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Mavis Doriel Hay (1894–1979)

Author of The Santa Klaus Murder

10 Works 1,028 Members 67 Reviews

About the Author

Disambiguation Notice:

Published three crime novels in the 1930s as Mavis Doriel Hay. Later published books on crafts as Mavis Fitzrandolph (her married name).

Works by Mavis Doriel Hay


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Fitzrandolph, Mavis Doriel (married name)
Date of death
Potters Bar, Middlesex, England, UK
Place of death
Box, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Places of residence
Epping, Essex, England
Belsize Lane, Hampstead, London, UK
Disambiguation notice
Published three crime novels in the 1930s as Mavis Doriel Hay. Later published books on crafts as Mavis Fitzrandolph (her married name).



In '30s England, an aristocratic family gathers for the holidays—only for their domineering, purse-string-wielding patriarch to be found dead in his locked study on Christmas Day. Suicide or murder, and if the latter could someone dressed as Santa Claus truly have done it? It's readable and atmospheric, for sure—you've got your slightly caddish suitors, your neurotic maiden aunts, your beautiful and resolved but impoverished youngest daughter, your English country pile with halls decked, etc. But the ratio of events/detecting to length is off (even though this is far from a very long book), there are the period-predictable levels of classism, and the ending is a bit deflating and doesn't really make much sense. Not the worst thing I've ever read, but I finished the book about half an hour ago and am already struggling to remember the names of the main characters.… (more)
siriaeve | 30 other reviews | Dec 31, 2023 |
The Melburys gather at Flaxmere, the family estate, for Christmas. But things rapidly go awry when their patriarch, Sir Osmond Melbury, is found – by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus – with a bullet in his head on Christmas Day. Neighbor and Chief Constable, Col. Halstock, takes charge of the investigation, and quickly ascertains that virtually everyone in the family stands to gain by Sir Osmond’s death. But who had the opportunity? And who was ruthless enough to murder the man?

This is a classic locked-room mystery. There are plenty of suspects, not only family members, but two male guests (both apparently interested in marrying Sir Osmond’s youngest daughter), as well as his private secretary and other staff members. The investigation is hampered by the number of “little lies” (some not so little) that various people Halstock, in an effort to conceal or divert attention from one or more parties.

Hay was part of the group of novelists of the “golden age of British crime fiction.” This work was first published in 1936. Her works have recently been rediscovered and reissued. It moves a bit slowly by today’s standards for the genre, but I was engaged and interested throughout.
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BookConcierge | 30 other reviews | Dec 22, 2023 |
The murder of a family patriarch during a large family Christmas celebration... This could have been a good one, but the large cast of characters was a bit difficult to sort out at first, and it felt like Hay just relied on the chaos of having so many people in an enclosed space to cloak the perpetrator and motive. Add to that that several people initially lied about certain details, and the resolution fell very flat as a result, and kind of lame. There wasn't really any cleverness to the plot, which was disappointing.… (more)
katiekrug | 30 other reviews | Dec 9, 2023 |
This book had quite a few problems, although it was enjoyable enough just to breeze through.

1) Way too many characters. The front page of the book has a list of them with a very short description which is very handy but made less useful by the fact that each character is referred to in multiple different ways that require you to check through the opening list. This makes it very hard to keep track of each character's motivations, movements etc and means only a few get much interesting characterisation. In general a lot of the characters are extraneous - for example, there are 4 kids in this book, only 1 of whom ever does anything even vaguely relevant - and some of the characters totally disappear after a certain point. This makes the impact of any particular clue a lot less because you had to try and remember everyone involved.

2) Strange way of revealing information. There was very little police work done and so many of the revelations came from characters giving a new statement and saying their old one was total lies or just that they missed out something major. Often this isn't really provoked by anything, they just do. Other clues aren't resolved for ages because the police simply don't question people properly. This also leads to a lot of trouble keeping straight what the current story is - multiple people apparently kept pacts to lie for each other for very little reason and so after one person gives their story they've often contradicted the other person's. It's not super confusing but it does leave you feeling like you're not really following a process of investigation, just waiting it out. It's also notable that the book opens with multiple chapters from different characters' points of view but it turns out they're documents that exist within the story, but they only make an appearance 2/3rds of the way through - and the main character takes ages to read them even then! So he makes multiple claims which you know are untrue but aren't hidden, which is confusing. And again it'd have been avoided if the people involved had actually said everything they'd experienced.

3) The ending doesn't solve anything! This is the most important point, probably. Everything gets wrapped up in 3-4 pages and it doesn't explain some really major things, most notably why the Santa Claus costume was adopted as part of the murder in the first place! It also doesn't really give conclusions for many of the characters. The book is *full* of red herrings and then the ending just ties together a bunch of obscure stuff. Massive ending spoilers follow. Part of the assumption was that the second Santa Claus handed out crackers to mask a shot. Yet it's also described that he *pulled the crackers* with them while he was there. It seems a massive stroke of luck for nobody, not even those with the crackers, to notice a shot, or not to think "wow that cracker noise happened while we weren't pulling crackers". They didn't have infinite crackers. It's also noted that nobody was expecting the crackers to be pulled that day. All it would have taken was one person to say "hey what the heck are the crackers for" or even just to speak to the guy *at all* and his entire disguise would have been ruined. Hell, even *looking closely* at him would have done it. Not a single point in the ending touches on how the murder was achieved. His alibi was also incredibly shoddy and would have fallen apart without a lucky meeting of other characters AND them totally lying about their positions! It's also notable that ALL the evidence against him is circumstantial. The only solid thing they have to pin on him is that he lied to the old chauffeur to try and get him to take the blame. Yet there was absolutely no reason for him to even have done that, and anyway that doesn't prove murder. I also found it ridiculous to think that *straight* after the murder he'd just be like "oh hey want to marry me" straight away and someone just go "oh yeah sure".

It's weird because it wasn't unenjoyable and I did have some fun for what it was. But there are plenty better stories and that ending was just naff.
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tombomp | 30 other reviews | Oct 31, 2023 |


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