#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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#888: A Graveyard to Let (1949) by Carter Dickson

Graveyard to Let

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Sir Henry “H.M.” Merrivale, having travelled over to the United States aboard the Mauretania (I guess Maurevania was already taken) on his way to business in the nation’s capital, is summoned by telegram to the home of Frederick Manning. “WILL SHOW YOU MIRACLE AND CHALLENGE YOU TO EXPLAIN IT” runs that missive, a challenge H.M. cannot possibly pass up. And a miracle we get: Manning jumping, fully clothed, into his swimming pool and said clothes coming to the surface without his presence within them. So, howdunnit? And howlinkit to stories of financial skulduggery in Manning’s charitable foundation, plus rumours of his running around with a much younger woman — his first romantic attachment since his wife’s death 18 years earlier?

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#870: The Eight of Swords (1934) by John Dickson Carr

Eight of Swords

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The recent undoing of whatever logjam had prevented the reissuing of John Dickson Carr’s novels is a cause for much celebration among fans of classic detective fiction. It Walks by Night (1930), Castle Skull (1931), The Lost Gallows (1931), The Corpse in the Waxworks (1932), Hag’s Nook (1933), The Mad Hatter Mystery (1933), The Plague Court Murders (1934), The Crooked Hinge (1938), The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941), She Died a Lady (1943), and Till Death Do Us Part (1944), can now be bought easily for sensible money, finally providing some company for The Hollow Man (1935), which had been flying the flag in bookshops toute seule for decades now.

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#847: “Vital and immediate. Vital and immediate.” – ‘Secret Radio’ [rp] (1944) by John Dickson Carr

If you were fortunate enough to get one of the 150 hardcover editions of The Island of Coffins and Other Mysteries from the Casebook of Cabin B-13 (2020) by John Dickson Carr — and I was — you also got an additional pamphlet containing the play ‘Secret Radio’ (1944). And so, having completed my reviews of the collection proper, I turn my attention to this delightful appendix.

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In GAD We Trust – Bonus Episode! The Highs and Lows of Jonathan Creek [w’ Nick Cardillo]

Last week, Nick Cardillo and I discussed the impossible crime on screen, at the end of which he casually asked about Jonathan Creek like I’d be able to condense my thoughts into a pithy bon mot and not obsess about what I’d missed out for the next 30 or 40 years. Instead, we’re back to discuss the series as a whole today.

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