Okay, here we go — do not read any further unless you are happy to be spoiled on the details of John Dickson Carr’s 1939 novel featuring the impossible “no footprints” problem of a man strangled in the middle of a clay tennis court.
In light of my recent favourable experience with Ellery Queen’s The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934), my thoughts turn to the benefits and pitfalls of reading GAD authors’ novels in chronological order. The old joke is that they had to write them in that order, but is there any real benefit or detriment in reading them so arrayed?
You may (but then you you may not) be aware that I’ve started a thing here on The Invisible Event where every three months I pick a work of classic detective fiction and discuss it with another GAD blogger, being entirely unmindful of spoilers so as to really get into the details involved. Well, another is on the way — which book do you think it could possibly be?
I am immensely chuffed to be able to bring to you today the results of the spoiler-heavy discussion between myself and the erudite and phenomenally knowledgeable Noah Stewart of Noah’s Archives on the topic of Rex Stout’s thirteenth Nero Wolfe novel, And Be a Villain (1948). Hefty spoilers follow, so read on only if you are a) prepared or b) a daredevil badass who takes no truck with your “rules”, man.
I don’t watch much TV. I’m not going to be pompous about it, I just don’t. Recently, however, I came into possession of the complete run — seven seasons, approximately 800 DVDs — of the US show The Mentalist and was intrigued enough to give it a look. If this is new territory to you, it stars Simons Baker as Patrick Jane, an ex-psychic who following a personal tragedy now helps the seemingly-autonomous California Bureau of Investigation with his keen insight into the crimes they are called to solve.
In the comments of my post on reality and Golden Age Detective fiction from last Saturday, Harry shared his frustration with the solution to Murder on the Marsh (1930) by John Ferguson — it’s very spoilerific, be warned (though it also sounds terrible, so…) — and I in turn recounted a couple of awful solutions to locked room short stories in sympathy. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all read some stinkers in our time, haven’t we?
In what I’m hoping will be the first of a semi-occasional series — look, I’ve made a special header image for it and everything — we are here today to discuss the 1937 impossible crime novel The Ten Teacups, published in the U.S.A. as The Peacock Feather Murders, from John Dickson Carr under his Carter Dickson nom de plume. Puzzle Doctor, wrangler of In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, kindly agreed to reread this one and then exchange some thoughts on aspects of the precise details and workings of the book, and the results of our efforts are below. Suffice to say, if you click to read more of this, there are guaranteed massive spoilers from this point on; don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Given that so much time spent discussing mystery fiction is devoted to edging carefully around the precise plot points on which such enterprises are founded, I thought I’d give you fair warning that Puzzle Doctor and I are going to be abandoning this approach next month in looking at the 1937 impossible crime novel The Ten Teacups/The Peacock Feather Murders by John Dickson Carr, published under his Carter Dickson secret identity.