Cover Image: The Ghost It Was

The Ghost It Was

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Member Reviews

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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A good read. The author draws you in quickly with an interesting main character who has mercenary intent! The plot unfolds smoothly maintaining the readers interest up until the end. All the characters are well depicted and I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in class crime stories. This is the first book I have read by Richard Hull but won’t be the last. There are touches of many of my favourite authors such as Allingham and Bude but also enough to make this author interesting on their own merit.
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Irreverent, sparky and quaint all at once, ‘The Ghost It Was’ is perfect fodder for these cold winter nights. To say that the novel moves apace is an understatement; there’s no messing around here. 

The tropes are present- the country house, the eccentric elderly relative, ditsy but underestimated family member; all combine for an engaging, diverting example of the ‘Golden Age.’
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Do you believe in ghosts? What happens if your rich, deaf, contrary, old uncle suddenly expresses a deep belief in ghosts and all associated spiritist phenomenon? Well if you’re related to James Warrenton, you decide that this can be turned to your monetary advantage. Just how you might not be sure, but there must be a way. Oh, and don’t forget to discredit all other greedy relatives while you do that, and don’t get arrested for murder. 
  The characters are wonderfully surprising. Some are worse than we first suspect, and others have hidden depths of strength and courage. Even the detective fits into this cast perfectly. He’s brilliant but humorous, humble but commanding. 
  This is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long while. Hull’s style is lighthearted, and his plots delightfully mystifying. He is well on the way to becoming one of my favorite authors.
  I would recommend it for all lovers of a lighthearted mystery.
  There were several curse words throughout the book. Other than those it was a clean mystery. 
  I received this as a free ARC through NetGalley and Agora Books. No favorable review was required. It was my pleasure to provide my honest opinion.
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this was such a fun read and I loved the 1930's vibe.

It is a murder mystery and I think quite a classic. It is well written and highly entertaining. 

With a ghostly edge I found myself avidly turning the pages and in one sitting it was done. 

Perfect just to have an hour or two escape from life.
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This was my first Richard Hull book.  I had heard so much about this author and was keenly interested, at first.  Normally a insatiable reader, I found myself struggling to just getting to the end so I would not have to deal with these characters any longer!

I found the characters unsympathetic, uncaring and uninteresting.  I struggle to get to the last page and there were so many times, I wanted to leap forward and hopefully find an enjoyable and interesting section.

Although, I may not recommend this book, I will try reading another book by Richard Hull.
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I've never read anything by Richard Hull before, so when the Crime Readers' Club offered a review copy I was keen to see what I thought - I'm always on the look-out for new writers to satisfy my completist needs. A nice long list makes me very happy!

As well as a long list (fourteen books) Richard Hull supplies, in A Ghost It Was, something else that makes me happy in a writer of mysteries - humour. In his case it's not quite that slightly febrile humour that characterises Innes or Crispin but something a little more down-to-earth: his policemen are more stolid, reliable types than Sir John Appleby, for instance, even when undercover (and we won't even mention Gervase Fen!). Nonetheless, you do feel that the author's tongue is firmly lodged in his cheek at times, as each new character displays a series of unloveable traits in trying to manipulate circumstances to his own ends. 

Funnily enough, I'd just been reading a book with a rather similar starting point by Gladys Mitchell, The Longer Bodies. Each begins with a rich relation who hasn't yet named an heir, and various family members trying to ingratiate themselves in order to inherit all. Mitchell's horrible Great Aunt Puddequet (what a fantastic name!) sets an athletics challenge to her nephews; here James Warrenton, who has a strictly dilettante-ish interest in spiritualism, buys a haunted house and proceeds to amuse himself by watching his family members jump through metaphorical hoops to please him. Among them is Gregory Spring-Benson, whom we meet at first trying to persuade an newspaper editor to employ him as a reporter apparently in the belief that it won't involve any actual work. He certainly doesn't intend to do any, and is staggeringly rude to absolutely everyone; his pretence that he believes in ghosts gets him into the house as a potential heir, since it amuses Warrenton to annoy the rest of the family. And then there's the pompous Arthur, who sets up an elaborate - and really rather perverse - trick to prove that there's no ghost. They really are a nasty bunch.

