It was a beautiful summer day in the Hundred Acre Wood and Winnie the Pooh and Piglet had gone to their Thinking Spot to think.
“Think, think,” said Pooh, tapping the side of his head.
“What are you thinking, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“I think,” said Pooh, “Oh Bother!”
“What is it?” said Piglet.
“I think there’s been a murder,” Pooh decided.
“A m-m-m-murder!?” Piglet exclaimed. “Oh d-d-d-ear.”
“Yes, Piglet. All the huny bees are gone from the huny tree. I think they’ve been murdered.”
Piglet jumped off the log they were sitting on and hid behind it. Pooh put on his deerstalker cap.
“Come along, Piglet. Let us investigate.”
In 1922, two years before publishing the beloved stories of Winnie the Pooh and the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood, A. A. Milne wrote The Red House Mystery. He dedicated it to his father, who loved mystery stories.
The Red House, owned by Mark Ablett, had a number of house guests. One day, he announced to his guests that his estranged brother, Robert, who had been living in Australia for fifteen years, was coming to visit. The guests were not to believe anything Robert told them because he was a scoundrel.
When Robert showed up, the maid escorted him to the office and told to wait while she looked for her master. Moments later, a stranger, Antony Gillingham showed up, looking for his friend Bill Beverley, who was one of the house guests.
As Gillingham was inquiring about his friend, a gunshot rang out. The people in the house rush to the office to find a body laying on the floor. Mark’s friend, secretary, and confidant, Matthew Cayley, looks at the body and declares it is that of Robert. But Mark is no where to be found. Gilligham decides he needs a new occupation and takes up investigating the murder, with Beverley as his side kick.
It’s clear that Milne was heavily influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Gillingham and Beverley refer to themselves as Holmes and Watson several times.
You can even see some of Winnie the Pooh here and there, beginning with the opening paragraph,
“In the drowsy heat of the summer afternoon the Red House was taking its siesta. There was a lazy murmur of bees in the flower-borders, a gentle cooing of pigeons in the tops of the elms. From distant lawns came the whir of a mowing-machine, that most restful of all country sounds; making ease the sweeter in that it is taken while others are working.”
While not much of a whodunit, as we know quickly who the killer is, the mystery is where has Mark disappeared to. I did figure it out. I’ve rated it three stars. A. A. Milne went on to become one of the founding members of The Detection Club, the world’s most prestigious mystery writers group. If you’re looking for a mystery from an unlikely place, checkout The Red House Mystery.