Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Boxing Day Mystery

December 26 is Boxing Day. I've put together a very long list of mysteries that take place at Christmas, and I'm sure there are several that continue through Boxing Day, but here's a mystery that focuses specifically on Boxing Day: Nicholas Blake's Thou Shell of Death (1936). Nicholas Blake is the pseudonym of Cecil Day Lewis, late British poet laureate.

Thou Shell of Death focuses on Fergus O'Brien, a WWI flying ace. Fergus receives four letters predicting that he will be murdered on Boxing Day. Despite this, or maybe because of this, he plans a party and invites all the suspects (there are several people who might want to do him in) plus private detective Nigel Strangeways. O'Brien does die, and it's up to Nigel Strangeways with the help of Inspector Blount of Scotland Yard to solve the crime. This is Blount's first appearance in the series. Thou Shell of Death is an oldie but goodie, especially if you like houseparty mysteries.

And, in case you're not familiar with Boxing Day, it's the day after Christmas, when "servants and tradesmen traditionally would receive gifts from their superiors." Today it's a national holiday in the U.K. and Ireland. As far as why it's called Boxing Day, there are several different theories:

A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.
Boxing Day was a day off for servants and when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master.
The servants would also go home to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.
A box to collect money for the poor was placed in Churches on Christmas day then opened the next day.
Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. If the voyage were a success the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.

Is there a specific Boxing Day Mystery I've forgotten?

And, if you're not tired of cooking and baking, try this Pear and Chocolate Trifle for Boxing Day!


vallery said...

I always enjoyed the Nicholas Blakes. (Father of Daniel Day-Lewis) I'll look for this one. I knew some of the meaning of Boxing Day but not all. This was very enlightening

J F Norris said...

Catt Out of Bag (1939) by Clifford Witting (long out of print and wholly forgotten) takes place between December 21 and December 28. A caroler disappears from a group of singers collecting for charity and his murdered body is discovered on Boxing Day.

Priscilla said...

This sounds like a fun mystery! I must have read some of these mysteries "back in the day" but this doesn't ring a bell. Looks like I need a Boxing Day present. Thank you, Janet.