The Red House Mystery

The Red House Mystery

by A. A. Milne


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Far from the gentle slopes of the Hundred Acre Wood lies the Red House, the setting for A. A. Milne’s only detective story, where secret passages, uninvited guests, a sinister valet, and a puzzling murder lay the foundations for a classic crime caper. When the local police prove baffled, it is up to a guest at a local inn to appoint himself "Sherlock Holmes" and, together with his friend and loyal "Watson," delve deeper into the mysteries of the dead man. This classic example of Golden Age crime writing is a lost gem from a time before Tigger and a perfectly crafted whodunit with witty dialogue, deft plotting, and a most curious cast of characters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780099521273
Publisher: Random House UK
Publication date: 08/31/2009
Series: Vintage Classics Series
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 534,119
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Alan Alexander "A. A." Milne (1882-1956) was an English author, best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and for various children's poems. Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, before the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work.


Cotchford Farm, Sussex, England

Date of Birth:

January 18, 1882

Date of Death:

January 31, 1956

Place of Birth:

Hampstead, London

Place of Death:

Cotchford Farm, Sussex, England


Trinity College, Cambridge University (mathematics), 1903

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Mrs. Stevens is Frightened

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.

It was the hour when even those whose business it is to attend to the wants of others have a moment or two for themselves. In the housekeeper's room Audrey Stevens, the pretty parlour-maid, re-trimmed her best hat, and talked idly to her aunt, the cook-housekeeper of Mr. Mark Ablett's bachelor home.

"For Joe?" said Mrs. Stevens placidly, her eye on the hat. Audrey nodded. She took a pin from her mouth, found a place in the hat for it, and said, "He likes a bit of pink."

"I don't say I mind a bit of pink myself," said her aunt. "Joe Turner isn't the only one."

"It isn't everybody's colour," said Audrey, holding the hat out at arm's length, and regarding it thoughtfully. "Stylish, isn't it?"

"Oh, it'll suit you all right, and it would have suited me at your age. A bit too dressy for me now, though wearing better than some other people, I daresay. I was never the one to pretend to be what I wasn't. If I'm fifty-five, I'm fifty-five--that's what I say."

"Fifty-eight, isn't it, auntie?"

"I was just giving that as an example," said Mrs. Stevens with great dignity.

Audrey threaded a needle, held her hand out and looked at her nails critically for a moment, and then began to sew.

"Funny thing that about Mr. Mark's brother. Fancy not seeing your brother forfifteen years." She gave a self-conscious laugh and went on, "Wonder what I should do if I didn't see Joe for fifteen years."

"As I told you all this morning," said her aunt, "I've been here five years, and never heard of a brother. I could say that before everybody if I was going to die to-morrow. There's been no brother here while I've been here."

"You could have knocked me down with a feather when he spoke about him at breakfast this morning. I didn't hear what went before, naturally, but they was all talking about the brother when I went in--now what was it I went in for--hot milk, was it, or toast?--well, they was all talking, and Mr. Mark turns to me, and says--you know his way--'Stevens,' he says, 'my brother is coming to see me this afternoon; I'm expecting him about three,' he says. 'Show him into the office,' he says, just like that. 'Yes, sir,' I says quite quietly, but I was never so surprised in my life, not knowing he had a brother. 'My brother from Australia,' he says--there, I'd forgotten that. From Australia."

"Well, he may have been in Australia," said Mrs. Stevens, judicially; "I can't say for that, not knowing the country; but what I do say is he's never been here. Not while I've been here, and that's five years."

"Well, but, auntie, he hasn't been here for fifteen years. I heard Mr. Mark telling Mr. Cayley. 'Fifteen years,' he says. Mr. Cayley having arst him when his brother was last in England. Mr. Cayley knew of him, I heard him telling Mr. Beverley, but didn't know when he was last in England--see? So that's why he arst Mr. Mark."

"I'm not saying anything about fifteen years, Audrey. I can only speak for what I know, and that's five years Whitsuntide. I can take my oath he's not set foot in the house since five years Whitsuntide. And if he's been in Australia, as you say, well, I daresay he's had his reasons."

"What reasons?" said Audrey lightly.

"Never mind what reasons. Being in the place of a mother to you, since your poor mother died, I say this, Audrey--when a gentleman goes to Australia, he has his reasons. And when he stays in Australia fifteen years, as Mr. Mark says, and as I know for myself for five years, he has his reasons. And a respectably brought-up girl doesn't ask what reasons."

"Got into trouble, I suppose," said Audrey carelessly. "They were saying at breakfast he'd been a wild one. Debts. I'm glad Joe isn't like that. He's got fifteen pounds in the post-office savings' bank. Did I tell you?"

