this book past a three star rating. When I forget I'm even reading a book until I accidently run across it in my e-reader, that is never going to elicit a ringing endorsement from me. If you prefer to know the psychological reasoning behind the crime of murder, plus the subsequent justification for what was done you might want to give this one a try.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anissa

    When the patriarch of a family is found to be dead on Christmas morning and not one of his six children nor their accompanying spouses can be bothered to even give the pretence of mourning him, you know it's going to be a ripping read. Adrian Gray is that patriarch and even more unfortunate than not being mourned by his brood, one of them has murdered him. This story takes through not just on the who but along the winding road of why and the coverup and framing of another. Go all in on dastardly When the patriarch of a family is found to be dead on Christmas morning and not one of his six children nor their accompanying spouses can be bothered to even give the pretence of mourning him, you know it's going to be a ripping read. Adrian Gray is that patriarch and even more unfortunate than not being mourned by his brood, one of them has murdered him. This story takes through not just on the who but along the winding road of why and the coverup and framing of another. Go all in on dastardly deeds or go home, I suppose. The killer recounts the murder to the reader and gives background on their relationship with their father and wider family. Adrian Gray is rather cold, judgmental and demanding and it seems to have done nothing for his spawn but made them a grasping, craven lot who don't care about him or each other but are all singularly interested in the name and the money. This makes for an interesting feeling when reading how one is framed and tried as the miscarriage of justice is undeniable but there's no real will to pull for the further fortunes of the wrongly accused. When I finished this I had to give it about a day to think about my review. Overall, a well-done story. There's quite a bit of breathtaking anti-semitism here directed at one character and given the time and setting, it makes sense. Still, it was jarring and I hadn't expected it. This reminded me of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie with the murderer cleverly casting seeds of misdirection about and almost getting away with it. Apparently, whether in Kings Poplars or King's Abbot don't let the halcyon settings lull you into thinking you've not happened upon a nest of vipers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I gather that this is the fiftieth forgotten classic to be issued in the British Library series. I have read nearly all of them and in many ways find this the most difficult to review. The plot is, on the surface, simple. Adrian Gray is murdered in the library of his house, King’s Poplars, deep in the heart of Grebeshire, at Christmas. The murderer is one of his six children. The culprit is revealed one fifth of the way into the book. The remainder provides a psychological study of that person and I gather that this is the fiftieth forgotten classic to be issued in the British Library series. I have read nearly all of them and in many ways find this the most difficult to review. The plot is, on the surface, simple. Adrian Gray is murdered in the library of his house, King’s Poplars, deep in the heart of Grebeshire, at Christmas. The murderer is one of his six children. The culprit is revealed one fifth of the way into the book. The remainder provides a psychological study of that person and a little detection, both professional and amateur. To say more would be too revealing. The Gray family members, and some of their spouses, are mostly eminently dislikeable. I found the murderer to be one of the most egocentric and hateful I have encountered in Golden Age fiction-a tribute to the vivid portrayal at which Anne Meredith excels. The only jarring note in her pen portraits is the casual anti-Semitism, so typical of this period, and so unacceptable. I cannot say I enjoyed reading this book although it was undoubtedly compelling.The writing is excellent and the concept is brilliantly carried through. Avid readers of Golden Age British detection might like to compare this with Christie’s 1938 novel, “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas”. In my opinion, “Portrait of a Murderer” is vastly superior. This edition comes with an informative Introduction by Martin Edwards which ends:- 'Yet Portrait of a Murderer is notable for its portrayal of character and social comment, and illustrates the truth that, contrary to widespread belief, a good many crime novels written during “the Golden Age of murder” between the two world wars were anything but cosy.' Be warned!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Firmly set during the Christmas period, A Portrait of a Murderer is more Christmassy than my last so-called Christmas mystery, but really it isn’t very Christmassy at all. Christmas is merely the device which brings people together, almost all of whom are absolutely horrid. There is absolutely no Christmas spirit in evidence. However, the story is deftly plotted and in a twist to the traditional whodunnit which I particularly enjoyed, we know fairly early on who the murderer is. I’ve always been Firmly set during the Christmas period, A Portrait of a Murderer is more Christmassy than my last so-called Christmas mystery, but really it isn’t very Christmassy at all. Christmas is merely the device which brings people together, almost all of whom are absolutely horrid. There is absolutely no Christmas spirit in evidence. However, the story is deftly plotted and in a twist to the traditional whodunnit which I particularly enjoyed, we know fairly early on who the murderer is. I’ve always been a fan of TV detective Columbo, so I enjoy mysteries that use this device. “”Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931. The Crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated, and the murderer was left staring from the weapon on the table to the dead man in the shadow of the tapestry curtains, not apprehensive, not yet afraid, but incredulous and dumb.” Adrian Gray is a difficult old man, he has a poor relationship with his adult children and their spouses, having little time or respect for any of them. His eldest son Richard is a rising MP with his sights firmly set on the Lords, unhappily married to Laura, he is pompous, self-serving and ambitious. Gray’s sour daughter Amy has remained living in the family house, running it like a military operation, her life is narrow and joyless. Olivia is married to Eustace a Jewish financier (cue lots of horrible, stereotypical racial profiling, which is dreadfully uncomfortable and spoiled the book a little for me I have to be honest) full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2017/...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yibbie

