This post serves a double purpose: firstly to reassure you that the promised spoiler-heavy discussion about The Box Office Murders, a.k.a. The Purple Sickle Murders (1929) by Freeman Wills Crofts is on the way, and secondly to let you know about the next spoiler-heavy review coming in April.
You’ve doubtless heard of Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher books in which the gargantuan ex-serviceman does plenty of fightin’ and figurin’, and if there’s a bigger name in publishing today it’s only because James Patterson has, like, 86 co-authors.
Sometimes my Tuesday posts are themed as Little Fictions, wherein I look at short stories; back in May I did a month themed around the origins of my detective fiction obsession called Going Home. This month it’s a Megazord comprised of both, looking at short stories that formed the origins of detective fiction…and there’s only one place to go for that.
While Freeman Wills Crofts’ work has caused me much delight over the last few years, that of his fellow ‘Humdrum’ John Rhode/Miles Burton doesn’t inspire in me quite the same raptures. Rhode (as I’ll call him here) writes swift, events-focussed novels, and constructs plots with the same deliberation and consideration from multiple sides…so maybe it’s that his plots always feel like a single idea with some people bolted onto it. Here as in Death Leaves No Card (1944) or Invisible Weapons (1938) I come away with the impression that he read about a single obscure murder method and thought “Yeah, I can get 60,000 words out of that”.
Since starting this blog, I have made the acquaintance of The Three Investigators, the Five Find-Outers, and several other juvenile sleuths, the majority of who have been an absolute delight to encounter; today, I add Leroy ‘Encyclopedia’ Brown to that list.
Firstly, good heavens the excitement of posting a John Dickson Carr review without then tagging it OOP — Polygon Books have Hag’s Nook (1933), The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941), and She Died a Lady (1943) in their stable, and the British Library and Otto Penzler have added more, with more to come. And after last week’s brilliant and baffling no-footprints murder in a lonely corner of England, and with my broadly chronological reading of Carr’s work bringing She Died a Lady back into my orbit, the stars seemed to be aligning on a reassessment of this, probably the most consistent contender for Best Carr Novel of All Time.
Similar to how Alfred Hitchcock’s two version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934/1956) use the same core ideas but differ in details, the motifs Paul Halter returns to in The Gold Watch (2019, tr. 2019) — the dual time period narratives of The Picture from the Past (1995, tr. 2014), a baffling no footprints murder at an isolated house a la The Lord of Misrule (1994, tr. 2006), the invocation of The King in Yellow from ‘The Yellow Book’ (2017, tr. 2017) — there’s no doubt this is a very different style of story simply using familiar ideas to very new ends. Strange to say this of a Frenchman, but this is perhaps the outright Frenchest work of his yet translated.