Dress Down Sunday: Four Days’ Wonder by AA Milne

published 1933


[Heroine Jenny is going on the run, and is explaining to her friend what she has borrowed from her]

‘You are an angel, darling, for understanding and everything. I have taken the stockinette, and two pairs of country stockings, and the beige knickers and chemise, but I haven’t left you my green set because I must have two of everything, because I may have to wander about the country and I must have a change, and I haven’t taken your pound, so I haven’t very much money, so I can’t afford to buy very much, and the shoes fit perfectly, darling. I am wearing the beige now, and shall dye the green later on if I can, because they might look rather funny getting over a stile, because the skirt is just the least bit short, but it doesn’t matter because I shall be hiking, but a detective might notice and it’s just the sort of little thing which makes them suspicious.

[A friendly shopkeeper encourages Jenny to take a pistol with her on her travels]

‘But where would I carry it? I mean if you had it on your back in your knapsack——’

‘In the pocket, madam? As you see, it is very small and handy. Or some ladies carry it in the garter, in the Spanish fashion, strapped, as it were, to the leg.’

‘Oh, but I’m wearing suspenders!’ said Jenny.

‘Allow me, madam.’ He went away and came back with a pair of cheap pink garters.

commentary: Four Days Wonder is tremendously silly, and also magnificently enjoyable. It is, I suppose, a spoof of detective fiction, and Jenny is a delightful but completely unreal heroine.

In complicated circumstances she finds a body in a family house. Because she has read too many murder stories, she knows she will be suspected, and immediately runs away. But the whole thing really is not very serious, and this is very obvious to the reader.

There were many joys in the book. Milne shows a hitherto unsuspected obsession with ladies clothes - - underwear and stockings well to the fore. You don’t get THAT in Winnie The Pooh. However stockings do turn up in Milne’s 1922 The Red House Mystery – a crime story I read long ago, in pre-blog days, and must get back to. I quoted from the book in one of my Guardian articles:
A shopping trip to buy silk stockings for his sister throws the jovial narrator into a fret: “Could I be sure I was getting silk and not silkette … ?”
Here, the references to Jenny’s wardrobe reminded me of a great Angela Thirkell favourite, The Brandons, where Miss Delia’s knickers and stockings feature all the time, to the great embarrassment of her young man.

And only last week, posting on Val McDermid’s Report for Murder, up came the question of women hiding weapons around their person:
In their investigations they make this point about one suspect: 
….Would have had difficulty concealing weapon as she was wearing close-fitting dress with no bag. 

This is surely a glance at Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage – where Miss Marple clears someone on the grounds that nothing could be hidden in her flimsy outfit. 
My blogpost on this important question was one of my most popular, with hilarious comments appearing below the line.

And in the 1940 book Murder in the Nunnery by Eric Shepherd there is a young schoolgirl who is ‘very pious but likes to keep a dagger in her stocking’.

Another favourite blog theme is women looking nice in pyjamas (this post is from the very early days of the blog, and was the first of many) and here Jenny is charmingly honest about it when she is to appear in them in front of her young man:
This had suddenly become fun. She looked at herself. She had never seen Nancy’s pyjamas in daylight. They looked rather nice. She didn’t at all mind Derek or anybody seeing her like this.
They had been mentioned in the top extract above: Jenny was surprised to find that Nancy wore pyjamas, ‘I never have, are they nice’.

And there is even some shoe detection, and some good jokes about novel-writing and book-reviewing:
Fenton had not yet decided what he was going to say about [important new book]. It depended upon certain unknown quantities, one of them being, of course, the actual quality of the book.
Well – the actual quality of this book is that it is charming and funny, and full of quotable moments of head-spinning silliness:
‘Oh, Derek,’ cried Jenny, ‘I’ve killed somebody!’ 

‘Not again?’ said Derek, surprised. 
‘He says he’s your brother!’ 

‘Oh, well, that’s all right.’

‘So let’s make hay while we can, because by to-morrow we may all be in prison.’

‘Yes, Derek,’ said Jenny happily. There was a prison at Maidstone, and she seemed to remember that, in touching upon this aspect of life there, her third governess had mentioned casually that the Maidstone prison was a mixed one.
[police interviewing a pawnbroker]
‘And you say he pledged this watch with you, and then half an hour later redeemed it? Now I wonder why he did that?’ 

‘Wanted to know the time per’aps,’ suggested Mr. Morris unhelpfully.

I don't seem to have mentioned the plot much. It is probably well-worked out, for all I know, but you will guess it is not of enormous interest. I am usually very resistant to any kind of ‘comic’ thriller or crime story, but I most definitely make an exception for this one: great fun.

****ADDED LATER: This book had been on my Kindle for a while, so I had forgotten that I downloaded it after reading a review at the ever-excellent Cross-Examining Crime blog. Kate had mentioned both the pyjamas and the georgette and piqued my interest.  I strongly recommend her post, which gives a lot more detail of the non-clothes aspects of the book. 


  1. Oh, this does sound like a lot of fun, Moira. And silly (those bits you shared are priceless). And there's such good stuff about clothes, too. Little wonder you enjoyed it as much as you did, even if the plot isn't the main thing that appeals in the book. I have to admit, I haven't read Milne's mysteries - perhaps I ought to give them a try.

    1. It's tremendous fun, Margot, I think you would enjoy it. Not much jeopardy or real crime though...

  2. I was unaware AA Milne also wrote for adults - thanks will give this a whirl.

    1. Yes, they've certainly been overshadowed by the children's books. But worth a look, certainly.

    2. I remember enjoying The Red House Mystery when I first read it as a teenager and then again some ten(?) years later. But both of those are many years ago now. I should probably re-read it. I particularly appreciated the protagonist who wants to see the world - but for whom this means seeing different aspects and levels of society rather than going abroad. Makes perfect sense to me.

    3. I really am going to have to re-read the Red House Mystery - you intrigue me!

  3. Jolly good fun, what! Cheers

  4. I had no idea this existed. Definitely interested in it, someday.

    1. It is good fun in its own weird way - I think you would like it because of the setting and era.


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