Several incidents keep the unexpected houseguests busy and engaged, and Farjeon's plotting has a similar effect on the reader. A rough-mannered Cockney calling himself Smith, an earlier escapee from the ill-fated train, appears and disappears, adding to the general menace of the situation. David Carrington, brother to Lydia, tracks footprints outside and uncovers a bloody hammer and a suspiciously shaped mound in the waist-high snow. Sensitive diarist Jessie feels increasingly uneasy about remaining in a stranger's house and bed. (This episode rather fancifully reminded me of Medea and the possibility of poisoned bedsheets!) All the while, quiet but observant Mr. Maltby, a psychical researcher, collects information and considers what secrets the looming portrait of the absent head of the house might conceal.
It is largely the disappointment of not quite delivering on the potential of the premise that makes Mystery in White less than a complete success. While the eerie tone contributes greatly, there is not much mystery surrounding the characters as Farjeon presents them. No one, it turns out, is hiding a secret or has an ulterior motive, the train murder and the manor mystery aren't really related, and the real villains of the piece remain largely off-stage.
This gentle satire reminded me of Gladys Mitchell's sharp send-up of the cosy tradition, her lively 1932 tale The Saltmarsh Murders. The difference is that Mitchell provides both an acerbic commentary on the conventions of cosy elements and an intriguing mystery puzzle that fulfills the expectations of the genre. Farjeon, in contrast, shows the promise of the former but delivers by the end a story that is less than the sum of its very intriguing individual parts. Well worth reading for classic detection fans, Mystery in White provides an original, offbeat book that's suitable in any weather.