But there was not to be any more talk of Joe Turner that afternoon. The ringing of a bell brought Audrey to her feet--no longer Audrey, but now Stevens. She arranged her cap in front of the glass.

"There, that's the front door," she said. "That's him. 'Show him into the office,' said Mr. Mark. I suppose he doesn't want the other ladies and gentlemen to see him. Well, they're all out at their golf, anyhow--Wonder if he's going to stay--P'raps he's brought back a lot of gold from Australia--I might hear something about Australia, because if anybody can get gold there, then I don't say but what Joe and I--"

"Now, now, get on, Audrey."

"Just going, darling." She went out.

To anyone who had just walked down the drive in the August sun, the open door of the Red House revealed a delightfully inviting hall, of which even the mere sight was cooling. It was a big low-roofed, oak-beamed place, with cream-washed walls and diamond-paned windows, blue-curtained. On the right and left were doors leading into other living-rooms, but on the side which faced you as you came in were windows again, looking on to a small grass court, and from open windows to open windows such air as there was played gently. The staircase went up in broad, low steps along the right-hand wall, and, turning to the left, led you along a gallery, which ran across the width of the hall, to your bedroom. That is, if you were going to stay the night. Mr. Robert Ablett's intentions in this matter were as yet unknown.

As Audrey came across the hall she gave a little start as she saw Mr. Cayley suddenly, sitting unobtrusively in a seat beneath one of the front windows, reading. No reason why he shouldn't be there; certainly a much cooler place than the golf-links on such a day; but somehow there was a deserted air about the house that afternoon, as if all the guests were outside, or--perhaps the wisest place of all--up in their bedrooms, sleeping. Mr. Cayley, the master's cousin, was a surprise; and, having given a little exclamation as she came suddenly upon him, she blushed, and said, "Oh, I beg your pardon, sir, I didn't see you at first," and he looked up from his book and smiled at her. An attractive smile it was on that big ugly face. "Such a gentleman, Mr. Cayley," she thought to herself as she went on, and wondered what the master would do without him. If this brother, for instance, had to be bundled back to Australia, it was Mr. Cayley who would do most of the bundling.

"So this is Mr. Robert," said Audrey to herself, as she came in sight of the visitor.

She told her aunt afterwards that she would have known him anywhere for Mr. Mark's brother, but she would have said that in any event. Actually she was surprised. Dapper little Mark, with his neat pointed beard and his carefully curled moustache; with his quick-darting eyes, always moving from one to the other of any company he was in, to register one more smile to his credit when he had said a good thing, one more expectant look when he was only waiting his turn to say it; he was a very different man from this rough-looking, ill-dressed colonial, staring at her so loweringly.

"I want to see Mr. Mark Ablett," he growled. It sounded almost like a threat.

Audrey recovered herself and smiled reassuringly at him. She had a smile for everybody.

"Yes, sir. He is expecting you, if you will come this way."

"Oh! So you know who I am, eh?"

"Mr. Robert Ablett?"

"Ay, that's right. So he's expecting me, eh? He'll be glad to see me, eh?"

"If you will come this way, sir," said Audrey primly.

She went to the second door on the left, and opened it.

"Mr. Robert Ab--" she began, and then broke off. The room was empty. She turned to the man behind her. "If you will sit down, sir, I will find the master. I know he's in, because he told me that you were coming this afternoon."

"Oh!" He looked round the room. "What d'you call this place, eh?"

"The office, sir."

"The office?"

"The room where the master works, sir."

"Works, eh? That's new. Didn't know he'd ever done a stroke of work in his life."

"Where he writes, sir," said Audrey, with dignity. The fact that Mr. Mark "wrote," though nobody knew what, was a matter of pride in the housekeeper's room.

"Not well-dressed enough for the drawing-room, eh?"

"I will tell the master you are here, sir," said Audrey decisively.

She closed the door and left him there.

Well! Here was something to tell auntie! Her mind was busy at once, going over all the things which he had said to her and she had said to him--quiet-like. "Directly I saw him I said to myself--" Why, you could have knocked her over with a feather. Feathers, indeed, were a perpetual menace to Audrey.

However, the immediate business was to find the master. She walked across the hall to the library, glanced in, came back a little uncertainly, and stood in front of Cayley.

"If you please, sir," she said in a low, respectful voice, "can you tell me where the master is? It's Mr. Robert called."

"What?" said Cayley, looking up from his book. "Who?"

Audrey repeated her question.

"I don't know. Isn't he in the office? He went up to the Temple after lunch. I don't think I've seen him since."

