#194: Spoiler Warning 1 – The Ten Teacups, a.k.a. The Peacock Feather Murders (1937) by Carter Dickson


In what I’m hoping will be the first of a semi-occasional series — look, I’ve made a special header image for it and everything — we are here today to discuss the 1937 impossible crime novel The Ten Teacups, published in the U.S.A. as The Peacock Feather Murders, from John Dickson Carr under his Carter Dickson nom de plume.  Puzzle Doctor, wrangler of In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, kindly agreed to reread this one and then exchange some thoughts on aspects of the precise details and workings of the book, and the results of our efforts are below.  Suffice to say, if you click to read more of this, there are guaranteed massive spoilers from this point on; don’t say I didn’t warn you…


In terms of who raised what points, well, that’s become somewhat muddied as I didn’t want this to go back and forth endlessly (we have jobs); essentially, if it sounds insightful then that’s the Doc’s work, unless it’s not, in which case it’s mine.  The use of the first-person pronoun below could be him or me, who knows?  It’s not clear, and I’m sorry if you find that confusing.  And by “I”, I mean Puzzle Doctor.

We might as well start with the first impossible murder, which has Vance Keating in an attic room of a house in a cul-de-sac and policeman Bob Pollard across the hallway in another room, unknown to Keating.  Pollard hears Keating scream, two gunshots ring out, the first slightly muffled, and Pollard bursts into the room to find Keating shot in the back of the head and the spine, gunsmoke in the air and everything, the gun on the floor…but no sign of the killer, who could not have escaped.

Taking the various points in order, then…


1. Vance Keating is an idiot.

There’s no getting away from this, so let’s address it up front.  We later discover that his instructions specifically include standing with his back to an open window in full view of the houses on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac.  Admittedly, the first thought it not that you’ll be shot, but there would be some suspicion in your mind, at least.  Nevertheless, the fact that he goes to the effort he does — buying a whole house, ensuring he attends despite being shot in the back of the head a day or so previously — does push the accepted bounds of how much you need someone to adhere unknowingly to your evil plan.

However, as we later learn that the Ten Teacups is a fictional society whose women are effectively picked by the men to have affairs with, and Keating is here purely to ‘have’ the comely Janet Derwent, there’s the argument that he’s willing to accept and do  anything he’s asked purely to that end.  He’s so focussed on that woman that it blinds him to the foolishness of what he’s doing.  Certainly the letters that Keating’s fiancée — in fact, it later turns out, his wife (hey, I said there would be spoilers) — Frances Gale discovers at Janet Derwent’s design imply this infatuation has been going on for a very long time, so possibly he is so desperate that anything goes.


2. Pollard clearly states that while the first shot is muffled, it still came from inside the room.  He was on the other side of the door — if the shot was from across the street, then there is no way that he should have been mistaken.

Towards the end, H.M. says [to Masters, who was across the street and downstairs] “Of course it didn’t sound any louder to you because four of these solid thick-built floors were between you and a bullet fired into the open air … When you heard a shot, you all naturally assumed it came from here.  There was a brief silence, and then a second explosion that actually and beyond any doubt did come from in here.”  The idea of being fooled on the precise point of origin is covered in part in that explanation (and a fair number of books — Helen McCloy’s Mr. Splitfoot, for one — make a point about how difficult a sound is to locate without a precise visual fix on the location).

In terms of it coming from outside, more could be made of the interpretation that it must have been both shots fired with the room because of the gunsmoke, and that Pollard, in his eagerness and confusion, failed to recall it correctly.  The explanation of the muffledness works better for Masters than Pollard, arguably, but it’s difficult to ignore that this is a very liberal interpretation. I do like how the presence of the gunsmoke in the room is subtly taken as absolute proof that both shots were fired in there — it’s a suitably underhand piece of misleading (and, though doubtlessly unintentional, an interesting reversal of the Sherlock Holmes story that Carr wrote, ‘The Adventure of the Sealed Room’).

But, yes, this could be fixed easily to make it more fair.  All it would have taken from Carr is to change Pollard’s statement a little…  It’s funny, given Carr’s skill at not quite saying what you think he’s saying, this comes across a little as cheating, especially since it is never really addressed (and proves to be crucial).


