Christmas is a time for family. Sure, sometimes an argument might break out during dinner but I’m sure none of you ended up killing your dad at the most wonderful time of the year.
At least I hope so.
Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story by Anne Meredith is a crime story centred around the Gray family. Patriarch Adrian Gray wasn’t exactly a supportive and loving father. His relationships with his six children and their spouses are strained to say the least. It all comes to a head on Christmas Eve when one of his children murders him.
The book is split into seven parts, with several different segments instead of the usual way of chapters. Small disclaimer, this is an older book. It was first published in 1933 so there are some elements that have not dated well but it is one of the milder ones I have read, looking at you Christie!
Something I really enjoyed was how the point of view shifts from person to person, getting the inner thoughts of the family as they try to solve the case and how this crime affects the surviving Grays.
Speaking of characters, we get to know them all fairly well before the murderer strikes. For me, I started placing my bets on who the killer was during everyone’s introduction. For the record, my instinct was wrong this time.
The family are an interesting lot but the side characters are pretty basic. They just serve the plot and nothing more. Don’t worry, the family is more than interesting enough to make this a worthwhile read alone.
Going into the book, I was expecting a classic killer revealed at the end story. Boy, I was wrong, the killer is revealed in the second part! We see them frantically try to cover up their crime and what lead up to the killing. The rest of the book is the ramifications for the others and the killer trying to get away with it.
My god, this book is British. I mean it even says on the front cover of my copy “British Libary Crime Classics” so you do know what you are getting into. Still, the plot pays a lot of attention to social standing and class. The Gray family has fallen from grace and several family members are fighting to keep their stature and reputations clean.
I didn’t mind that too much this time around but I’m not a fan of that kind of story. Thankfully it’s more of a plot point than the focus of the story, otherwise, I would have disliked this book.
As I mentioned before, I was saving this book for Christmastime since I thought Christmas would have been a big element but no, it is barely even mentioned after the murder. I was a bit disappointed by that.
Overall, if you love British crime stories then I am sure you would enjoy Portrait of a Murderer. However, if you are looking for a festive crime story then you will find this book lacking.