"Thank you, sir. I will go up to the Temple."

Cayley returned to his book.

The "Temple" was a brick summer-house, in the gardens at the back of the house, about three hundred yards away. Here Mark meditated sometimes before retiring to the "office" to put his thoughts upon paper. The thoughts were not of any great value; moreover, they were given off at the dinner-table more often than they got on to paper, and got on to paper more often than they got into print. But that did not prevent the master of The Red House from being a little pained when a visitor treated the Temple carelessly, as if it had been erected for the ordinary purposes of flirtation and cigarette-smoking. There had been an occasion when two of his guests had been found playing fives in it. Mark had said nothing at the time, save to ask with a little less than his usual point--whether they couldn't find anywhere else for their game, but the offenders were never asked to The Red House again.

Audrey walked slowly up to the Temple, looked in and walked slowly back. All that walk for nothing. Perhaps the master was upstairs in his room. "Not well-dressed enough for the drawing-room." Well, now, Auntie, would you like anyone in your drawing-room with a red handkerchief round his neck and great big dusty boots, and--listen! One of the men shooting rabbits. Auntie was partial to a nice rabbit, and onion sauce. How hot it was; she wouldn't say no to a cup of tea. Well, one thing, Mr. Robert wasn't staying the night; he hadn't any luggage. Of course Mr. Mark could lend him things; he had clothes enough for six. She would have known him anywhere for Mr. Mark's brother.

She came into the house. As she passed the housekeeper's room on her way to the hall, the door opened suddenly, and a rather frightened face looked out.

"Hallo, Aud," said Elsie. "It's Audrey," she said, turning into the room.

"Come in, Audrey," called Mrs. Stevens.

"What's up?" said Audrey, looking in at the door.

"Oh, my dear, you gave me such a turn. Where have you been?"

"Up to the Temple."

"Did you hear anything?"

"Hear what?"

"Bangs and explosions and terrible things."

"Oh!" said Audrey, rather relieved. "One of the men shooting rabbits. Why, I said to myself as I came along, 'Auntie's partial to a nice rabbit,' I said, and I shouldn't be surprised if--"

"Rabbits!" said her aunt scornfully. "It was inside the house, my girl."

"Straight it was," said Elsie. She was one of the housemaids. "I said to Mrs. Stevens--didn't I, Mrs. Stevens?--'That was in the house,' I said."

Audrey looked at her aunt and then at Elsie.

"Do you think he had a revolver with him?" she said in a hushed voice.

"Who?" said Elsie excitedly.

"That brother of his. From Australia. I said as soon as I set eyes on him, 'You're a bad lot, my man!' That's what I said, Elsie. Even before he spoke to me. Rude!" She turned to her aunt. "Well, I give you my word."

"If you remember, Audrey, I always said there was no saying with anyone from Australia." Mrs. Stevens lay back in her chair, breathing rather rapidly. "I wouldn't go out of this room now, not if you paid me a hundred thousand pounds."

"Oh, Mrs. Stevens!" said Elsie, who badly wanted five shillings for a new pair of shoes, "I wouldn't go as far as that, not myself, but--"

"There!" cried Mrs. Stevens, sitting up with a start. They listened anxiously, the two girls instinctively coming closer to the older woman's chair.

A door was being shaken, kicked, rattled.


Audrey and Elsie looked at each other with frightened eyes.

They heard a man's voice, loud, angry.

"Open the door!" it was shouting. "Open the door! I say, open the door!"

"Don't open the door!" cried Mrs. Stevens in a panic, as if it was her door which was threatened. "Audrey! Elsie! Don't let him in!"

"Damn it, open the door!" came the voice again.

"We're all going to be murdered in our beds," she quavered. Terrified, the two girls huddled closer, and with an arm round each, Mrs. Stevens sat there, waiting.

