A Haunting at Holkham

Written by Anne Glenconner
Review by Edward James

This is a country house murder/mystery, but whereas lovers of the genre are usually content with the artificiality of the setting, Anne Glenconner goes for authenticity. Not only did she grow up in a country house (she is the daughter of the Earl of Leicester), she grew up in the setting for her novel, Holkham Hall in Norfolk, and has chosen to cast herself as the investigator into the death of her own grandfather—who wasn’t murdered in real life, although he did meet a violent end. So this book is part fictional murder mystery and part memoir.

The book works better as a memoir. There are too few suspects to be a challenging whodunnit, and we don’t really get to know them before the denouement. As a memoir, it is enthralling. Told in two time streams, 1943 and 1950, when Anne is 11 and 18, this is not the golden age of the country house but its twilight years. The best character is Miss Crane, the governess from hell.

A beautiful memoir of a very unusual childhood.