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The Ghost It Was

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Scary story for the Halloween season, with multiple twists and turns. I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates mysteries from the Golden Age.
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It took me two tries to make it through to the end. The greedy relatives bored me, but the ghost (specifically one of the methods used to prove that he couldn't be real) was intriguing.
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The Ghost It Was by Richard Hull is a murder mystery set in 1930s.  James Warrenton has bought Amberhurst Place, he is beset with nephews (and a niece), is interested in spiritualism, and believes there is a ghost in the house.  

The nephews don't all get on, with one of them living with their uncle, and he is hoping to be the one to inherit.

This is a whodunit, with knocking noises, ghosts being seen, and someone dying - was it the ghost that killed them, a person or was it an accident?  

I enjoyed the story and the journey it takes you on!

The Ghost It Was was first published in 1936, and is available from Amazon, Waterstones and

I was given this book in exchange for an unbiased review, so my thanks to NetGalley and to Agora Books.
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"The Ghost It Was" is not the strongest of Richard Hull's mystery novels, but it was a reasonably enjoyable read. 

James Warrenton has four nephews, at least three of whom have their eye on the main chance and want Warrenton's money. Warrenton has become interested in spiritualism, and the legend of two brothers who supposedly haunt his property. One of his nephews plunges to his death from the haunted tower; was it a terrible accident, or a ghostly murder?

The characters are exactly what you'd expect to find in a mystery story of this vintage. Hull, however, has a deft hand with them, and there are sparkles of personality in each, and a certain amount of dry wit. The plot, well, it's a bit weak, but not enough to dissuade the reader. 

Other Hull novels are better, for example, "The Murder of My Aunt," but the characters and wit, for me, made up for any plot deficiencies. 

Recommended for a light read.

I received a free copy of this book from Crime Classics Review Club and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Can you enjoy a book when you don't like ANY of the characters? Yep. The book was fun, and the murders were a nice puzzle, but not one single character in this awful family was likeable. Thankful that my family isn't anything like the Warrentons, who are just a bit over the top. Give this story a try - it may start slow, but the ending makes it all worthwhile.
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I generally like this genre but struggled a bit with this one.  Too many characters and none likable enough for one to be invested overly much.  I am okay with a character that is a bit unlikable but one that has no redeeming qualities is almost a caricature.   It was more like 2 1/2 stars - not awful but not great. 

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in return for a fair review.
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Disappointing. We begin inside the mind of an unlikable but clever character, hoping he might be moved, at some point in his pursuit of self-interest, to empathy and human connection. It doesn't happen. The plot becomes more and more complicated and unlikely, the characters, if anything, less likeable. The author appears to be aiming to engage the reader in a mystery based on an intricate puzzle, a kind of contest between author and reader.  Even the ending is a challenge to the reader.

This reader, for one, is not interested in contest. I want insight, and engagement, characters with whom I can identify and most of all, a good story. This missed on all counts.

I'm grateful to NetGalley for the chance to read and comment.
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I’ve enjoyed several of Richard Hull’s novels over the last few years – particularly The Murder of My Aunt and Left-Handed Death – and with Halloween quickly approaching, The Ghost It Was (first published in 1936) sounded like a good one to read next.

The novel begins with aspiring journalist Gregory Spring-Benson trying to get a job as a newspaper reporter. Having failed to impress the editor, Gregory is given new hope when he comes across a badly written article about James Warrenton’s purchase of the supposedly haunted Amberhurst Place. James Warrenton happens to be his uncle – his very rich uncle – and perhaps if Gregory goes to visit him in his new home he will be able to gather material for a much more interesting article that will help to launch his career in journalism. If he can also persuade Uncle James to leave him as much money as possible in his will, even better!

On his arrival, however, Gregory finds that he is not the only one hoping to secure his inheritance; three other nephews and a niece have also descended upon the house in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with their uncle. But while the cousins are busy plotting and scheming against each other, the ghost of Amberhurst Place makes an appearance at the top of a tower. Deaths soon follow, but is the ghost responsible or is there a human culprit?

Although all of the books I’ve read by Richard Hull so far have been very different, unlikeable characters seem to be the one thing they have in common! This worked very well in The Murder of My Aunt, where the characters were so horrible they were funny, but in this book they are just thoroughly unpleasant and not much fun to spend time with at all. I could easily have believed that almost any of them was the murderer and didn’t really care which of them was. It didn’t help that after a strong opening, introducing us to Gregory Spring-Benson and describing his ordeals at the newspaper office, the narrative then jumps around between the other cousins, the butler, a clergyman and some Scotland Yard investigators. We barely see Gregory after this and I felt that the novel lost focus through trying to involve too many different characters at once.

