#800: The Plague Court Murders (1934) by John Dickson Carr [a.p.a. by Carter Dickson]

Plague Court Murders AMC

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The Plague Court Murders (1934), the debut of John Dickson Carr’s sleuth Sir Henry ‘H.M.’ Merrivale and published under his Carter Dickson nom de plume, struck me when I first read it as among the ne plus ultra of locked room mysteries.  A decade on, having read much more of Carr’s output, I now see it differently.  Carr published five books in 1934, each one now feeling lilke an attempt to work some new wrinkle into his writing. For all the cleverness — and it is very clever — this is really an apprentice work from a man who would go on to do much, much better.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 21: The Diversity of Approaches to Detective Fiction [w’ Martin Edwards]

The detective fiction genre is built around the essential structure of a crime, an investigation of that crime, and the revelation of the guilty party who committed the crime, and good heavens didn’t the Golden Age map out a lot of different ways to walk that path. And there are few people better placed to discuss this than President of the Detection Club and recent recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger Martin Edwards, who celebrates three decades as a published author this year.

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#790: On the Morals of Golden Age Detective Fiction, via Crime and Detection [ss] (1926) ed. E.M. Wrong

That title is doing a lot of work, isn’t it? Fair warning: this goes on a bit.

At the online Bodies from the Library conference last weekend, I gave a talk inspired in part by E.M. Wrong’s introduction to the 1926 anthology Crime and Detection. And, in addition to coining the term “Wellington of detection” that inspired the thinking I laid out last weekend, there is plenty of material in that piece of prose to get the cogs turning.

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#782: Below Suspicion (1949) by John Dickson Carr

Below Suspicion

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After a year — a year, people — of mind-numbing repetition and drudgery against a background of tragedy, Below Suspicion (1949), John Dickson Carr’s forty-sixth book in twenty years and the 18th to feature Dr. Gideon Fell, was exactly what I needed…for the simple reason that it is so very, very different. Ten years from now I could reread this and be appalled that I ever thought it so great, but right now it is manna from heaven: eerie, baffling, infuriating in many ways, and fascinating given the direction we know Carr’s career took from this point in how it blends the classic detection he had excelled in with the historical mysteries he was about to launch himself into.

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#761: The Skeleton in the Clock (1948) by Carter Dickson

Skeleton in the Clock

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On the afternoon of November 4th 1927, Sir George Fleet stood unaccompanied on the flat roof of Fleet House and was, as several independent witnesses assert, pushed to his death by invisible hands.  Twenty years later, Scotland Yard receive three anonymous postcards marked “Re: Sir George Fleet” exhorting them to “examine the skeleton in the clock” and asking “what was the pink flash on the roof?” because “evidence of murder is still there”. Enter Chief Inspector Humphrey Masters, dragging the Old Man, Sir Henry ‘H.M.’ Merrivale, in his wake…Merrivale himself having just bought a grandfather clock which has a skeleton suspended inside of it.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 14: The Island of Coffins (2021) by John Dickson Carr + The 9.50 Up Express (2021) by Freeman Wills Crofts [w’ Tony Medawar]

We’re all prone to speculate at times about how wonderful it would be to discover a previously-unpublished work by a beloved Golden Age author, and for today’s podcast episode Tony Medawar rejoins me to tempt you with two forthcoming collections of hard-to-find material from two of the genre’s titans — John Dickson Carr and Freeman Wills Crofts.

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