#921: The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939) by Clayton Rawson

Footprints on the Ceiling

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This might be the longest-gestating punchline in blogging history, but it was also about time I returned to Clayton Rawson. Ever since the American Mystery Classics reissued Rawson’s debut novel Death from a Top Hat (1938), I’ve been waiting for them to release his second, The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939), so that I could finally experience it. And then I discovered a few months ago that I’d already bought Footprints as an ebook and it had been waiting, long-forgotten, on my e-reader of choice. And, as someone who feels Rawson’s best work might have been his short stories, I have to say that I very much enjoyed…most of this.

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#892: “He happens to be around when so many murders crop up…” – Bodies from the Library 2 [ss] (2019) ed. Tony Medawar

With the Bodies from the Library 5 (2022) collection due in a couple of months, and spin-off Ghosts from the Library (2022) coming later in the year, the time seems ripe to revisit one of the earlier collections which — given the timespan over which I first read them — I failed to review on publication. And since, for reasons too complicated to bore you with here, the second volume was the first one I encountered, it’s there I’ll head today.

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#209: No Coffin for the Corpse (1942) by Clayton Rawson

no-coffin-for-the-corpseI generally try to do the books I have by an author in chronological order, and so should be writing about The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939) here, but when TomCat described NCftC in the comments of my review of Rawson’s first Great Merlini novel Death from a Top Hat (1938) as “abysmal” saying that it “began very promising and then turned into one of the worst locked room mysteries I’ve ever had the misfortune of stumbling across”…well, I just had to try it out.    I mean, sure, TomCat doesn’t like Rupert Penny’s Sealed Room Murder (1941) and so is immediately suspect, but I think I’ve shown myself willing enough to believe the very best of any books I try to read, and it might be interesting to go in expecting a dud.  So, let’s get into it…

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#171: JDC OOP – WTF?


In his lifetime, John Dickson Carr published 76 novels and short story collections, plus a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle and a ‘true crime’ novel predating Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey.  Following the closure of the Rue Morgue Press, who had five Carr novels in their books, and the coming disappearance of Orion’s ebook undertaking The Murder Room, who have around 14 or so Carr novels in their ranks, we’re not too far from a point in time where only two Car novels will be available to buy: Orion’s perpetually in-print version of The Hollow Man and the Mysterious Press publication of The Devil in Velvet.  So, to return to the question in the title of this post: John Dickson Carr’s out of print — where’s the fuss?

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#113: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – A Circular Tour Through My Brain as I Attempt to Read ‘The Poisoned Dow ’08’ (1933) by Dorothy L. Sayers

TNBs Poison

It being the ever-approaching end of the academic year, I’ve tended to focus on short stories for these Tuesday Night Bloggers posts on poison because I simply haven’t had the time to read more than one book a week, and I need to keep those for my Thursday reviews.  So this week I thought I’d take on one of Dorothy L. Sayers’ short stories featuring her other sleuth, the purveyor of fine wines that is Mr. Montague Egg.  This is another one taken from The Big Ol’ Black Lizard Book of Wowsa That’s a Lot of Stories Massive Gigantic Compendium of Impossible Crimes But for Some Reason They’ve Included A Huge Section of Surely the Most Anthologised Stories of All Time, and so once again it has an impossible element.  Yes, I am nothing if not fond of playing to type.

And then something interesting happened…

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#106: Death from a Top Hat (1938) by Clayton Rawson

Death from a Top Hat 3Well, where to start?  Locked room murders (plural!), magicians, a hefty dose of self-reference, an extended John Dickson Carr homage-cum-lecture, a sprinkling of magical and mystical esoterica, and some really quite awesomely clever solutions…to be honest this — Rawson’s first novel to feature magician detective The Great Merlini and his Watson, journalist Ross Harte — should be a shoo-in for my favourite book of all time.  Something about the conflation of conjuring and seemingly-impossible crimes just gets me all a-giggle with excitement, and Rawson wrote one of my favourite impossible crime short stories of all time (‘Off the Face of the Earth’, since you asked)  so has previous with me, but this just comes up a little short to call it the masterpiece it probably should be.

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