#996: The Nine Wrong Answers (1952) by John Dickson Carr

Nine Wrong Answers

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In order to read the full text of The Nine Wrong Answers (1952) by John Dickson Carr you must read the first edition hardcover, as all paperback printings having been reduced by what Carr’s biographer Douglas Greene estimates to be about 15%. And, having now read the condensed text, it’s difficult not to feel that the book could actually be shortened by about another 30% since, in expanding this up from his radio play ‘Will You Make a Bet with Death?’ (1942), Carr has stretched a thin premise now too thin. A lot of the distractions here are simply that: distractions, and the core excellence of the plot is rendered tedious at times when trying to support so many circumlocutions.

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#993: Crook o’ Lune, a.k.a. Shepherd’s Crook (1953) by E.C.R. Lorac

Crook O'Lune

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I’ve enjoyed mixed fortunes with the work of E.C.R. Lorac, from the high of The Devil and the C.I.D. (1938) to the low of Murder by Matchlight (1945), and a return to her work has always been on the cards. And so, with the British Library kind enough to send me a review copy of Crook o’ Lune (1953), the eleventh title by Lorac to be reprinted in their august Crime Classics series, we return. There can be no denying that Lorac has been a huge success for the BL, undoubtedly allowing the taking of a risk on some more obscure titles elsewhere, so I knew that there were plenty of others in print for me to read if I enjoyed this one.

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#990: Payment Deferred (1926) by C.S. Forester

Payment Deferred

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It seems almost indecent that someone should have the inspiration to write a book like Payment Deferred (1926) before Anthony Berkeley had conceived of his Francis Iles nom de plume and written Malice Aforethought (1931). And yet there’s something unformed about C.S. Forester’s tale of ill-gotten money, murder, and general moral decay that speaks to the callowness of the undertaking. Land sakes, don’t read this if you’re having a bad week — its unrelenting grimness and domestic horror would dent even the sunniest of dispositions — and avoid it, too, if you want a tight criminous plot with even a sniff of Iles-brand irony. This is dark stuff, unleavened at any stage.

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#987: Death on Gokumon Island (1948) by Seishi Yokomizo [trans. Louise Heal Kawai 2022]

Death on Gokumon Island

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“I don’t want to die. I… I… don’t want to die. I have to get home. My three sisters will be murdered. But… but… I’m done for. Kindaichi-san, please… please go to Gokumon Island in my place…” — thus is Kosuke Kindaichi exhorted by a dying brother in arms as they are demobilised after the end of the Second World War. And so the detective goes to Gokumon Island, meets Chimata Kito’s family, and tries to untangle the maelstrom of violence and confusion that descends upon the island as, sure enough, Chimata’s three sisters Tsukiyo, Yukie, and Hanako are killed one by one. In principle it’s a gripping idea, but in practice it made for me the least interesting of the four Seishi Yokomizo mysteries thus far translated.

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