January 2015 | Nate Pedersen

Mystery Novel from 1930s is Surprise Christmas Bestseller

Dorothy Sayers said he was "unsurpassed for creepy skill in mysterious adventures," but the mystery novels of Joseph Jefferson Farjeon have largely been forgotten since his death 60 years ago. Farjeon, however, wrote a number of bestselling mysteries and plays - over 80 in total - between 1924 and 1955. 
His novel Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story, first published in 1937, was re-released in 2014 as part of the British Library's Crime Classics series.  It shocked the publishing industry, however, when it outsold Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt in British Christmas sales this year. Even Amazon ran out of stock for awhile as it struggled to keep up with demand.

Mystery in White tells the story of a group of six people stuck on a train stranded by snow on Christmas Eve. They decide to try to walk to the next station rather than risk remaining all night on the train.

On the way, they stumble upon a mysterious, unlocked house with a table set for dinner, but no one at home.  Slowly, the passengers begin to unravel the secrets of the empty house.  

And that's when the murders start.

Farjeon was born in London in 1885 into an artistic family.  His play Number 17 was a huge success and was turned into a film by Alfred Hitchcock.  Farjeon died in Hove, aged 72, in 1955. 

The new edition of Mystery in White is estimated to have sold about 60,000 copies in 2014.