Friday’s Forgotten Book: The Majestic Mystery by Denis Mackail (1924)

“Then how do you know he was shot at all?”

There was an irritating air of the amateur detective about this question which roused Peter at once.

Friends Peter Langley and James Vincent are journalist, very junior in the hiearchy. One weekend, after submitting their articles to their newspapers, they decide to take a trip to Newcliff-on-Sea, where Peter had gone the previous year with his brother and had stayed at Majestic hotel. James is a little dubious at first but after coming to know that the head-waiter had been generous with the cream that he offered along with the porridge, aceeds, though he still has a question:

“Will the Majestic take a cheque?”

“Not yours,” said Peter with conviction.

Both of them are suffering from cold and hope the trip will cure them of it. However, when they reach the place, they find that it is drizzling. Even more dampening they find that the head-waiter seems to have no recollection of Peter having ever stayed there before so the question of being generous as regards cream doesn’t arise.

Also staying in the hotel is renowned actress Anna Worthington who is starring in a play The Blue Butterfly along with the manager and director, Howard Impey and play-wright Kenneth Paisley. Our two young heroes are of course dismissive of it since they feel that this merely proves that British stage is going to the dogs. It doesn’t stop them, however, from rushing to Anna’s side the moment she flutters her eyelashes at them.

Determined to take a walk, rain or no rain, they set out:

The self-righteousness of those who take walks on wet days encircled them now like an aura. They could scarcely conceal their contempt for the craven and unmanly visitors who were still lounging in armchairs in the hall.

– but when they reach the pier, they are astounded when a girl in a parlour maid costume suddenly rushes out and shoots in the air from a large, black revolver, shouting all the time before collapsing in tears. A man comes and collects her while James and Peter watch in stupefaction.

That same night, Peter runs across the same girl in the corridor of the hotel when she rushes out of a room in a highly nervous state. When Peter gains entry into the room (after a struggle with Kenneth Paisley, which has to be read to be really admired) he finds a corpse in the room.

From then on Peter turns detective in order to solve the mystery.

This is a gentle, fun book with moments when I laughed out loud. The mystery is nothing great but the social comedy is superb. I only wish James was there more.


First Line: Observing Mr. Peter Langley and Mr. James Vincent, where they sit side by side in the lounge of the Majestic Hotel at Newcliff-on-Sea, it is natural enough that you should amuse yourself by comparing and distinguishing between their respective appearances.

London: William Heinemann, 1924

Pages: 311

Other Opinions: Stuck in a Book

27 thoughts on “Friday’s Forgotten Book: The Majestic Mystery by Denis Mackail (1924)

  1. Oh, there’s nothing like good social comedy, Neeru. I’m glad it worked well here. And a seaside hotel is such a great setting for a story, I always think. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, even if the mystery itself isn’t spectacular.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Alas, I can’t recommend any Thirkell because I don’t particularly enjoy her books! They’re very popular, though, and many have been rereleased by Virago if I remember correctly. But I personally found her characters a bit annoying and the country house setting too much. That’s just me, though, as I know lots of people love her books!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Neeru, I enjoy mysteries of this vintage. I just finished reading a classic from the late 1940s which I’m sure you know: Josephine Tey’s THE DAUGHTER OF TIME. I’ve had that book on my shelves for decades and it’s taken a Pandemic for me to get around to reading it. Anyone who enjoyed Shakespeare’s RICHARD III should give THE DAUGHTER OF TIME a try. It’s a brilliant historical mystery novel!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was going to say that I’ve read this, and then I see your kind link, thank you! I’ve never managed to track down a copy, but was very glad that the audiobook is available. And as Kaggsy says above, he was Angela Thirkell’s brother – I would recommend any of her early novels, as they get worse as time went on.

    Liked by 1 person

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