#315: Spoiler Warning – Coming in January: The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939) by John Dickson Carr


You may (but then you you may not) be aware that I’ve started a thing here on The Invisible Event where every three months I pick a work of classic detective fiction and discuss it with another GAD blogger, being entirely unmindful of spoilers so as to really get into the details involved.  Well, another is on the way — which book do you think it could possibly be?

Wow, amazing — you’re right!  It’s The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939) by officially the finest detective novelist of all time, John Dickson Carr.  And I’m delighted to be able to tell you that Ben of the superb The Green Capsule — who is himself going through something of a self-schooled education in the classic GAD texts before our very eyes — is taking this journey with me.

This is a particularly interesting title for me because it will be the first time I’ve done a Spoiler Warning post on a book I’ve not previously read.  I’m aware the book itself — concerning the impossible murder of a man found strangled in the middle of a clay tennis court, with only his footprints present — seems to divide people: Puzzle Doctor, for one, is not a fan and Ben has a slightly more optimistic view, so I’m intrigued to see which way I fall.

Anyway, no need to drag this out.  I’ll put up some form of discussion on it here on The Invisible Event in January…and I look forward to discussing it with all y’all.  Full spoilers, remember, that’s very much in the title of this recurring segment.  So no complaints; come prepared…



Previous Spoiler Warnings on The Invisible Event:

1. The Peacock Feather Murders (1937) by Carter Dickson [w’ Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel]

2. Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie vs. He Who Whispers (1946) by John Dickson Carr [w’ Brad @ AhSweetMysteryBlog]

3. Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot [w’ Dan @ The Reader is Warned]

4. And Be a Villain (1948) by Rex Stout [w’ Noah @ Noah’s Archives]

50 thoughts on “#315: Spoiler Warning – Coming in January: The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939) by John Dickson Carr

  1. I note that you are reviewing next The Burning Court. After you read the book , you may see my detailed
    comments in Cavershamragu’s post on the book.


    • I distinctly get the impression there is much to discuss about this one, so I’ll be sure to check out the various reviews and opinions once done. Thanks for bringing your comments to my attention, as I don’t always scroll through the comment threads.


  2. Gasp, this may very well be the first of your spoiler-ridden collaborative reviews that I can actually participate in, and not scroll up and down furiously, in fear of accidentally glancing some aspect of the solution… My copy of ‘Wire Cage’ is bobbing somewhere along the sea, together with ‘Eight of Swords’ and ‘Seeing is Believing’, thanks to your and Mr Green Capsule’s recommendations. And since I’m unlikely to keep ‘Wire Cage’ as one of my final Carr novels, I hope to read it in time for the joint review in January!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read this when I was 15 or 20, I don’t remember. It’s about this guy . . . and something happens . . . I think there’s a murder . . . and then more stuff . . .

    Yup, I’m ready to join you in January . . . maybe a bit of a re-read is in order, though.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I remember this book a little better than Brad, but I don’t think anyone’s enjoyment will be harmed by knowing in advance that one character is said to perform (in a spirit of joy) an impromptu dance called “Chicken in the Breadtray” while cracking a whip. For some reason, that stuck with me over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. To be fair, I really enjoyed the first three quarters or so of the book. But the solution to the murder is dreadful and as for the events towards the end… even Carr himself has said that they were “not only bad but unethical and lousy”



  5. Never read this because I had it spoiled. But I have only myself to blame for for not following instructions or heeding the old adage “Curiosity killed the cat.” When I was a teen I foolishly opened a sealed area in the back of my copy of MURDER INK which revealed the endings of several mystery novels among them THE PROBLEM OF THE WIRE CAGE. On the front of the sealed packet it clearly told you what was inside and that no one should read any of the contents if you hadn’t read the books. What else does a normal healthy teen boy do but blatantly disregard authority? Yes, I read the synopsis of …WIRE CAGE and my eyes bugged out. Right then I decided not to read any of the other entries in that now unsealed packet. But the curse has stuck and I’ve remembered the ending for all these decades. […sigh…] I have every JDC title in my library so I’ll add it to the TBR pile for December and join in the merriment. But I’m afraid I’m already sort of prejudiced against the book in knowing the ridiculous ending. We’ll see what I make of everything else.


