#1018: “If it’s a new wrinkle in the art of homicide, I want to know all about it.” – The White Priory Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson

It speaks volumes about the excitement that the work of John Dickson Carr provokes in me that, with still around 20 of his novels unread, I’m revisiting some favourite titles from his output. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the likes of the American Mystery Classics and the British Library Crime Classics ranges are putting out such lovely new editions — and who wouldn’t want to revisit Carr in his prime?

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#996: The Nine Wrong Answers (1952) by John Dickson Carr

Nine Wrong Answers

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In order to read the full text of The Nine Wrong Answers (1952) by John Dickson Carr you must read the first edition hardcover, as all paperback printings having been reduced by what Carr’s biographer Douglas Greene estimates to be about 15%. And, having now read the condensed text, it’s difficult not to feel that the book could actually be shortened by about another 30% since, in expanding this up from his radio play ‘Will You Make a Bet with Death?’ (1942), Carr has stretched a thin premise now too thin. A lot of the distractions here are simply that: distractions, and the core excellence of the plot is rendered tedious at times when trying to support so many circumlocutions.

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#982: “The more improbable they are, the better I like ’em.” – Hag’s Nook (1933) by John Dickson Carr

A (fairly) recent review of Hag’s Nook (1933) by John Dickson Carr at Tangled Yarns added to its (slightly less) recent reprinting by Polygon Books put this first appearance by Dr. Gideon Fell on my Hallowe’en reading list…and here we are. A family curse — “the Starberths die of broken necks” — seems as good a topic as any for this annual celebration of eldritch horrors, so let’s dive back in and see what I make of it some ten or more years after my first read.

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#971: (Spooky) Little Fictions – Ghosts from the Library [ss] (2022) ed. Tony Medawar

With the annual Bodies from the Library collections, which have brought long out-of-print stories of crime and detection back to public awareness, proving rightly popular, editor Tony Medawar turns his attention to another facet of genre fiction with the Ghosts from the Library (2022) collection, in which authors (mostly) better known for their stories of crime and detection have a go at generating some supernatural chills instead.

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#930: Night at the Mocking Widow (1950) by Carter Dickson

Night at the Mocking Widow

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I love a good village poison pen mystery but, as I’ve said before, they’re difficult to write because both the village and the mystery must convince and compel. Night at the Mocking Widow (1950), the twentieth book written under John Dickson Carr’s Carter Dickson nom de plume to feature Churchillian sleuth Sir Henry ‘H.M.’ Merrivale, starts off seeming like a great example of both…but once we hit the halfway stage and the impossible appearance and vanishing of the sinister Widow presents itself, the life rather goes out of things. From that point on, it feels more like a writing exercise than a novel, and one that Carr is forcing himself to complete.

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#913: “You people have the most cheerful imaginations…” – It Walks by Night (1930) by John Dickson Carr

With the superb British Library Crime Classics range having recently published its one hundredth title, and with doubtless many more books still in its future, the time seems ripe to revisit one of its most exciting reprints, It Walks by Night (1930) the novel-length debut of John Dickson Carr and his first sleuth, Henri Bencolin.

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#895: “There are some jokes, young man, that are not permitted here.” – Speak of the Devil [rp] (1994) by John Dickson Carr [ed. Tony Medawar]

The recently-published The Island of Coffins (2020) brought several of John Dickson Carr’s previously-unavailable radio plays to public attainability, and gave many of us the chance to appreciate the Master in a slightly different milieu. Shortly after reading that wonderful volume, I was lucky enough to acquire Speak of the Devil (1994), the script for the eight-part radio serial Carr wrote for broadcast in 1941, and it is to that which we turn today.

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