The reprinting of Robert Adey’s Locked Room Murders (2nd ed., 1991) at the end of 2018 was a delightful turn-up for those of us who had been dreaming of owning that reference bible. And once the excitement settled, I’m sure more than a few people started thinking “Hey, they should really do another one of these…”.
Slightly belatedly, here are my thoughts on the companion piece to ‘The Scoop’ (1931), another portmanteau mystery written for radio by some of the luminaries of the Golden Age. This time around, Hugh Walpole sets the problem of a dead body found in your typical Stage 3 suburban household, and Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, E.C. Bentley, and Ronald Knox contribute to its unpicking.
Most fans of Golden Age detective fiction (GAD) will be aware of the portmanteau novel The Floating Admiral (1931) in which many luminaries of the form each contributed a chapter in turn to a murder mystery plot (pity poor Anthony Berkeley, who had to unravel all the clues and events to provide a coherent solution in the final chapter). I’m imagining that slightly — but only slightly — fewer of you will be aware of the precursors to this novel written in the preceding year, where the same sort of approach was taken for two mysteries to be broadcast on radio.
Since reading Max Afford’s radio-set mystery The Dead Are Blind, I’ve had a new-found appreciation for the art of creating radio drama, especially during the age when radio held such a huge sway in the homes of most people. My interest in detective fiction from this era inevitably lead to some passing awareness of the serials produced at this time, but Afford’s novel really brought home the level of technical expertise required to produce something so much more complex than simply four people sitting at a microphone with a script.
While Cabin B-13 became the name of the series of radio plays written by John Dickson Carr, I’m using the Tuesday Night Bloggers’ chosen topic of travel to look at the original play of that title which was broadcast on 9th November 1943 for the radio series Suspense (if you’ve 25 minutes to spare, you can check it out for yourself here) and from which that later series was inspired. If it also gives me a chance to cast some light in the direction of Carr’s oft-overlooked radio work, well, more’s the better.
It’s described in its own broadcast as a tale looking at “strange – very strange – happenings aboard an ocean liner” and set in “happier peace-time days” as newlyweds Ricky and Anne prepare to go on honeymoon in Europe. They deposit their bags in the titular cabin, Anne goes onto the deck to watch as ship leaves New York…and returns to find not only that her bags are in a different room – one booked in her maiden name, no less – but also that the room she originally used doesn’t exist, and with witnesses swearing that she was never in the presence of her husband to begin with.