    This is a very well written suspenseful book. While it is an inverted mystery, it’s not solely from the murderer’s perspective. Instead, we get glimpses the crime from those most involved. It starts out with a lengthy introduction to the most prominent characters. Then with startling abruptness, the crime is committed. What follows is a tortuous sorting out of personalities and clues. There aren’t really any surprises. Right from the first, you know what will eventually bring him down, but who This is a very well written suspenseful book. While it is an inverted mystery, it’s not solely from the murderer’s perspective. Instead, we get glimpses the crime from those most involved. It starts out with a lengthy introduction to the most prominent characters. Then with startling abruptness, the crime is committed. What follows is a tortuous sorting out of personalities and clues. There aren’t really any surprises. Right from the first, you know what will eventually bring him down, but who the actually catches him will be a surprise. I thought the ending redeemed the whole book. Meredith created a cast of unsympathetic characters and then slowly develops their characters into either completely repulsive or reliably friendly. I enjoyed it. Content warning… There were several instances of ‘mild’ swearing, and references to illegitimate heritage. While several characters are having affairs, and others are mentioned it is very discreet and not really promoted. I’d say it was about as clean as Agatha Christie’s later works. I received this as a free ARC through NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press. No favorable review was required, and these are my honest opinions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Subashini

    This was far from the light, cosy Christmas mystery I thought it was going to be. It's dark and complex, the language rich--almost Dickensian, dare I say, but minus the humour in this context. I appreciate that it looks at how psychological and social factors shape a family, drawing attention to how siblings come to occupy different class positions and are strangers to one another. This was far from the light, cosy Christmas mystery I thought it was going to be. It's dark and complex, the language rich--almost Dickensian, dare I say, but minus the humour in this context. I appreciate that it looks at how psychological and social factors shape a family, drawing attention to how siblings come to occupy different class positions and are strangers to one another.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Filipa

    Although the beginning of the book did not sound very promising, I ended up enjoying this mystery very much. It is not a typical whodunnit. Instead you have the opportunity to delve into the murderer's mind. It was surprisingly good! Also, it was a Christmas crime story - what could be better?! Although the beginning of the book did not sound very promising, I ended up enjoying this mystery very much. It is not a typical whodunnit. Instead you have the opportunity to delve into the murderer's mind. It was surprisingly good! Also, it was a Christmas crime story - what could be better?!

  24. 5 out of 5

    BookishSteph1

    3.5 stars

  25. 4 out of 5

    Puzzle Doctor

    Interesting inverted mystery but not my cup of tea. Full review at classicmystery.wordpress.com

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

    This vintage Christmas mystery was published in 1933. The story begins on Christmas Eve as the children of Adrian Gray gather at the family home. It is not a loving family. Some of the spouses and grandchildren are either not welcome or are spending Christmas in a better environment. This mystery is a bit different as we are told in the very first sentence that Adrian Gray will be murdered by one of his children. After the characters have all been introduced we witness the murder and then the ac This vintage Christmas mystery was published in 1933. The story begins on Christmas Eve as the children of Adrian Gray gather at the family home. It is not a loving family. Some of the spouses and grandchildren are either not welcome or are spending Christmas in a better environment. This mystery is a bit different as we are told in the very first sentence that Adrian Gray will be murdered by one of his children. After the characters have all been introduced we witness the murder and then the actions of the murderer. We only see a little police activity. The story is really about how the murderer acts and reacts in the aftermath as the police and at least one member of the family are suspicious. It got off to a bit of a slow start but then I quickly got into it. I didn't get a feeling of Christmas but there was one scene with the murderer when they open their window that describes the snow and cold really well. Some of the characters sympathized with the murderer. I didn't really care for that because while the family didn't treat them the best, they were not a good person.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marian

    Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas 1931. The crime was instantaneous and unpremeditated, and the murderer was left staring from the weapon on the table to the dead man in the shadow of the tapestry curtains, not apprehensive, not yet afraid, but incredulous and dumb.....my kind of story,period:)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eva Müller