3. No matter how good a cricketer Ronald Gardner is, throwing the gun twenty yards through an open window is ridiculous, let alone being lucky enough to hit the body when the gun lands.  Bowling a ball and throwing a revolver, which I presume is much heavier and I know does not have the aerodynamics of a ball, are two very different things.  And how exactly do you practise this?  It would have amused me if the thing that caught the killer out was a witness who the previous week had been hit on the head by an empty gun while crossing the street.

The distance is unlikely, but I’ll let it slide — it’s a big window, after all.  In fact, I [JJ] mocked up the setup myself purely out of curiosity — that was me on Clapham Common this weekend — and struggled to make it accurately 3 times out of 5, and I’m still happy to let Carr have it. I do love the idea of someone being hit by a falling gun if he missed the window, though.  There’s something Chestertonian about a man being killed by a gun that fired no bullets…

As for the second shot hitting him in the spine — yeah, I don’t deny this is as unlikely as hell, but I’m prepared to accept it because it’s simply necessary that the gun be fired in the room rather than being intended that the bullet also hit him.  Had the bullet missed him (which, let’s face it, is far more likely) there’s equally a case that the gap between the shots could be put down to him wrestling with this attacker and managing to avoid the first bullet, only to be killed by the second, so Carr is covered either way here, I’d say.  The setup requires much more that the first shot hit him in the back of the head — and where the burn on the skull is, too, no less — than that the second shot snap his spine.  That’s just Carr’s theatricality.  Possibly getting the better of him.

And on the subject of that burn to the back of the head…


4. Was the blank shot deliberate or was the murder plot designed after it happened?

H.M. says that Janet Derwent had the alibi of the visit to her elderly aunts fixed two weeks in advance with the booking of the limousine; since she’s implied as a key player, surely it must have been planned long in advance.  I don’t know how this works with Gardner shooting Keating in advance, though.  Would Gardner know he’d have the chance to shoot a blank cartridge at Vance’s head beforehand?  And how?  Maybe he could have fixed things and suggested coming up with a ploy for the murder game in order to get Vance into that situation…seems a bit fishy, though, eh?

By implication, Gardner has to murder Keating when he does so that Janet Derwent — who is set to benefit from his will, as far as she’s concerned — has an alibi.  The impossibility is concocted so that the case against her will struggle on the grounds of how the murder was done, as H.M. says.  But I guess we don’t really now how or when the decision was made.  Because linking it in with the earlier murder of Dartley would surely take some planning.  On which note…


5. It is necessary to tie this into the murder of William Dartley?

We know that it’s because of the similarities between the two that Benjamin Soar acts as he does, adding that extra layer of sinister implication to things, but why send a note and everything else to match those circumstances exactly?  Why not just set up the teacups, invite Vance Keating, kill him, and then allow the police to discover it?  Gardner has no knowledge of Soar, Sr’s guilt, so from his point of view there’s no additional benefit to tying the two things together.

But, arguably, as the intention is to create an impossible crime simply for a “nobody could have done it so it certainly wasn’t me”, it’s just more obfuscation.  If people look for a link to the past, then they end up barking up the wrong tree.  And the resolution of the various aspects of that Dartley murder is very, very clever, and almost a short story in its own right.


6. On the subject of Soar, his behaviour towards the end is designed solely to pad the plot out…

Soar is obviously suspicious of Jeremy Derwent, and says that he figured Derwent was setting him up.  The deliberate similarity of the Vance Keating murder to the murder that Derwent and Soar know that Soar’s father committed already has him on edge — and since he and Derwent are supposed to be the only people in the house, the sudden appearance of the body was bound to make him edgy and see a further finger of suspicion pointed his way.   The hiding place of Bartlett’s body is genius, but Soar’s reason for doing it probably doesn’t quite hold up…


Pictured: The stuff of nightmares…

7. In fact, why is Bartlett at Soar’s new house in the first place?

Was he finally going to give the game away, which is why he was killed?  And how he knew to go there in the first place remains a mystery.  But it does provide one of Carr’s most chilling moments — not quite the ending to The House In Goblin Wood but pretty close.  Though it’s not clear why he lies about what he saw prior to the murder — he describes the mis-fire to HM without mentioning the victim reacting to being shot in the back of the head but I can’t put my finger on why he is keeping quiet.