The ghost story aspect of the novel is well done – not at all scary, but it adds some atmosphere and makes it more difficult to work out exactly how the murders are being carried out. Despite the unpleasant characters and the lack of focus I’ve mentioned, it’s quite an enjoyable mystery to try to solve and the denouement, when it comes, is unusual and unexpected. Instead of tying everything up for the reader, Hull leaves us to make up our own minds and to decide whether we’ve correctly interpreted what we have been told. Not a favourite Hull novel, then, but still worth reading and I will continue to explore his other books.
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The Ghost It Was, by Richard Hull, drew me quickly into the story – unexpectedly, as Gregory Spring-Benson, the one of the main characters whom the first two chapters focus on, is manifestly amoral, arrogant, and self-centered. Indeed, self-centeredness characterized most of the central characters: Gregory’s uncle James, suspicious and manipulative; his cousin Arthur, unscrupulous and ruthlessly deceptive; Henry, another cousin, too self-absorbed for any awareness of the effects of his behavior on others; Ruskin, the apparently – but only apparently - devoted butler. Even the less reprehensible characters among the possible suspects have major flaws: James’s niece Emily is weak and easily exploited; Arthur’s brother Christopher is detached; Thompson the rector is cowardly.  

Although I seldom like books populated mainly with people whom I would dislike in real life, I found The Ghost It Was entertaining and page-turning. The energy and wit of Hull’s writing style partly accounts for this. The writing is mainly informal, conversational, and flowing, interspersed seamlessly with brilliant sentences such as “The last sufferer from his assistance had told him bluntly that he considered perfect idleness and sarcasm to his superiors an inadequate substitute for more humdrum but useful qualifications.” (from chapter 1) 

In addition, the murder itself was unusual. Clues to the murderer’s identity, motive, and method were planted throughout the narrative. However, though I spotted most of them as clues, I was not able to draw correct conclusions until near the end of the book. The revealing of the murderer by the detective, and the explanation of the details of the evil deed, are done in an interestingly indirect and understated way, in contrast to the dramatic culminations often found in mysteries. 

My thanks to Agora Books for the opportunity to read and review this story. 

Review posted on
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I haven't read anything from this author before, but he writes in the classical British crime genre and with a lovely dry sense of humor.
James Warrenton (uncle James) has bought Amberhurst Place, because it is said to house a ghost, and he is interested in spiritism. 
He has 4 nephews and a niece. None of them specially interested in ghosts, but  some of them rather interested in Uncle James' money.   
The niece (Emily) and nephew (Henry Malcolm) both live with and work for the uncle.  Two nephews live with their mother not far from Amberhurst Place. The eldest (Arthur) is a solicitor, and the other (Christopher) is a poet. The last nephew is  the charlatan Gregory Spring-Benson, who appears at the manor hoping to get hold of some money, as he is nearly bankrupt. 
One of the nephews are killed and later yet another murder takes place. It is up to inspector Fenby to investigate and find who  dunnit. 
I found it an entertaining novel with funny characters, and I would like to read  other crime novels written by Richard Hull.
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‘Haunted House Inhabited’

A haunted house, a cantankerous old man, an assortment of nephews and one niece.  Most of the nephews would like to get their hands on the uncle’s money, should the opportunity arise.

Gregory Spring-Benson has decided to undertake a career as a journalist: it will be easy, he thinks.  He manages to persuade a reluctant editor that he can get a story: his estranged uncle James Warrenton, a well-known international financier, has recently adopted spiritualistic ideas and has recently purchased Amberhurst Place.  The house has been unoccupied for some years because there is a legend that it is haunted.
Gregory Spring-Benson sets off to see his uncle. 

‘The captive, sir.  Will you be requiring the dog?’

After a few relatively minor setbacks, Spring-Benson meets his uncle.  He also meets his cousins: Henry, Emily, Arthur, and Christopher. 

Mr Hull has provided us with a cast of unlikeable (and in some cases quite ineffectual) characters.  And then there is the butler, Rushton.  Spring-Benson may be in search of a story, but which one?

It took me a while to get into the novel as much of the first half serves to set the scene and demonstrate the nature of the characters and their relationships.  But once things get moving, they move quite quickly.  A ghost, and then a death.  Are they related?  Is it murder?  

Fortunately, Scotland Yard becomes involved.  Unfortunately, there is a second death before the case is solved.  Who is responsible?  You will need to read closely to work it out.

An enjoyable read.

This novel was first published in 1936 and was republished in 2018.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for 
review purposes.  

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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A vintage mystery originally published in 1950. I am usually a fan of this era, but I wouldn't say this was a particularly fine example.

The mystery is a family drama, set in an old castle like mansion complete with ghost stories and legends. There is an old man threatening to disinherit his various grasping relatives including several particularly unpleasant nephews.

The first body appears -- was it murder or a mysterious trick gone wrong? There were eyewitnesses, but did they see a crime or were their imaginations replaying the old ghost stories? The second body appears and things are still murky.

