#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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#765: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #15: Red Snow (2010) by Michael Slade

First TomCat, then John, and then last week Tom Mead mentioned the impossible crime credentials of the writing collective that publishes under he name ‘Michael Slade’, and then the rooster crowed and I realised I’d denied this three times and so should probably do something about it. Thus, today we dive into the world of Special X.

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#764: The Six Queer Things (1937) by Christopher St. John Sprigg

Six Queer Things

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I’m aware that The Six Queer Things (1937) was the seventh and final novel to be published by Christopher St. John Sprigg following his death in the Spanish Civil War, but — having read two of his previous books — its contents belie its status as his final work, marking it out more as an apprentice effort from an earlier stage in his career. Both Death of an Airman (1934) and The Perfect Alibi (1934) sit more comfortably in the Golden Age milieu, where Queer Things is replete with details and developments that would have thrilled the late Victorians but impressed a crowd drunk on Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, and Ellery Queen to a decidedly less marked degree.

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#763: Little Fictions – Death and the Professor [ss] (1961) by E. & M.A. Radford

A surgeon, a policeman, a psychiatrist, a mathematician, and a pathologist walk into a club — the foundation not of some esoteric wit but instead the Dilettante’s Club, a dinner-and-discussion group who meet fortnightly for their own entertainment. And when Professor Marcus Stubbs joins their number, those discussions take a frequent turn into the realm of the impossible crime.

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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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#759: “They think they’ve got a locked room murder…” – The Patchwork Girl (1980) by Larry Niven

Before the classic detection bug bit me hard, I would have considered myself of a fan of latter-era Golden Age SF above anything else — put me in the triangle formed by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K Dick and I’m very happy indeed. And sometimes these dual fascinations collide, as in Asimov’s The Caves of Steel (1953) or, under the microscope today, The Patchwork Girl (1980) by Larry Niven.

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