It’s possible that Vance Keating tells him to say nothing about it — if he admits what happened, there will be the loss of face that comes from the implicit admission that he was trying to cook the murder game.  So they cook up a story, Bartlett sticks to it, buys the hat, etc, and lies because his employer asks him too.  There’s a bit where H.M. implies that he might get a less favourable reference from Keating if he refuses to lie, but whether that’s strong enough to allow his actions is debatable…

So, it looks like we basically have a crucial statement being a lie (or at least missing several pertinent facts) for no particularly good reason.  I call “cheat” again!


8. The motive for Bartlett’s murder is a bit confusing, too…

We know how and why Soar interprets it as he does, but how does Gardner know to kill him so that Derwent’s knowledge can be used against Soar?  Does Gardner know?  It’s never explicitly stated, and difficult to two would be close enough to share this sort of information.  Maybe that’s tied into what Bartlett is doing at Soar’s house  Let’s face it, Gardner hasn’t been a model of sanity up to this point with his plan. Maybe he just realises that Bartlett isn’t going to keep quiet indefinitely. But why he does it when Bartlett is at Soar’s house?  Goodness only knows.


9. Which title is better?

Definitely The Ten Teacups.  The peacock feathers have even less to do with the case than the teacups; could it not have been altered to The Ten Teacup Murders if they were just desperate to mention murder in the title?


10. What do you guys think?

Let’s throw it open — do you agree, disagree, have an alternative perspective?  What’s your biggest bugbear about this?  Puzzle Doctor says “the burn on the back of Vance’s head is essential for the impossibility (which was intended) to work but there is no convincing reason for it to be achievable. What if Vance ends up in hospital? What if he decides that as Gardner had just shot him in the head, maybe he wouldn’t play along? Why doesn’t he go to the doctor anyway? And while we’re at it, I’m no ballistics expert but surely there is a difference between a shot from 22+ yards and a shot from extremely close range apart from just the powder burn…”  Anyone got an answer or want to add anything to this?  He makes a good case…

As for me, I’ve come away with a bit less dazzle in my eyes over this one — I think I was so amazed at the solution when I first read it that I allowed the various flaws to just be shouted down (at what point do they decide that someone has to shoot Vance Keating in the back of the head with  blank cartridge?  This is a very specific event to rely on enabling in advance…).  In terms of opinion, I think the Doc and I have both moved a little closer towards each other: he likes it slightly more, I like it slightly less, but we’re each able to appreciate what it does well in spite of its problems becoming much more apparent on rereading.

My thanks to Puzzle Doctor for his time — you can check out his original thoughts on this in his review, listed here with all his Carr reviews to date — and now over to you lot…


My copy of this book is the Rue Morgue Press edition in the top image with the yellow tablecloth bearing 13 teacups (whoops…); I submit this for the Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt 2017 at My Reader’s Block under the category Flower/s.

44 thoughts on “#194: Spoiler Warning 1 – The Ten Teacups, a.k.a. The Peacock Feather Murders (1937) by Carter Dickson

  1. Glad you chaps had such a good time pouring over this. Very few GAD mysteries involving really complicated murder methods can stand up to such scrutiny I suspect, but you have to love it to want to do it in the first place, so you have all my admiration. My personal enthusiasm for the book remains undimmed but I shall definitely revisit this. I doff my cap to you both – bravi 😎


    • I especially enjoyed the way Carr throws in so many of the casual little hints here, too — that too-large hat Vance Keating is wearing, for one, gets a lot of mentions before he’s killed: hint, hint, there’s something about that hat….

      Looking back and knowing what’s being hidden is a lot of the fun in this kind of caper. You’re right that there are doubtless more than a few novesl that wouldn’t stand up to this sort of reevaluation, but the vagueries here don’t destroy it completely. And something that did it near perfectly — like Green Capsule — is going to be an absolute doozy of a reread when you come back to it knowing what’s going on…

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    • Haha, I’m ashamed to say that we didn’t focus on the characters at all — you’re absolutely right about Jeremy Derwent, he is far and away the most symathetically protrayed character (and with a good dose of brains to him, too, since he unravels the Dartley murder all on his own, let’s not forget…).


  3. Blame it on The Music Man! So busy directing the winter musical, I’m only 20% through the novel! So my reading of this and subsequent participation in the discussion will be woefully tardy! Can’t wait!