I felt like this mystery suffered from too many characters, general wordiness, and some silly plot elements. Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Wry Humour, Eccentric Cast.....
The objectionable James Warrenton, owner of supposedly haunted Amberhurst Place, suspects dysfunctional  family of wanting his fortune. Full of sly, wry humour and over the top characters, an eccentric cast typical of this author. A fun read and a treat from the Golden Age of Crime.
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As Christmas approaches we all love a story with a ghost in it, don't we? I know I do. In some ways this is a slightly more adult version of that great 1940s classic Kind Hearts and Coronets, and just as enjoyable.
Richard Hull was a chartered account who turned to writing crime novels in the 1930s. He wasn't as prolific as many of his contemporaries and didn't have a series detective who was later adapted for TV. Sadly, like many other good writers from that time he was until very recently almost forgotten.
I love his style of writing. There's a light touch of tongue-in-cheek humour and he has a very clever way of pointing a finger at all the usual suspects including inevitably the butler. If you like classic crime novels this won't disappoint.
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This book was first published in 1936. It has been reprinted in 2018 by Agora Books.
James Warrenton, a rich international financier becomes interested in spiritualism and ghosts. He purchases an old and purportedly haunted estate which has remained unoccupied for long . The estate is named Amberhurst Place and located in the village of Amberhurst . He settles there.
James has four nephews and one niece. All are eager to get a share of the inheritance after his death. The nephew Henry and the niece Emily live with him. Two other nephews Arthur and Christopher who are brothers live nearby. The remaining nephew Gregory lives in London and aspires to be a journalist.
Gregory reads a poorly written article on the haunted Amberhurst Place in a newspaper. He decides to get a better story on the place and sell it to the newspaper. Hence he visits his uncle’s house. James allows him to stay with him.
It is the tower of the house that is apparently haunted. The nephew Arthur in connivance with a parson Cyril Thomson decides to play a trick on James by disguising as a ghost and appearing on the top of the tower. But the plan backfires when he is pushed to death from the top presumably by a real ghost. 
Inspector Fenby from Scotland investigates and ultimately solves the case but not before there is another killing.
The plot is quite good, intriguing and humorous. But I found it slow-going because of the high padding of unnecessary details. I had to struggle to reach the end. Also the ending is abrupt and not wrapped up clearly leaving one with several questions. Considering all these aspects, I rate the book as 3 stars.
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Rich James Warrenton, has recently purchased Amberhurst Place, reportedly haunted. He is interested in spiritualism and hopes to contact the dead. With the arrival of the last of his four nephews, they and one niece, are now all in the neighbourhood, so schemes to ensure they are each the main beneficiary of his will start. But then there is a death, but will this be the last.
An entertaining historical mystery though with hardly any likeable characters.
First published 1936
An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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A fun Golden Age mystery with the traditional set up of a country house, a wealthy paterfamilias and feuding relatives. What distinguishes this mystery is the humor and sharp dialogue. The last third of the book is a bit of a let down and the denouement too short and not very satisfying, but overall I highly recommend this enjoyable read.
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Originally published in 1936, this Golden Age "locked room" mystery is another fun and engrossing read by Richard Hull.  As a fan of this era I was happy with the atmospheric setting, characters (unlikable but where is the fun in characters who reek of perfection and goodness?), plot and ending.

Despised eccentric and wealthy James Warrenton buys Amberhurst Palace as he is intrigued by its historical ghostly links.  He believes his four nephews are aiming to becoming heir so he takes steps.  

James, three nephews, one niece, staff and a ghost are all suspects when one of James' four nephews is murdered.  Who has motive and opportunity?  Following that get lost in the 
book's abundant clever twists and turns which kept me engaged and guessing to the last page.  

Ghosts aren't my thing but this book's depiction is different.  It works.  The ending is unpredictable which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Hull's subtle wit and dry humour are great.

Golden Age mystery fans will discover plenty to like about this book.  Well worth immersing yourself in.
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I loved the setting of this classic Murder Mystery and the ghostly undertones. This was my second Richard Hull book and I like his style. There’s been a darkly humorous tone in both books and I think that works well to add something unique to the classic crime story.
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I have read one other book by Richard Hull, and this one felt very much like that one – a classic British mystery, with elegant writing, descriptions that conveyed the essentials of the locale and the characters, a little dose of dry British humor, and an unexpected twist at the end.   

The book revolves around James Warrenton, a wealthy man who has just purchased an estate in the country.  I especially enjoyed the way that all of James Warrenton’s relatives seem to have an eye for the main chance (Warrenton’s money), but each in their own way, with their own style, and all ringing true. And the same is true of other hangers-on at Warrenton’s Amberhurst estate.  Just to keep things amusing, there are also hints of a ghost in the estate's crumbly tower, and I’m quite fond of the way the book’s title, “The Ghost It Was”, mimics the more traditional, “The Butler Did It”.  Oh yeah, and there is one of those - a butler – too; please see “hangers-on” above.  

With only one caveat, I quite enjoyed this book – the caveat being that so many of the characters simply seem to be without any redeeming qualities.  So for some part of the book, it actually felt a little bit depressing.   

But, in the end, as with the other Hull book that I read, there is quite a nice, albeit slightly enigmatic, ending that ties up the loose threads and provides satisfaction.
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