        • “Murder Ink” is a large-format coffee-table book about murder mysteries, edited by the late great Dilys Winn (who started the first US mystery bookstore in 1972 called, of all things, Murder Ink). It collects a wide range of material about detective fiction in a sprightly format; many, many tiny articles by various hands about various topics with lots of illustration. It had a sequel, “Murderess Ink”. I haven’t looked at my copy in years, but it’s like a popular version of Symons’s “Bloody Murder” — lots of lists of things to read next and why.


          • How come no-one has mentioned this until now?! It sounds like an amazing undertaking! Is this another of those things that are so common and well-known that it’s just taken as read that you’ll’ve, er, read it? Man, this really is my teenage years all over again…


        • My Murder Ink bookmark, shaped like a gun, finally disintegrated ten years ago. The books are a bit cooler in shape than in content, but they were manna to an isolated GAD fan when they came out.


        • I see Noah beat me to the punch. Several years ago for Friday’s Forgotten Books we had as a topic “Favorite Coffee Table Book”. Ed Gorman wrote about MURDER INK, but’s a very brief post. You can find it here. I’m sure someone else has written about it…somewhere on the internet.

          Let me just add that without Murder Ink I would never he been as knowledgeable about vintage mystery novels as I am now. Well… it would have taken a lot longer to know as much as I know, let me put it that way. The book turned me into a rabid fan of the genre. It introduced me to the existence of Dell mapbacks; lesser known American mystery writers like Baynard Kendrick, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, and Kathleen Moore Knight; dozens of pulp fiction writers; hundreds of detective characters and their authors, and pretty much ruined me for life.

          Don’t feel too left out, JJ. It’s a generational book for those of us who either grew up in the 70s or were fans during that decade. I guess Martin Edwards’ two non-fiction works will be the new go-to books in this second renaissance of interest in the Golden Age. MURDER INK is loads of fun, even if it is less scholarly in its teaching. I even used it as a source when I wrote about Wilkie Collins for a high school term paper. The many contributors include famous mystery writers, book reviewers and plain ol’ detective novel and mystery readers and fans.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Thanks for the extra info, John. What surprises me is how it was clerly such a transformative book for the likes of yourself, Noah, Brad, and doubtless others who hang out in these waters yet I remember no-one mentioning it at all in the time I’ve been blog-lurking and then blogging myself. Funny how that happens, hey?


  6. I’m weighing in a bit late on this one – JJ posted this just as I was boarding a plane back to the States after a week in England. I’m obviously a big fan of The Problem of the Wire Cage, although I also believe that I understand why it gets criticized (both fairly and unfairly). I’ll leave the details for January, but this is guaranteed to be a fun discussion all around.


      • I was down in the Winchester area on business and was fairly tied up the entire time. On the one occasion that I managed to venture out to an antiquarian book shop, it had closed 5 minutes prior to my arrival! Of course in my mind, they had a $2 copy of the Dell edition of Death of Jezebel…

        I was lucky enough to spend two days at an old country manor, which, for an American, helped cement what these estates were really like – the size of the rooms, the materials, the enormous lawns, the foliage, etc. I’ve been to England several times before, but it had been years back, and prior to my current reading obsession.

        As with all trips that I take, I overestimated the number of books I should bring. Simple math says that two 9 hour flights plus five nights in a hotel room equals quite a few reads. Between attempting to sleep on the plane and some nights at the pub, I managed one and a half books – but really, really good ones.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Actually, there are 3 books of the Murder Ink series:
    1.Murder ink: The mystery reader’s companion (1977)
    2.Murderess Ink: The Better Half of the Mystery (1979)
    3. Murder Ink: Revived, Revised, Still Unrepentant (1984)
    I have all 3 of them.


    • Unfortunately (or fortunately), in my copy of Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader’s Companion, the supplement containing the endings of mystery novels is missing.


  8. Pingback: GAME, SET, AND MATCH, CARR STYLE | ahsweetmysteryblog

  9. Pingback: The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939) by John Dickson Carr | crossexaminingcrime

  10. Pingback: The Problem of the Wire Cage by John Dickson Carr – Mysteries Ahoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.