  4. The Green Capsule for the defense:

    Ahem… my esteemed fatheads. Let’s examine several of the points:

    1. If I recall, Keating wasn’t instructed to stand with his back to the window (granted, it’s been three or four months since I read this). Rather, he was instructed to stand facing the door, or perhaps it was to stand at a particular position relative to the cups. Given that he thinks he’s taking part in some sort of ritual for a secret society, I don’t find this far fetched. Granted, buying the house is.

    2. Not to get all nerdy, but I read when I was young that a sniper technique is to fire a shot passed an object like a tree. As the sound waves from the shot pass by the object, it creates an auditory illusion that the sound came from the object. I suspect though that Carr didn’t know this though, or he would have trotted out footnotes pointing to his research.

    3. The key to why I’m fine with the whole solution is that it wasn’t necessary for the victim to be shot a second time – it was pure serendipity. The killer merely wanted the gun to be found in the room. Of course, the fact that the gun went off a second time (due to the hair trigger, although I find that suspect) just adds to the evidence of the killer being in the room. That the shot happened to hit the victim, in the spine (coinciding with the original murder) is just Carr adding over the top flourish.

    I won’t debate any of the other points, although I’ll definitely put in my vote for the title of The Ten Teacups.

    Overall, I really like the story, although it is slightly tainted by plodding along during the middle section. If ever there is a memory of reading Carr that will stand out in my mind (aside from the realization of The White Priory Murder solution), it is the sheer bafflement that I experienced immediately following the shooting. It felt like such an air tight crime.

    Where I think that Carr erred (and I’m surprised no one ever mentions it), was the immediate mention of the pipe in the ceiling directly above the table. Although it proved to be a red herring, I grabbed onto the clue, and it somewhat ruined my experience because I thought that I had the whole thing solved within two pages of the crime occurring.

    My theory was that Keating had been given instructions to carry out some ritual, which involved looking down at the teacup below the pipe. The killer is on the roof and shoots down into the pipe. The killer then somehow uses a string to cause a gun hanging from the ceiling to fall. It lands on the table, crushing the teacup, triggering the second shot.

    I’m fairly certain this is what Carr wanted you to suspect, as the prospect of using the pipe is later investigated by Masters and ruled out by Merrivale. However, it was the introduction of the red herring so quickly after the introduction of the impossibility that kind of dragged the mystery down for me because I thought I had solved it.

    Well, that, and the fact that the red herring isn’t dismissed for another 50 or so pages. The White Priory Murders and She Died a Lady have a number of red herring solutions to the footprints, but at least there, Carr dismisses them within a few pages.

    I absolutely love the end of the book – there is so much going on. We get an additional murder, the hilarious hidden body, the solution to the Dartley murder, the reason for the teacups, plus the trick to the main impossibility. Even if the gun throwing solution doesn’t sit well with you, there is an avalanche of other big reveals going on.

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    • 1. I was sure there was a mention of him having to stand with his back to the window, but a quick look through hasn’t revealed it. Hmmm, maybe I’m just making stuff up then…

      2. & 3. I agree; and, in fact, H.M. mentions towards the end that as Keating was shot with expanding bullets it’d be difficult to guage thedistance he was shot from, so that covers that as well…

      I think the pipe red herring is necessary, because otherwise the only other option is that he;s been shot through the window and then you get to dwelling on how that could be done. I know what you mean about thinking you had it solved very quickly, though — I had the exact same experience with a few key books in this regard (Paul Halter’s The Fourth Door and Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage among them), but it does at least preserve the surprise of the acual solution once you’ve unknowingly trudged through all the other clues and paid scant attention to them!

      And, yeah, the ending is brilliant. Carr has so much going on that you’re surprised how tightly it all fits…and I suppose this might be why the “blank shot” planning seems to stand out so much, because its one key thread not accounted for in all the summing up… But, well, still a great book and a superb mix if shenanigans and obfuscation.

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    • My biggest issue is the burn in the back of his head – basically letting the killer get away with this, not mentioning it to anyone, not getting more than a burn from being shot at close range from a blank… it’s this part of the puzzle that breaks the whole thing for me. Surely there could have been more evidence of the close range shot that the powder burn… And I still think forensics, even then, could tell the difference, with or without a powder burn.

