Brad has threatened to drum me out of the GAD Club Members’ Bar for my lack of kow-towing to the work of Ellery Queen. In fairness, I really rather enjoyed Halfway House (1936), but here I am fighting for my rights. And I think he’s timed this deliberately, being well aware that The Door Between (1937) was up next for me, because Gordon’s beer is Eva MacClure, the heroine who finds herself at the centre of an impossible murder plot, one of the most frustrating perspective characters I’ve yet encountered. Goodness, she makes one positively ache for the company of Noel Wells from The Saltmarsh Murders (1932) by Gladys Mitchell.
For a book set against the backdrop of a play based on one of Agatha Christie’s most famous works, and featuring a detective the front flap tells us is “unparalleled even by Hercule Poirot”, there’s more than a passing whiff of Ngaio Marsh about this one.
Here we go again, with the usual warnings: this post discusses in spoiler-heavy detail elements of the plot of Mr. Priestley’s Problem, a.k.a. The Amateur Crime (1927) by Anthony Berkeley, also published under the name of A.B. Cox.
For now, like, the fourth time in my experience — and the second involving a book by Philip MacDonald — the Roland Lacourbe-curated list of 100 excellent impossible crime novels has disgorged a title which is not in any way an impossible crime. I’m still fully capab- (hang on, carry the one…then minus…yup, you’re good) fully capable of enjoying a book which is sans-impossibility, but I find it weird that a list compiled by such eminent heads includes so many books that don’t qualify. The simplicity of MacDonald’s own narratives should be a giveaway anyway, since he’s really not about the complexities or misdirection, sticking more to a simpler, thriller-tinged path.
Thanksgiving evening, Sheriff Rex Brandon receives a call from a contrite drunk claiming to have stolen a car, and heads over to pick him up along with D.A. Doug Selby. Arriving too late to prevent an accident in which the man is killed, a chance observation by Selby leads to an identity different to one the man had claimed This in turn brings Brandon and Selby to Carmen Freelman, who had been called away from dinner with her new husband’s family that evening by her boss…who just happens to be the man killed in the crash. So run the first twenty-four pages of The D.A. Calls a Turn (1944) by Erle Stanley Gardner. Strap in for a wild ride…
It’s cold outside, it’s dark outside — yes, thank-you, The Southern Hemisphere, no-one likes a smartarse — Christmas is over; time to battle through with some beloved authors. First up, and most beloved of them all despite a recent charge by Freeman Wills Crofts, Mr. John Dickson Carr and Dr. Gideon Fell, here engaged in no showy impossibilities but instead the sort of low-key case for which Carr doesn’t get enough credit. Where the relative simplicity of this might lead to this being overlooked, I’d argue that its restrained execution and structure are so brilliantly without flaw that the more easily you dismiss it the more you’re falling into the very trap it lays.