You’ve heard of Elephants Can Remember (1972): it’s the final time Hercule Poirot investigates a case at Agatha Christie’s direction, written in the final stretch of her career when everything she did was awful and without merit. Not even I could find something positive to say about it…could I?
Yes, this was supposed to be The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) by Ellery Queen in preparation for the forthcoming spoiler-filled look at Halfway House (1936). Yes, you all warned me that book was awful, and you were correct. Let’s instead board a cruise ship stuffed with munitions at the outset of the Second World War and watch the eight — or is it nine? — passengers slowly get to know each other until one of them is found murdered in their cabin, the corpse peppered with fingerprints which do not match those of anyone on board. Aaah, I feel better already — man, I love the work of John Dickson Carr; the idea of having never discovered it makes me feel a little unwell.
Some months ago, in our podcast The Men Who Explain Miracles, first myself and then Dan chose our fifteen favourite locked room novels of all time. In celebration of Locked Room International recently putting out their thirtieth fiction title, I have done essentially the same again, this time choosing solely from their catalogue: effectively, my personal picks for the ‘top half’ of their output to date.
Greetings, and welcome back to episode 7 of our every-two-monthly (is there a word for that?) podcast The Men Who Explain Miracles, which this month we’re using to look at the career of John Dickson Carr.
Well, hello there. Can you believe it’s been two months since Dan and I interviewed Martin Edwards, and so is time for another episode of our podcast? I certainly can’t. And, this time around, we have a surprise for you…
First, some context: when I began investigating the works of John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, I read a review of And So to Murder (1940) — his tenth novel to feature Sir Henry ‘H.M.’ Merrivale — which lambasted it so roundly that I decided there and then never to read it. Obviously this was in my pre-The Case of the Constant Suicides (1940) and Death Watch (1934) days, two books which convinced me I’d read the transcript of an old shipping forecast had JDC been the one to deliver it, but I still came to this with a certain…apprehension. Merrivale is on a pretty blistering run up to now, so would this be the point where it all starts going wrong?