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  5. My comments on the various points Are as follows:
    1. I have no problem with this. After all, Vance Keating was following a ritual and he would do this exactly as prescribed.
    2. I have no problem with this. It is often difficult to locate the source of sound. Also after entering the room, Pollard sees the gun as well as the gunsmoke and the burns on the back of the head and on the coat.. He naturally concludes that both shots were fired inside the room
    3. I have no problem with this. It would be possible for a man with strong arms to throw a gun 60 feet away. Also, the window was wide enough.
    The fact that the second shot hit the body was just luck. There was no such intention. The killer simply wanted to land the gun near the body. Even if the second shot had not hit the body or even if the gun had landed far from the body, it would not have mattered.
    4. It is not made clear in the book whether the blank shot was accidental or deliberate. Since Janet Derwent planned her alibi 2 weeks in advance, it is clear that the murder of Keating was planned in advance. However, it is possible that the blank shot was accidental, but it gave Gardener the idea to convert the murder into an impossible crime. After all, the Police received the note after the incident.
    5. As you have mentioned, it is just more obfuscation as the intention is to create an impossible crime.
    6. I agree that the behaviour of Soars towards the end is rubbish. In my opinion, the hiding method is also rubbish.
    7. I quote from the book, “How he persuaded Bartlett into followin’ Soar home on Thursday night we’re not goin’ to know until the trial. I got an idea it was with some idea of makin’ Bartlett an amateur detective to track down the guilty, because Bartlett liked Keating and he liked Gardner…. ”
    8. Bartlett lies about the blank shot incident because his employer tells him to do so. He doesn’t connect it with the murder. But soon he will do so. Hence it is necessary to murder him.
    9. The Ten Teacups is the better title.

    It is the second impossible murder (that of Bartlett) that actually annoys me. He is stabbed with a knife thrown from back in presence of several policemen but nobody notices it. It is mentioned that it was dark and hence the knife could not be seen; only the outlines of the persons could be seen. Then why the swinging arm of the culprit while throwing the knife was not seen especially since he was tailed by a policeman ? And why didn’t the victim cry out ? The victim had opened the side door when he was stabbed in the back. He doesn’t cry out or turn around, but calmly proceeds on, closes the door behind him and then falls down. As if he was trying his best to protected the culprit ! I am reminded of The Lord Of Misrule by Paul Halter where a victim goes out of his way to protect his killer.

    There is another impossibility which has no solution. The first Teacups incident took place on April 30 which is a Monday. The second incident took place two years later on July 31 which is stated to be a Wednesday. This is not possible. It is possible only if the second incident took place 1 year later and not 2.

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    • 6. I agree that the behaviour of Soars towards the end is rubbish. In my opinion, the hiding method is also rubbish.

      Dude! Well, it takes all sorts, but I loved the method of hiding Bartlett’s body — remember, he’s suspicious of Jeremy Derwent, so if hiding the body forced Derwent inot asking about or searching for it, then Soar has secutred Derwent’s tacit admission of guilt and/or trying to frame him for Keating’s murder. What’s extra genius about it is that Soar plays this hugely brave and clever game and Derwent has no dea he’s doing it. A frank plotting masterstroke, that.

      And, god yes, the precise workings of Bartlett’s murder is full of all kinds of problems, I completely agree. That sort of got pushed aside in the confusion of everything else we were discussing, but you’re right about it not being spotted or even picked up in any way.


    • Doesn’t Pollard state that he hears two shots from inside the room before he opens the door?

      And I take your point about the burn mark inspiring the impossible crime, but how was he going to kill him beforehand? A lot of the trickery was already in place that makes little sense without the impossible crime.


      • The lack of certainty on that timeline is a big issue, I agree. And as you say elsewhere, what if Keating mentions the shot to anyone at all before he’s murdered? I suppose there’s a case where they can be certain his vanity will preclude this, but it seems…risky at best.

        Equally, could Garnder just have bluffed it out? A sort of “Sure, there was a burn mark on the back if his head, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t shot in the head by someone in the room as well…”. Terrible though that would be, I agree 😀


        • And another thing we haven’t considered – the accuracy of an old-timey revolver over that distance.

          I suppose – suppose the intent was always to murder in an odd way across the street with the intent to have gotten away before the police realise where the shot was fired from. The burn mark (accidental) led to the new plan.

