Ah, a book after my own heart! Practically everything I love is within this title. An old manor in Maryland named Lady Court with ghostly undertones, a group of Jazz Age friends called the March Hares (anything that alludes to Alice in Wonderland is fine with me) traditional Halloween games, and a storm stranding the 13 (good number right?) guests.
The March Hares are 4 friends, all whose birthdays fall in the month of March, and they consider themselves ‘mad’ in that Jazz Age sort of way. The characters are quite indicative of the time–upper class people, before the depression was a blip on the horizon.
Frances Noyes Hart wrote various short stories and mysteries for The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines until her untimely death in 1943. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Bellamy Trial (1927) which was later produced as a play.
The story opens on All Hallow’s Eve, 1928, acquainting the reader with the 13 characters. This is one of those wonderful old puzzlers that gives a list of character names for the reader to return to for reference. As the evening deepens, the group play traditional Halloween games, most of which are lost to us today. An example: looking in the mirror to see your true love’s face reflected. Bobbing for apples is another game, although still played, not as often or with as much enthusiasm as in the past. Spooky ghost stories are told of former plantation inhabitants, and in particular, one March Hare who committed suicide 10 years ago, within the manor’s walls.
The guests play hide in the dark–a game like ‘It’–everyone hides, and an individual is left to find them. Unfortunately, one person really got ‘it’! Murdered. Everyone had access and reason, it is revealed, to do in the victim. Naturally, a dark and stormy night ensues, and they are trapped with no way to leave or bring someone in to deal with the body, or murderer among them.
The revelation of whodunit came as a huge surprise to me, which after all the years of reading is surprising in itself!
If you find a copy, and there are several out there, it will be a lovely old blue bound book with an orange title. The endpapers inside are illustrated with the story’s setting. And if you collect, and are really lucky, you may find a copy in jacket– the above is what that jacket will look like–although not as pristine–I worked to restore it back to it’s former glory. I located a first edition in jacket and was absolutely elated. But, wait, later I found a first sans jacket–but inscribed by Frances Noyes Hart!! Remove ordinary first, replace in jacket the inscribed first, and I now had a first inscribed copy in jacket which not only increased the value, but my excitement level as well, lol.
But you don’t need any of those perks to love this title, any beat up copy will provide thrills and chills and not only if read on All Hallow’s Eve, but any day of the year.