Home LibraryBook Review 2024 Reading Challenge: J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Seven Dead

2024 Reading Challenge: J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Seven Dead

by A Bee In My Bonnet
1 minutes read

This year I’m participating in several reading challenges and this is an entry for those challenges. You can find more posts under these tags:

Goodreads 2024 Reading Challenge - Finished 1/20

Book Review

Seven Dead

Seven Dead
Format: Ebook
Page Count: 217
Published: January 1, 1939
A petty thief discovers a locked room containing seven dead bodies. But is this suicide or murder? A no-nonsense detective and a lovelorn journalist have the task of finding out!

I didn’t really know what to expect from J. Jefferson Farjeon. This is the first book of his that I’ve picked up, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. But hey, at least he’s upfront about it – he straight-up tells you there’ll be at least seven dead people in the story.

But beware!

Okay, so what slipped through the cracks in the title is that he threw in a couple of dead cats with the already nauseous pile of dead bodies. Usually, I’m cool with the body count in a book, but this is my breaking point. As a cat lover, it’s anathema to me, so I’m slashing a whole point off my enjoyment rating. I also skipped whole pages until I got to a safer place. Heads up to all the cat enthusiasts or anyone sensitive to animals biting the dust – consider yourself forewarned.

On to the review

The tale unfolds as a classic locked room mystery, revealing seven lifeless bodies chilling in, you guessed it, a locked room. The guy stumbling upon this grim scene is Ted Lyte, a down-on-his-luck small-time burglar. Despite playing a significant part in the initial chapters, Ted vanishes from the storyline after being dragged off to the local police station. It’s only there, as he recovers from his shock, that he spills the beans to Inspector Kendall about the gruesome discovery.

Similarly, Inspector Kendall takes a brief hiatus from the tale, shifting the spotlight to the enamored independent journalist Thomas Hazeldean. He’s head over heels after laying eyes on a painting of a young girl, mind you, one that’s been punctured by a bullet. Make of that what you will.

There are a couple of dragging chapters that delve into the nitty-gritty of what went down when the grown-up version of the girl, Dora Fenner, meets Hazeldean. Since I don’t speak French, it felt like a bit of a struggle for me to keep up. Plus, I couldn’t muster much sympathy for Dora, despite the attempts to paint her as a delicate young lady. Similarly, Hazeldean’s character lacked the punch I anticipated. My hopes were high when he was first introduced, but after that incredibly tedious encounter when they first met, I lost interest in him as well.

The narrative gained momentum when Inspector Kendall made a comeback. Following a trail of footsteps (or bicycle tracks in this case), we eventually unveil the identity of the culprit. Honestly, by this point, I already had a hunch about who it was because there couldn’t have been anyone else. Then, there’s this odd time jump where the three characters meet up. It threw me for a second because it felt like I’d skipped a chapter or two – there was such a disconnect between the end of the previous chapter and the beginning of the next.

The highlight, for me, was the last chapters. By then, I had made peace with the idea that the motive for the murder would be so random that only Sherlock Holmes could have seen it coming. But as I mentioned, I appreciated how Farjeon wrapped up the story by circling back to the origin of the mystery all those years ago.

Would I give another Farjeon story a shot? Maybe. I still need to finish “Thirteen Guests,” which I bought last year. I likely will; the Inspector’s character intrigued me, and I’m curious to see if Farjeon’s other books carry a somewhat Gothic vibe in the tone.

3.4Overall Score

Seven Dead

A petty thief discovers a locked room containing seven dead bodies. But is this suicide or murder? A no-nonsense detective and a lovelorn journalist have the task of finding out!

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Setting/Atmosphere
  • Writing Style
  • Enjoyment Factor

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