          Of course that means that Gardner would have known the police would be in the vicinity… wouldn’t it have been easier just to have pushed him down a flight of stairs?

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  6. Regarding point 2, I quote Inspector Beale in chapter X111 of Rupert Penny’s Policeman’s Evidence (which I am now reading): “The location of an unexpected shot is a notoriously difficult task.”


  7. A point of interest. The title The Ten Teacups was taken from G.K.Chesterton’s The Club Of Queer Trades. In chapter 1 , the narrator while referring to several strange clubs to which he has belonged states, ‘Of the Ten Teacups, of course, I dare not say a word.”

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  9. Great work fellas! Really enjoyed this, and have been waiting with baited breath to read it.

    Can I first say, I cannot believe no one in the comments so far has mentioned the fact that JJ went to the park and set up the impossible situation to try it out! What a dedication to form! The thought of you doing that has had me smiling all week.

    Secondly much of what you have said I couldn’t agree with more. I have wanted to love this book, and while reading I was so on edge thinking ‘this set up is so perfect, the characters memorable, the plotting so good, please bring a good solution’, but alas I have never been convinced. If the second shot had gone into the wall as you mentioned it could have been more credible, and a bit of Carrian ‘flair’ as The Green Capsule suggested, or even (one of my favourite kind of impossibles) a crime that wasn’t intended to be impossible becoming so… but then there would still be the powder burn… ah!.. Its such a shame. It’s almost as if Carr was a victim of his own too perfect set up in this book.

    Although I have been wondering recently, reflecting on this post, wether if it was a Death in Paradise or Jonathan Creek episode, and therefore done visually if it would feel better as a solution? If that’s the case maybe this book was ahead of it’s time! Haha!

    I still think the hiding of Bartlett’s body was so great, and so creepy. I wish in a way that the book had been split into two stories, and that the hidden body had been used as a solution in another short piece of its own.

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    • You’ve got me thinking here that what this book has is a series of great little puzzles — Dartley’s murder, Keating’s murder, the vanishing of Bartlett’s body — that all separate out from each other very nicely, but the problems start when Carr tries to mesh them together. The vagueries about the timing and planning and motivation only creep in once they have to make a coherent narrative together, but individually they’d be amazing. Somehow they get muddled in the mixing and it comes out as less thzn the sum of its parts…

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      • Totally agree. Imagine a short locked room story where a man (Bartlett) is seen going into a house and then subsequently disappears, his blood being found on the carpet. The solution then being the one from Ten Tea Cups. Could have rivalled Goblin Wood (although that is a big ask)


  10. This book is evidently so confusing that even after you two have offered so many (so many!) spoilers, so called, I have only the faintest idea what happened and who did it, I only know that it is absurdly overplotted.


    • This was the period when Carr tended to cram a lot into his books, it’s true, but given that I have lost patience with so many modern crime novels because they can’t sustain a plot for their entire length, you’re not going to find me complaining about too much plot. C’mon — chapters that you can’t just skip because they contain events that actually have an impact on the eventual outcone, what’s not to love?!

      As said elsewhere, the individual thread here are great, there’s just a sligh ungumming where Carr tries to join what is essentially three separate individual plots into one novel…but, well, the ambition of what he takes on is what I’d prefer to remember this books for, rather than the few inconsistencies or grey areas. And, hey, it’s a damn sight more interesting this way than it just being perfect and us both going “Welp, we loved that…” 😀


  11. Okay, going off what I recall of this book…

    I actually had no problem with the second shot, since it was established that the shot hitting where it does is accidental and not needed. And why are people assuming he threw the gun under/overhanded? I assumed he threw it sideways, like a throwing star or something. It’s the _first_ one I didn’t like, because of what Puzzle Doctor said about taking a day or so old powder burn for a fresh one. Also, if that was true, the killer would need to be a crack shot (which is a problem I have with another locked room you like JJ, but we’ll pass from that).

    The second impossibility…yeah, it kinda short-circuited a bit, felt disjointed. It’s not really clear why Barrlet goes to Soar’s house, of all places. If he wanted to tell the truth, why not just tell Masters? The whole thing felt rushed. I also recall being at least a little confused on _why_ Keating wanted to get with this woman so badly.

