Book Review: The Santa Klaus Murder, by Mavis Doriel Hay

This review originally ran in the Tuesday, December 10th issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe, sign up here for a bi-weekly dose of bookish goodness in your inbox.

The Santa Klaus Murder, one of three detective novels written by Mavis Doriel Hay in the 1930s, is a classic country-house murder mystery with a holiday twist. The story opens with the gathering of Sir Osmond Melbury's family at his estate for the Christmas holiday. The grandfatherly figure, known for his wealth and lack of patience, has planned an elaborate Santa Klaus ruse for his grandchildren, complete with gifts and holiday noisemakers. But when Sir Osmond is found shot in the study, every member of the family comes under suspicion.

Was it his youngest daughter, seeking to claim her inheritance while marrying against Sir Osmond's wishes? Was it his oldest son, hoping to protect the fortune from his money-grubbing sisters? Or was it his eldest daughter, bitter over having been denied her income for also choosing a husband not to her father's liking? As the details unfold, it becomes apparent each and every member of Sir Osmond's rather unlikable family had a motive to kill the patriarch, and it is left to Colonel Halstock to determine which family member had not just the motive but the opportunity.

Part of the British Library's Crime Classics series, The Santa Klaus Murder is a re-issue of a forgotten British cozy that warrants attention as both a classic British mystery novel and as a holiday read. The large number of point-of-view characters can be confusing at times, but once the story finds its footing, it moves stealthily toward an intriguing and not altogether predictable conclusion.


The Santa Klaus Murder | Mavis Doriel Hay | British Library | November 2013 (originally published 1936) | Paperback

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