The Murder of My Aunt, though not widely known in this degraded age, is considered a classic murder mystery. When published in 1935, it overturned every convention of the genre, not least starting with the audience knowing who the murderer is and being forced to read on to find out if he will be captured and if justice will be restored to the world.
Richard Hull’s character Edward Powell is an aristocratic young man stuck in the wilds of Wales where he lives with an aunt, whom he not-so-secretly loathes. She, despite her substantial fortune (which includes a bequest from Edward’s grandmother), will not bankroll Edward’s relocation to Europe, where he can seriously continue his study of French literature. Isolated from any form of intellectual stimulation, his only outlets are his diary (which we are reading), his French novels, and his pampered Pekingese.
Denied his birthright, Edward resolves to take matters into his own hands. He will kill his aunt, sell the farm on which they live, take his legacy, and begin his world travels. Murder is hard for a first-timer, though. How does one arrange an accident that will prove fatal for a tough old bird? Can it be plausible enough to satisfy the nearby villagers? Once embarked on, how does one maintain one’s nerves and see the feat through? Edward meticulously records his various attempts and the frustrating ways in which they fail, until the question becomes, “How will he succeed?”
He explores a number of methods by studying their advantages and disadvantages, until he decides to use his aunt’s car as the vehicle of her demise. Unfortunately, he is an intellectual, and his efforts require a more mechanical bent, which he attempts to acquire through subtle questioning of the village mechanic. With the information he assembles, Edward sets his plot in motion.
As the story progresses, the reader begins to find Edward’s accounts increasingly unreliable, even at odds with the events he’s part of. We even begin to wonder whether he’s capable of carrying off the murder of his aunt. Hull successfully misdirects us by playing up comic elements, but at its heart the story is filled with a deadly intent which carries us right up to the last surprising page. And that surprise makes the whole story well worth reading. Looking for a light mystery that offers both a quick read and a clever premise? This is well worth your time.
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