    And was the lighter that large so that you could see a shooter in the opposite window?

    But other than that, I mostly liked the book. I thought the Dartley murder was the best part, felt almost like something from Ace Attorney.


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  13. For what it’s worth – and it’s not worth much – I FINALLY finished TTT and am posting my review here:


    Honestly, guys, this one wasn’t so great. The absence of gunpowder smoke would have given the game away if Gardner’s lucky toss hadn’t resulted in the gun going off. This whole plot seems hokey to me!


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  16. Just finished reading this for the first time and when looking for images this post appeared in the top results.

    I loved the set-up, especially how Vance gets one over the police by just buying the house – I guess that’s rich playboys for you. And then the extra detail of the previous occupants being the Derwents – an extra layer of “what on earth is going on here”.

    Bartlett’s murder is in some ways superfluous, but the impromptu hiding of his body effectively as a piece of furniture has been, perhaps deliberately, foreshadowed by the idea of the killer being hidden inside the divan in the attic.

    Fascinating to learn from Santosh that the title comes from the great GKC.


  17. I liked it. The third point you guys raise about the throwing of the gun is of course problematic but I’m still prepared to buy it – I think there was no need for the second shot to have struck the victim though and fell it might have felt better had this layer of coincidence been left out. Even so, it’s not a deal breaker.

    I don’t have a problem with Vance standing where he did – he was probably obsessed enough to do what he was told, and we don’t learn the precise wording of those instructions was given. We know he had to stand with his back to the window, but you could easily specify this indirectly by requiring someone to face a particular object/point, which would be more natural.

    And I love that climactic scene in Soar’s house and the macabre way the body was concealed. Delightfully gruesome.

    Overall then? I give it a thumbs up and I think the positive points cast a strong enough spell to wave aside the more far-fetched elements.


    • I think there was no need for the second shot to have struck the victim though and fell it might have felt better had this layer of coincidence been left out

      Yeah, that’s the bit that seems to bother a lot of people, and all it needs is a line in there at some point go go “Well, so it happened to hit the body, so what? If it had hit the wall, we’d think it happened in the struggle and still believe the murderer had been in the room” and it’d be fine. Sometimes Carr’s productivity, and the time he didn’t take to go back and iron out minor wrinkles, worked against him…

      But, yay! I’m delighted to enjoyed it overall, and I agree that the obfuscation (and discovery) the dead body in Soar’s house is magnificent — one of the most brilliant and Carrian conceits I think the Master ever put on the page.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. RE: “3. No matter how good a cricketer Ronald Gardner is, throwing the gun twenty yards through an open window is ridiculous, let alone being lucky enough to hit the body when the gun lands.”

    Come on, gentlemen, cultivate some street smarts. In major-league baseball the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate is EXACTLY that distance plus six inches. This means that, over the decades, hundreds of professional hurlers have been able to pitch thousands of strikes at will — no biggie, that’s the profession. Thus: 1) the open window is a way bigger target than home plate; 2) you practice pitching your hair-trigger handgun any place you want, e.g., at a tree in your back yard; 3) As H.M. explains, it isn’t necessary to hit the body, merely that the gun discharge in the room … the second bullet in the carcass was simply a happy, albeit inessential, accident. 4) Since the novel clearly establishes Gardner as a professional bowler, the solution’s rock-solid.

    In the fantasyland of classic detective fiction, here’s the one criterion that truly matters: IS IT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE? Answer: in this case certainly.


    • Hey, I agree with you. I spent time out in a public park trying out this exact experiment — granted, not with a loaded revolver — and have no problems with it as a physical feat, nor with the bullet hitting the body. Everyone else, they’re the crazy ones…

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: My Book Notes: The Ten Teacups (aka The Peacock Feather Murders), 1937 (Sir Henry Merrivale #6) by John Dickson Carr, writing as Carter Dickson – A Crime is Afoot

  20. I think that some suspiscion would attach to the police officer who is the only witness to Keating being alone in the room.

    I thought the solution was very clever, and more probable than some classic Golden Age solutions.


    • I love the solution to the locked room shooting. Hell, I love the vanishing body, too. And — dammit, you’re right — for some reason I completely overlooked that the one person who would surely fall under suspicion is the man who admits being in the house at the time of the shooting 😁 That’s…GAD 101, surely.


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