Wednesday 6 December 2023

Carol Pouliot on Country House Mysteries - guest blog

At Malice Domestic earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Pouliot, a charming lady whose latest book is RSVP to Murder. She's very keen on traditional mysteries and so I asked for her thoughts on some of the classic tropes. Over to you, Carol:
'Why do we love English country house mysteries?
I’ve always been drawn to this classic type of story. From childhood games of Clue (Is it Colonel Mustard or Miss Scarlet?) to my first reading of Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles, this subgenre, which offers an escape from everyday life, has captivated my imagination. I bet you agree!
The English country house mystery is reliable, like an old friend. We proceed confidently knowing the setting will charm, the characters will fascinate, the plot will challenge, and the ending will satisfy.
We open to chapter one and find ourselves elegantly attired, sipping champagne, and luxuriating on a velvety bench seat in a sleek automobile. Suddenly, soaring iron gates loom, and our chauffeur turns onto a meandering drive. We navigate its gentle curves, through magnificently manicured gardens, and arrive at the grand country mansion. Pampering and intrigue await!
As the butler greets us at the front entry, we eagerly anticipate a weekend of stunning surroundings, fabulously good food and drink, captivating conversation, and, of course, murder. The game is afoot, and we’ve got a front row seat.
One of the pleasures of the country house mystery is the cast of characters—both upstairs and downstairs. These family members, guests, and servants are often quirky, sometimes exotic, and forever secretive. From the sleuth’s point of view, they form a limited pool of suspects, each with a believable motive, and the means and opportunity to have committed the crime. Many country house mysteries feature a reluctant detective who is on holiday. However, as the bodies begin piling up, our sleuth can’t help but investigate.
The grand estate is always located in a secluded spot where the characters are cut off from the rest of the world, either by the location itself or by the weather, often a blizzard. These story elements increase the tension, and we find ourselves turning the pages a bit faster now, our own reality a distant memory.
As we read, we’re pulled further into the complex world of a mystery filled with twists and turns. We’re in a race with the sleuth, competing to see who solves the puzzle first. When we reach the end, we encounter a satisfying resolution where all is explained and good triumphs.
Here’s to the English country house mystery!!'

Thanks, Carol, and here's to RSVP to Murder!

1 comment:

Carol Pouliot said...

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Martin. I enjoyed writing this article. Happy Holidays to you!