    This review can also be found on my blog Indeed, I have never been so much ashamed of anything, without being in the least sorry. It’s hard to read the first chapters of this book without thinking of Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (which was published a few years later). We have a Christmas party in a family with little love lost between the different members. Most of the children have money-troubles and unhappy marriages. And then the patriarch who is an all-around horrible person gets murdered. Howev This review can also be found on my blog Indeed, I have never been so much ashamed of anything, without being in the least sorry. It’s hard to read the first chapters of this book without thinking of Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (which was published a few years later). We have a Christmas party in a family with little love lost between the different members. Most of the children have money-troubles and unhappy marriages. And then the patriarch who is an all-around horrible person gets murdered. However, unlike in Christie’s book, it wasn’t a carefully planned deed but simply the result of one child losing their temper after hearing yet again that they are useless. And we know that because we are there when it happens. We see what the killer does afterwards to cover up their tracks and frame a different family member and what they do once the murder is discovered. And in these parts, the book really shines because it doesn’t portray this as a black-or-white situation. The murderer is no unfeeling psychopath. In between all the siblings who barely tolerate each other, they have a quite close relationship with one sister and try to help her. But neither are they a poor innocent soul who lost their temper only once. We see what they think about the other sibling and their own family. (And, after all, they have no problem framing someone else). Even without the murder, it’s clear that they aren’t a very good person. But we also learn about their past and how they were treated by others (especially the father) and the tragedies that happened in their life. And I couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different if certain things wouldn’t have happened. Mind you all that doesn’t mean the murderer is likeable. They made enough despicable decisions apart from the murder. But that was exactly what made the story so fascinating (and slightly disconcerting ) for me. Most killers aren’t the pure evil we see on Criminal Minds. Neither are they avenging angels like Dexter who only kill bad people. Most of them aren’t even the type you see in Agatha Christie novels, who plan carefully and built elaborate contraptions to make it seem like they have an alibi. Most killers are exactly like the one in this book: a worse person than the average but it’s still easy to see that if one or two things had gone differently they would have gone through life as a bad person who never killed anybody. There are still things that are not great about this book. Like the not exactly subtle antisemitism. One son-in-law is Jewish and – of course – a banker and – of course – a fraud who ruined lots of people. Any comments about this are mostly limited to one chapter and then not brought up again. It’s also not a major plot-point, it’s just there like so often in novels from that time. I have read worse (hello Greenmantle) and I can’t deny I enjoyed the book anyway. I will think twice about picking up another book by the author, though. Then, once the murder is committed, we don’t only follow the killer, we see how the whole family reacts to the events. It changes them. And for all the characters that were at least somewhat likeable, things get better. They decide to live their life again, their situation improves, abused children get better homes…it’s an odd contrast to the rest of the rather dark story. And then there’s the unnecessary information. We get pages of backstory for the inspector who appears once and does little to solve the crime. We learn a lot about the things the victim did during and before the war, which would have made a good red herring in an ordinary crime-story but served no purpose here. The oldest daughter-in-law reminisces in depth about one of her maids who left the household long before the story starts. Sometimes it feels like the author is trying to make a point with these asides but I can’t make out what. Sometimes all it seems to do is fill the pages. I would still recommend this book to everyone who wants to read a very different golden age mystery. ARC provided by NetGalley

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    I've made it an annual tradition to read one of the British Library Crime Classics (BLCC) during the holiday period and to try to make it a season appropriate selection as well. The BLCC series of reprints concentrates on the “Golden Age” of British Crime writing from the inter-World War years, and specializes in authors that are currently not that well known and whose works have otherwise gone out of print. The marketing for Anne Meredith's "Portrait of a Murderer" certainly teases a seasonal s I've made it an annual tradition to read one of the British Library Crime Classics (BLCC) during the holiday period and to try to make it a season appropriate selection as well. The BLCC series of reprints concentrates on the “Golden Age” of British Crime writing from the inter-World War years, and specializes in authors that are currently not that well known and whose works have otherwise gone out of print. The marketing for Anne Meredith's "Portrait of a Murderer" certainly teases a seasonal setting with its turreted 'country house in winter' cover art and the promise of a Christmas murder in the blurb. The actual reading was disappointing though as the seasonal period is glossed over quite quickly and is only an excuse to gather a number of suspects under the same roof for Christmas Eve. The unique feature of the book is that the murderer is revealed very early in the process and we are able to follow their interior thoughts and exterior actions before, during and after the crime. That certainly is a different viewpoint to take but it removes most of the conventional murder mystery suspense from your reading. You can still read on to find out where the murderer slipped up and who will solve the crime in the end. The result was solidly in the GR 2 = 'It was OK' category. Related Link The most up-to-date list of the BLCC series is at the British Library shop. If you do a Goodreads search using “British Library Crime Classics” you should also find many of them. As of early 2018 no one has yet made a clickable Goodreads listing of the series.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This really wasn't much of a mystery. It's more of a charcter study. The father dies. One of his children committed the murder. We know which one it was and how it was done. He's just trying to hide it from his siblings. I really disliked the entire family. It simply did not resonate well with me; however, persons who like to see character drive the story may enjoy it. It's labeled as Christmas crime. Just because the murder happened at Christmas when the family gathered does not make it a "Chri This really wasn't much of a mystery. It's more of a charcter study. The father dies. One of his children committed the murder. We know which one it was and how it was done. He's just trying to hide it from his siblings. I really disliked the entire family. It simply did not resonate well with me; however, persons who like to see character drive the story may enjoy it. It's labeled as Christmas crime. Just because the murder happened at Christmas when the family gathered does not make it a "Christmas" story. This one could occur at a family reunion any other time of the year. This is based on an electronic galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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