#412: On the Appeal of Impossible Crimes – At Death’s Door…


I’ll he honest, I’m not really sure what this post is about.  See, I’ve been mulling the appeal of the impossible crime novel for, well, years now, and having previously looked at what makes something an impossible crime the thing I’ve been mulling lately why the concept of an impossible crime is so appealing.  This, then, is the end result of those lucubrations, unfocused as they are despite being pinned on a very small area of interest.

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#391: Fatal Descent, a.k.a. Drop to His Death (1939) by John Rhode and Carter Dickson

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In the style of Sesame Street, today’s review is brought to you by In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel‘s Puzzle Doctor, who kindly leant me this book following years of me failing to find an affordable copy.  And, boy, what an exciting prospect it is: no mere “one chapter each” in the style of ‘Behind the Screen’ (1930), ‘The Scoop’ (1931), or The Floating Admiral (1932), this is a proper collaboration between two of the Golden Age’s titans: Carter Dickson, a.k.a. John Dickson Carr, and John Rhode, a.k.a. Miles Burton — two gentlemen who individually devised a greater library of brilliant means of criminal dispatch than almost any other pair you’d care to name.

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#370: The Reader is Warned (1939) by Carter Dickson

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I will admit the chance that I am overrating this book slightly, but, dude, I loved it.  The central premise — that Herman Pennik can both read the minds of others and kill people just by thinking about them, using a hitherto-unexplored scientific principle he calls Teleforce — has the absurdity of overwroughtness that distinguishes the Henry Merrivale books under John Dickson Carr’s Carter Dickson nom de plume (see: The Unicorn Murders (1935), The Punch and Judy Murders (1936), etc).  But Carr plays it remarkably straight, keeping his phantasmagorical flourishes to a minimum and concentrating on plot and glorious atmosphere.

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