Thirteen Guests
PublisherBritish Library Publishing
Date Published03 September 2015
Price£ 8.99

Thirteen Guests

by J. Jefferson Farjeon

There are 13 guests staying at Bragley Court for a hunting weekend, and that doesn’t bode well.


Chance brings John Foss to Bragley Court and that chance means that there are 13 guests staying at this hunting weekend. Will the superstition about 13 guests hold true, or will an external force come into play?

Thirteen Guests is firmly in the great golden-age crime drama trope, the country house weekend. This requires a mixed bag of guests and here we get a philosophical femme fatale, a cricketer who always plays with a straight bat, a politician, a society painter, a society gossip columnist, a lady novelist (detective novels at that!), a social-climbing butcher and his wife and daughter, a blackmailer and a famous actress. In the mix are also the host, his daughter, the butler, the Chinese cook, an ill resident, a mysterious stranger and our accidental visitor. Not all of them will live to the end of the book, but who is involved in what crimes and skullduggery will take quite some teasing out.

J Jefferson Farjeon sets his pieces up well on the chess board, but in his desire to also set out all the possible scenarios and false leads, he indulges in frequent and long shifts in the point-of-view. This means you just get to know one character before the focus shifts to a new one and it never really becomes anyone’s story. Some of the characters are well-drawn and offer some surprising sympathy to their background, but this nuance is mostly denied to the women.  They fit into well-worn stereotypes and pretty much stay there for the duration.

It’s a good and entertaining puzzle, but you aren’t going to work out who the murderer is before the police get involved and the shifts in point of view irritated me. This is also a strictly puzzle-based crime novel; deep psychological insights into the criminal mind are not be gained here. It's worth reading, though, if only for a view of a vanished time.

Reviewed 28 May 2016 by Anthea Hawdon