The Murder Of My Aunt by Richard Hull

Edward is not a happy person. Forced to live in the Welsh town of Llwll on the pittance of an allowance that his aunt allows him, he chafes under her oppression. Day by day, the unfairnesses pile up and up until he can take it no more. As he will be the sole beneficiary of his aunt’s fortune, he concludes that his aunt has to die – but in a way that will cast no suspicion on himself.

And so begins Edward’s plotting. Can he even bring himself to actually commit murder? Will it be the perfect murder? Or will somebody be able to bring him to justice?

This is my second experience with Richard Hull, after the outstanding Murder Isn’t Easy, a stunning display of how to do the unreliable narrator trick, but this is the first of Hull’s novels. And it’s fair to say that he hit the ground running.

Richard Hull was the nom de plume of Richard Henry Sampson, writing this book at the age of 38 and going on to produce fifteen mystery novels, finishing in 1953. Unfortunately, when he retired from auditing, he also retired from writing, as he lived a good twenty years after that. Which was a pity as from what I’ve read so far, he was one of the most original voices from the Golden Age. And with all great lost authors, he’s a b****r to get hold of – well, apart from this one. The Murder Of My Aunt, occasionally known as Murder Of My Aunt, especially if you’re a green penguin, seems to have multiple editions out there, but as for the other titles, they’re as rare as a sensible word coming out the mouth of Donald Trump. So massive thanks to the British Library (this and Excellent Intentions) and Ipso Books (Murder Isn’t Easy, Keep It Quiet and The Ghost It Was) for bringing (over the next few months) one fifth of Hull’s output to the masses. I first heard of him when Len Tyler mentioned this book at the Bodies From The Library conference a couple of years ago, so I promptly bought a definite-article-lacking Green Penguin and promptly forgot about it. I’ve said it before – I am an idiot.

But now that I’ve read it, what about this one? It’s generally agreed to be a bit of a classic and it’s hard to argue with that. It’s not an easy job to have an engaging but unpleasant narrator – Edward really is a massive arse – and also to make it funny. You find yourself enjoying Edward’s slightly rubbish early attempts at murder, and the reader can try and guess if it will go wrong and if so, how.

It’s hard to praise the strongest part of the narrative without veering towards the spoiler territory but Hull does an excellent job of hiding something rather massive in plain sight that the reader will still probably miss. I do hope that’s vague enough – I really would hate to spoil something as clever and endearing as this book.

I think this is the best book to come out of the British Library range for ages (and there’s some strong competition for that title) and it’s an absolute must-read. And when you’ve read that, there are two more titles – Excellent Intentions and Murder Isn’t Easy out there for you to get into, and two more on the way. Lucky old us…

18 comments

  1. Interesting review, you certainly highlight Hull’s strengths without giving the game away, though arguably there is still something of a spoiler within your review post. Arguably. Can’t say of course as that would indeed spoil things in of and itself. Will you be returning to Hull soon, since Excellent Intentions and Keep It Quiet are available now? If so KIQ should definitely be your next read.

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  2. Read this book many, many moons ago and remember it as being delightful. I know I will reread it again soon.

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  3. ” Hull does an excellent job of hiding something rather massive in plain sight that the reader will still probably miss”
    In my opinion, the reader will certainly miss !

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  4. I am sure that the book is wonderful (that series is almost universally fabulous) and I look forward to reading it! But more important: did you say sense from Trump’s mouth? Colonel Bonespurs has no conception of sense (except for cents and dollars) nor does he know what the words truth, ethics, moral and fiscal responsibility, the rule of law, or many other concepts of Democracy mean. He and his whole administration as well as the spineless Congress — the ultra conservative, right wing, old white males –are pathetic. So are the Koch brothers, and the NRA. Trump has now packed the judiciary with his appointees which will alter American justice for years. I know that this is not a political column, but you did write the first comment and I must amplify it. Trump is narcissistic, homophobic, xenophobic, morally and ethically corrupt, a world class liar, and pathologically chaotic. Do you want to know what I really think?

    We need more people like Elizabeth Warren, Susan Collins (a Republican but not afraid to cross party lines fr the good of the country), Sally Q Yates, and so many others including many thoughtful and decent men. I watched some videos of President and Mrs.Obama the other day and I kept breaking out in tears — of despair,frustration and sure stark anger over the differences between their presidency and this.

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  5. Could you add a little more detail about the “something rather massive” hidden in plain sight? I just read the book (thank you for recommending it) and can’t figure out what that might be.

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