Lightning could strike twice, right? I went into Max Murray’s The Voice of the Corpse (1948) last week knowing nothing about it and that turned out rather well, and no less authorities than Xavier Lechard and Nick Fuller had enthused about this in recent weeks. Plus, in the comments on that above post, TomCat — who knows my standards pretty well, I feel — called Murder on Safari (1938) “a wonderfully written detective story with a splendid backdrop, [that] plays scrupulously fair with the reader”. So, despite (deliberately) knowing nothing about this one either, this wasn’t a risk at all. Kick back, and let the good times roll.
When unpopular spinster Angela Pewsey is killed by a blow to the head — “the first time in many years that someone had done something in her vicinity about which she was not thoroughly informed” — following a spate of poison pen letters, it is met with quite spectacular disinterest by the other denizens of the small village of Inching Round. And, indeed, the attitude which solicitor Firth Prentice must confront when brought down from London to investigate (quite against his will) by the comely Celia Sim is that, frankly, most people would rather shake the murderer’s hand than see anyone hang for such a public-spirited act.
It is slightly over a year since I decided to reread the Doug Selby novels of Erle Stanley Gardner, and while I sort of imagined I’d be done by now — nine books into twelve months goes fairly easily — I had not counted on how much I enjoyed the ones I’d read first time around, and so how I would draw out this revisiting so as to enjoy them equally now. And, even more fun, it turns out that I hadn’t read this one (side note: does anyone actually read the synopses of authors they love in advance of reading the book? You’re gonna read it anyway, right, so why would it matter what it’s about?) — so it felt like a new Doug Selby novel even though, yes, no, I’m aware it isn’t.
Greetings, and welcome back to episode 7 of our every-two-monthly (is there a word for that?) podcast The Men Who Explain Miracles, which this month we’re using to look at the career of John Dickson Carr.
First, some context: when I began investigating the works of John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, I read a review of And So to Murder (1940) — his tenth novel to feature Sir Henry ‘H.M.’ Merrivale — which lambasted it so roundly that I decided there and then never to read it. Obviously this was in my pre-The Case of the Constant Suicides (1940) and Death Watch (1934) days, two books which convinced me I’d read the transcript of an old shipping forecast had JDC been the one to deliver it, but I still came to this with a certain…apprehension. Merrivale is on a pretty blistering run up to now, so would this be the point where it all starts going wrong?
We’re back in Boston again this week, in another large house with murder insinuating its way among the denizens. Everyone is snowed in when the death occurs, and so good-ol’-boy Asey Mayo must counter the cunning devilry of an ingenious and unscrupulous killer with his own brand of misleadingly languid style, plenty of homespun wisdom, and lot and lots of phonetic dialogue — in fact, this is the first time I’ve actively wondered whether an author was on some sort of pro rata arrangement for the number of times an apostrophe could be used where a letter would be equally good. So that’s another benchmark reached, I guess.