It's an unusual example of the genre in other ways - the police arrive late to the events, which is not so very odd (there's an Appleby one where he doesn't appear until near the end, if I remember correctly), but the denouement happens, as it were, off-stage. No showdown in the library here, although there is the required explanation of the mechanism of the murder.

Apparently Hull continued to eschew the straightforward in his novels, tending more towards the sort of "psychological" novel that became more common later. I'm intrigued to see where his experimentation took him, though I must admit that I don't often enjoy mysteries with unreliable narrators. We shall see....
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I had high hopes for this title. A story from the golden  age of mystery set in a supposedly haunted house!  The writing style, though fairly typical of this era, was just a little too full. Too much time is given over to trivial description and thought processes of the characters. SOS much so that it made it hard to concentrate and I found myself skimming whole paragraphs so that I could get to the end and see how the story concluded.  
When I finally did reach the end, it came as a bit of an anticlimax. The method and motive of the murderer was hurriedly thrown into a kind of epilogue in a mist unsatisfactory way. 
I usually enjoy early 20 century mysteries but this one just seemed to be all bark and no bite. 
Thank you to the publisher for this review copy.
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Thank you to Netgallery for the ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review.

I honestly think that some people would enjoy this ... for me personally however I didn’t enjoy the writing style making it difficult to read without exerting just a little too much concentration to enjoy what I was reading. It kept me interested and I wanted to know the outcome but it was almost a bit to clever for its own good .. making it confusing. The ending of this book didn’t work for me ... I didn’t really understand how everything tied together and it made for a story which felt jumpy and gappy.  The characters were interesting ones but nothing really new here ... just a kind of weird whodunnit for me.  I was just glad to reach the end of this.  I wouldn’t read anymore books by this author.
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A family that's a "little peculiar" author's words,  who inhabit this golden age mystery.  The inhabitants include a crusty, wealthy uncle who has purchased an allegedly haunted house and his niece and nephews who each feels entitled to be the sole beneficiary of uncle's money.  After the death of one of the nephews an inspector from Scotland Yard arrives, was it murder or what.  The inspector's entrance is as an expert from Departed Spirits Assn, the author describes his appearance as resembling a foot stool.  There's also a butler who goes around banging on walls and getting dusty looking for hidden gems.  I wish the author had written a more complete ending, it seemed a little rushed but overall a gem of a read.
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This was originally published in the 30's.  James Warrenton has recently moved into a supposedly haunted house.  His nephews are all vying for a piece of his money, but when someone is killed, everyone is a suspect, including the ghost.  It was a pretty good story, although I was kind of disappointed at who the killer was, even thought it was probably the most likely ending.  Three stars.
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The novel starts by introducing us to Spring-Benson an Amoral lazy money grabbing and at first glance thoroughly unlikeable character ,however from trying to get a job for which he is completely unsuitable as a journalist he comes across news that a rich uncle has taken over a large estate .He makes up his mind to visit initially with the intention of getting the full story to enable him to get the job,however this is soon ditched by his stated intention to swindle as much money as possible from his uncle.This intention expressed at dinner with his uncle and cousins and its this sort of bare faced dishonesty which seems to have a charm of its own especially against the more ingratiating attitudes of some of his cousins.
Spring-Benson then merges into the family as they all try to put themselves in pole position as they try to get into pole position to inherit their uncles wealth.
Then things start to get strange.Uncle James is into spiritualism and the old tales of his house being haunted are welcomed by him One of his nephews determined to show him up stages an appearance of the ghost but all goes badly wrong when he falls from the roof,Did he fall or was he pushed ? the story really picks up pace from now,the appearance of a little man from a spiritualist society allies himself to uncle James but his exposure as a fraud presages another death.
Without giving anything away there are now revelations and actions that change everything and everything is explained at the end.
A typical Hull novel,a group of mostly fairly unlikeable characters who are described in Hulls humerus but incisive writing .I felt the ending was a bit rushed in someways but not overly so and I did find it a very enjoyable lead
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This was my first Richard Hull book; it was thoroughly enjoyable. He immediately engages the reader with a diverse array of thoroughly unlikeable characters, all plotting to get Uncle's money. The plot moved steadily and keeps one guessing. A good read for lovers of this genre.
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Richard Hull is just not my cup of tea. This is the second book of his which I have read. The characters in his books are generally disagreeable and generally unlikable. Although he has a good command of English and writes well with good plotting, his endings lea e much to be desired. I note others give a wide variety of review scores so his writing must be pleasing to some. I simply find other olden age writers more pleasing to me.
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A thoroughly confusing and kind of pleasurable read - this is full of deeply unlikable characters wrapped around a murder mystery that, to my mind, is not wrapped up clearly AT ALL. It's amusing and Mr. Hull knows how to stitch a sentence together to create a mood but I was left feeling unsatisfied.  I'd recommend as a good example of the side roads British Golden Age novels can take but not for the straight up mystery fan.
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So, another Richard Hull book.
This is the fifth title by Richard Hull I have read, yet although I keep going back to this author I just cannot fully warm to his style of writing.
I love the whole ‘golden age’ crime fiction era and so keep returning to this author as he is noted as being influential and important to the development of the genre. 

