The Red

How A.A.Milne Wrote a Whodunit That’s as Cozy as Pooh Bear

The Red House Mystery by A.A.Milne

The Red House Mystery by A.A.Milne is a classic example of a golden age locked room mystery, with a charming amateur detective, a baffling murder, and a cozy English country house setting. But did you know that the author of this delightful whodunit is also the creator of one of the most beloved children’s characters of all time, Winnie-the-Pooh? In this article, we’ll explore how A.A.Milne wrote his only mystery novel, why he never wrote another one, and why you should read it if you love cozy mysteries and cuddly bears.


Introduction: Who is A.A.Milne?

A.A.Milne was born in London in 1882 and grew up in a small public school run by his father. He studied mathematics at Cambridge University, where he also wrote and edited for a student magazine. He became a contributor and later an assistant editor for Punch, a leading British humor magazine. He also wrote plays, essays, and novels for adults.

Milne served in the British Army during World War I and later wrote a pacifist book called Peace with Honour. He married Dorothy de Selincourt in 1913 and had a son, Christopher Robin, in 1920. Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals, including a teddy bear named Winnie-the-Pooh, inspired Milne to write his most famous works: four books of stories and poems about the adventures of Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Milne’s Pooh books were immensely popular and made him a household name. However, he also faced criticism from some literary circles for writing children’s books instead of serious literature. He also had a strained relationship with his son, who resented being the model for Christopher Robin and felt overshadowed by his father’s fame.

Milne died in 1956 at the age of 74. His Pooh books have been translated into many languages and adapted into various media, including films, TV shows, musicals, and video games. They are widely regarded as classics of children’s literature and have influenced generations of readers and writers.

The Red House Mystery: What is it about?

The Red House Mystery was published in 1922, four years before Milne’s first Pooh book. It was Milne’s only mystery novel (except for Four Days Wonder, which he considered a parody of the genre). It was inspired by his passion for detective stories, especially those by Arthur Conan Doyle and G.K.Chesterton.

The plot revolves around a murder that takes place at the Red House, a comfortable residence in the English countryside owned by Mark Ablett, a wealthy bachelor who is hosting a house party. Among his guests are a widow and her daughter, a retired major, an actress, and Bill Beverley, a young man about town.

One day, Mark’s long-lost brother Robert arrives from Australia and demands money from him. Shortly after, Robert is found dead in Mark’s study with a bullet wound in his head. Mark has disappeared, leaving behind a note that suggests he killed his brother in self-defense.

However, things are not as simple as they seem. A stranger named Anthony Gillingham arrives at the Red House to visit Bill Beverley and decides to investigate the case. He teams up with Bill as his assistant and together they try to solve the mystery using logic and deduction.

They discover that the Red House has many secrets, including hidden passages, underwater evidence, and mysterious visitors. They also encounter several suspects, motives, clues, and red herrings along the way. They eventually uncover the truth behind the murder and Mark’s disappearance.

The Red House Mystery is a well-crafted whodunit with witty dialogue, deft plotting, and an intriguing cast of characters. It has many elements of a typical golden age mystery: an isolated setting, an amateur detective with a sidekick, a locked room puzzle, and a fair play challenge to the reader.

However, it also has some distinctive features that make it stand out from other mysteries of its time. For example:

  • It has a light-hearted tone that contrasts with the dark subject matter. Milne injects humor and charm into his writing style and his characters’ personalities. He also avoids graphic violence and gore.
  • It has a strong friendship between the detective duo. Anthony Gillingham and Bill Beverley are not just partners in crime-solving; they are also friends who enjoy each other’s company and banter. They have fun while investigating the case and often joke about their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson.
  • It has a surprising twist at the end. Milne manages to surprise the reader with a clever and unexpected solution that reveals the true identity and motive of the killer. He also provides a satisfying explanation for all the clues and discrepancies in the case.

Why did A.A.Milne stop writing mysteries?

The Red House Mystery was well-received by critics and readers when it was first published. It was praised for its originality, ingenuity, and entertainment value. It was also compared favorably to the works of other famous mystery writers, such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L.Sayers.

However, Milne never wrote another mystery novel after The Red House Mystery. He explained his reasons in his introduction to the 1926 edition of the book. He said that he had “a passion” for detective stories, but he also had “all sorts of curious preferences” about them. He preferred mysteries that featured amateur detectives and villains, rather than professionals. He also liked mysteries that were realistic and plausible, rather than fantastical and improbable.

He said that he wrote The Red House Mystery to satisfy his own tastes and to prove that he could write a good mystery. He said that he enjoyed writing it, but he also found it difficult and exhausting. He said that he had no intention of writing another one, because he felt that he had exhausted his ideas and resources.

He also said that he was not interested in writing a series of mysteries featuring the same detective character. He said that he did not want to repeat himself or to limit his creativity. He said that he preferred to write different kinds of books, such as plays, essays, and children’s stories.

He also said that he did not want to compete with other mystery writers, who were more skilled and experienced than him. He said that he admired their work, but he also felt that they had set a high standard for the genre. He said that he did not want to write inferior or imitative mysteries.

He concluded by saying that The Red House Mystery was his “one and only contribution” to the genre and that he hoped that it would be enjoyed by mystery lovers as much as he enjoyed writing it.

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Why should you read The Red House Mystery?

The Red House Mystery is a must-read for fans of cozy mysteries and Winnie-the-Pooh. It is a rare gem that showcases Milne’s talent and versatility as a writer. It is also a fascinating glimpse into his mind and personality before he became famous for his Pooh books.

Here are some reasons why you should read The Red House Mystery:

  • You will enjoy a captivating and clever mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.
  • You will appreciate Milne’s skillful use of language, humor, and characterization.
  • You will discover a different side of Milne, who was not only a children’s author, but also a playwright, essayist, novelist, and mystery writer.
  • You will experience a charming and nostalgic atmosphere of an English country house in the 1920s.
  • You will feel a connection with Milne, who shared your passion for detective stories and wrote this book for you.

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Here are some frequently asked questions about The Red House Mystery:

  • Q: Is The Red House Mystery based on a true story?
  • A: No, The Red House Mystery is a fictional story created by A.A.Milne. However, some aspects of the story may have been inspired by his own life experiences, such as his education at Cambridge University, his service in World War I, his interest in detective stories, and his relationship with his brother Ken.
  • Q: Is The Red House Mystery related to Winnie-the-Pooh?
  • A: No, The Red House Mystery is not related to Winnie-the-Pooh in terms of plot or characters. However, some fans have noticed some similarities or references between the two works, such as the use of initials (A.A.Milne and A.Gillingham), the mention of honey (a favorite food of Pooh), and the appearance of a stuffed bear (a toy of Christopher Robin).
  • Q: Is The Red House Mystery available as an audiobook or an e-book?
  • A: Yes, The Red House Mystery is available as an audiobook and an e-book from various sources. You can find them online or at your local library.

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The Red House Mystery by A.A.Milne is a classic whodunit that deserves more attention and recognition. It is a delightful and ingenious mystery that showcases Milne’s talent and versatility as a writer. It is also a charming and nostalgic tribute to his passion for detective stories.

If you love cozy mysteries and cuddly bears, you should definitely read The Red House Mystery by A.A.Milne. You will not regret it!

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