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The Red House Mystery 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it much; easy reading. Read it at every opertunity. If you like who done it books this is a good one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first, i hated the horrible text problems created by scanning. Soon, however, i learned to read around the corruptions and actually began tlo enjoy them. For example, the na me of the victim, robert, was corrupted many different ways -- as bobert, bohert, bobcat -- and it seemed as if everyone had their little pet name for the guy. That and other corruptions were actually amusing. The book itself is quite a charming cozy intelligently written.
Lnrosy More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book. It kept me guessing the whole way through. I love the Pooh stories. However, this is one of my favorite books that Milne wrote!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book (for me ) did not get off to a good start. I found the beginning hard to follow and somewhat confused and inarticulate. But the story does pick up and runs good to the end. After a few years I will try again with perhaps a less addled mindset and catch the beginning as it probably was written. It's so difficult to enjoy any book if you don't have the beginning down pat. Probably my fault.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This dead-body-in-a-locked-room mystery was difficult to read at first, but I soon caught on to what was being said. It kept me guessing until the end. There was a different twist to this story that I didn't see coming. Enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be unreadable due to lack of proper punctuation, cardboard characters and a silly plot. I gave up after two chapters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Three words boring boring boring not a good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this story The copy was a bit difficult, but puzzleling words were the biggest problem
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This copy looked more like computer code with nonsense words throughout. Even the title at the bottom of the page had something like "bte red ...msbry" Completely unreadable.
Anonymous 7 months ago
If you like Agatha Christy, Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolf etc then this is the book you want to take to the beach
Eurydice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is of fairly limited interest: as terribly popular, pre-Pooh Milne, and as an example of the English mystery c. 1920. Sadly, I found it far less engaging than other mysteries of that era. I'd forgive, and even glory in, its improbabilities, if it had more of the humor and wry charm for which Milne is still justifiably famous.
alic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A precursor to the classic age of British mystery writing. But not as good as what it ushered in.
mysterymax on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An exacting use of words makes this short, solid mystery by Milne very charming. Written in 1922, it provides the reader with all the facts needed to solve the crime. Antony Gillingham is enjoying a relaxing weekend at a country mansion. One of the guests turns up dead. Antony and his friend, Bill, solve the crime in a manner that would make Holmes and Watson proud.
IreneF on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pleasant, breezy, and short, The Red House Mystery is just the thing for a lazy afternoon or a boring plane trip. It takes place in the idyllic England of the 1920's, the one where the right people were invited up to country estates to amuse themselves and be tended to by a battalion of housemaids and gardeners. A shot is fired and an unfortunate visitor gains a bullet hole in the forehead. A clever young guest sets about solving the mystery. Such jolly fun!Milne's practiced style is what sets this apart from the run of the Colonel Mustard genre of English mystery. The mystery is not terribly mysterious, the logic hasn't quite got its laces tied, and the dramatis personae are fairly stock characters, yet Milne keeps us amused to the end.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this a very fun mystery. The puzzle itself was not very difficult, but the lead characters who were detecting were fun to read. Set in the early 1900s, in England, the story moves along at the relaxed pace of a weekend in the country. Antony Gillingham stumbles upon a dead man when he seeks out his friend, Bill, who is staying in the Red House as a guest. I'm a bit sad that Milne didn't choose to continue writing mysteries with Gillingham as a detective.
lucybrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Red House Mystery is a golden age of mystery treat with two charming amateur dectives at the helm. Readers of John Dickson Carr and Dorothy L. Sayers will find it amusing, though not as masterful as Sayers.
Lisahgolden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun read. I enjoyed the character of Antony Gillingham and his banter with Bill Beverly. I say, it was a jolly good book. It didn't bend the brain. Light reading. Completely of its time.
camillahoel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes it is rather annoying to read a detective story which your friends haven't read. I mean of course when you think you have been terribly clever and worked it all out before the detective has. Because you cannot tell anyone what you think the solution is in case it is the right one. This is doubly true if you have had another theory earlier, which you have now had to abandon or revise. Any attempt at sharing your genius with the world at large must be so vague as to be completely useless as a corroboration when you close the book and say "hah! I was right!".This is my main objection to A.A. Milne's (no, not Winnie the Pooh) The Red House Mystery. It is excellent. I find it a little shocking that nobody took the time to introduce me to it earlier (perhaps there is a reason why my edition of it is labelled "A rediscovered classic". Someone clearly forgot about it). It does the formal detective story ("whodunnit") very well. Better, perhaps than any other formal detective story I have come across. Which may be why I got there before the detective did: contrary to popular belief, most formal detective stories don't really give you all that you need to know before the dénouement; they merely provide the illusion that they do. Usually, the coherence of the plot is a retroactive affair in which the reader looks back over what he (or, indeed, in these modern times, she) has read, compares it with the ending, and realises that there were clues to that (oh, dear, the butler did it) effect the whole time. It does not follow from this that one could have taken these clues and built the solution. But in Milne's book the logic of the detective is constantly held up to scrutiny. A provisional explanation of events are given which sounds plausible enough (if a little boring), but is then undermined by new information that forces a revision. This happens a lot, but the core of the resolution is given very early on in true detective fiction style. I enjoyed the detective character and his Watson, immensely. They are well aware of the tradition they are working within and frequently refer to Conan Doyle's characters as models to be interacted with or measured against. Even their conversation frequently ironically mimics that of Holmes/Watson. From this we can deduce that this is not a book which takes itself too seriously, and this increases the charm of it as far as I am concerned. A.A. Milne, in his introduction to it, writes about his demands for a detective novel that,It should be written in English. ... It is, to me, a distressing thought that in nine-tenths of the detective stories of the world murderers are continually effecting egresses when they might just as easily go out. The sleuth, the hero and the many suspected all use this same strange tongue, and we may be forgiven for feeling that neither the natural excitement of killing the right man, nor the strain of suspecting the wrong one, is sufficient excuse for so steady a flow of bad language.Indeed. Well, Milne writes English. I hardly noticed I was reading it. It translated very seamlessly into a film in my imagination. There were occasional excellent wordings that I remarked on, but there were no egresses that I could find. Of course, the excellent wordings and the witty phrase could be said to be as much part of writing in English as keeping to plain language is. There is a style to it which made me want to drink gin & tonic and ideally sit in a park. In that respect it reminds me of Wodehouse, but that could give you entirely the wrong impression. Or the right one. One never knows.My one problem with the book was that it seemed obsessed, at times, with the size of rooms and their relation to one another. It may be that this seemed unnecessary to me because I have never been the type to sit down and actually try to work out the solution (except through brilliant intuitive flashes, of course). I dare say someone who did would find it useful. All in
LeslitGS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anthony Gillingham is a financially comfortable young man who wanders around the countryside trying out new jobs at his leisure. When he happens to come upon a panicked man and a corpse on his way to visit his friend Bill, Gillingham decides that his newest career path will be detective. With Bill at his side as a faithful Watson, the two proceed to discreetly poke their noses into corners and secret passages to uncover the truth and missing murderer. The saying goes 'never judge a book by it's cover,' but lets be honest, the covers are pretty darn important anymore. In a world where covers are no longer simple cloth bindings with gilt letters and accents, every cover competes for attention and love from a potential reader. Consequently, many are brilliantly colored with incredible designs and eye-catching glitz. Some even are glittery, and many are embossed. But it is just this state of covers that will draw the casual peruser's eye to something very simple and straightforward, and this is why, in fact, I picked up The Red House Mystery by Milne. I did not even really stop to think about the fact that--hey, Pooh Corner! You know? I just saw a white cover with black and read print and a small picture of a man with a gun smack in the center. Then I picked it up and read the first page and was hooked. You see, me and mysteries go way back. I used to be massively into them, devouring the Cat Who series along with some stand alone mystery novels and YA series. I was seriously a mystery fan. Then, somewhere along the way, I branched out and never really got back into them as hugely. I think part of what really killed it was the fact that the Cat Who series began to decline into repetitious mush and a couple of other bad apples over the years. I lost faith in the genre. But Milne has reignited my interest! As we follow our lead, Gillingham, through his mystery-hunting, we find ourselves privvy to all that he knows and some of what he suspects [though, admittedly, he grows rather fond of being vague and Holmes-ish and pointedly leaves Bill out of the loop at times]. Like any solid mystery novel, the reader is provided enough information to begin formulating his or her assumptions and theories to be proven or disproven at the end. Something else to be enjoyed, in my opinion, is the casual pacing of the novel. The story is set in an English Gentleman's home where all the necessities are provided and the only activities are urbane sports and entertainments. Inasmuch, Anthony and Bill are strolling around the gardens, playing billiards and generally enjoying what would amount to a blissful vacation in the modern middle class terms. The book is short, so most of the text is, in fact, their conversations. The set-up takes very little time and the rest is the investigation being allowed to unfold for the audience. Evidence is presented here and there, clues are discovered, and all the while, Gillingham is there, absorbing and pondering, like the reader. In the end, there is only one real complaint I have against the book, and that is, indeed, the finale. Not that the case's solution lacked intrigue or satisfaction, but the presentation of the information was...easy. Lackluster, in a way. It was not entirely out of place, and managed to wrap things up neatly, but...well, I suppose that's just me being a whiner. Good book. Good story. I hope to lay my hands on some other Milne in the future--heaven knows I have the Pooh books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like Agatha Christie you’ll enjoy this who-dun-it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a witty, intelligent, and charming mystery. It's a shame he only wrote the one! Antony and his sidekick, Bill, are as appealing as Holmes and Watson or Poirot and Hastings. The world of Winnie-the-Pooh is a brilliant one, and this mystery is equally well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keeps you guessing. Appropriate characters for that period in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never knew Milne had written a mystery until I happened to discover this a few weeks ago. It was a great read. I would highly recommend!
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