The positive points are that his plotting is generally good (if a little eccentric) and the reveal makes sense. In addition, his books are smart and witty and there is a certain experimental nature to his writing. Even now, 80 years later, many of the author’s ideas seem fresh. But somehow, the experimental can feel gimmicky, the smart can feel condescending and the wit seems a little too scathing.
But then, the same could probably be said of my reviews…

That is not to say that I did not get anything from “The Ghost It Was”, I did certainly, but although all the elements I love in this type of novel are present, I just did not love the novel.
I genuinely hope one day to find the Richard Hull book that I truly enjoy but unfortunately, this was not to be it.

Thanks to the Crime Classics Advance Readers Club for my copy of this title.
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A country house mystery with many potential suspects and few genuinely likeable characters.
The detective solves everything in the end, despite red herrings, ghosts, and historical mishaps.
A good read.
Thanks to Crime Classics for the Advance Reader copy.
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Richard Hull wrote one of my favourite books - The Murder Of My Aunt, and The Ghost It Was is another great example of his work.  Hull was remarkable in being able to construct characters who are singularly unlikable, and yet you still want to keep reading.  His sly humour and the puzzle structure of the plot makes this a wonderfully engrossing read.
There is a 'locked room' element to this story, and even if you do guess who the criminal is, you still want to know how on earth they did it.  I highly recommend this book, especially those who think that golden age detective fiction is all twee and cosy,
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This book was the Crime Classics Club pick for October. I’ve enjoyed Richard Hull’s offbeat mysteries and think they’re well worth reviving. ‘The Ghost it Was’ begins too slowly for me. Half way through the book before there’s a body! The first half of the book is taken up with family politics, which are somewhat confusing. James Warrenton, an irascible, wealthy old man lives in an allegedly haunted house and has become interested in the paranormal. He has a niece and a number of nephews, some living with him, some nearby and all but one anxious to inherit. Heated arguments take place as to the existence or not of the Amberhurst ghost. When a death does take place no one is sure if it was an accident or murder. If the latter, could the victim have been killed by a ghost? Things really pick up in the second half of the book with the arrival of Scotland Yard and the last chapter is a tease, leaving the reader in doubt about the culprit (among so many suspects) until the very end. Good stuff.
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