C is for … John Dickson Carr

Kerrie’s Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has returned for 2012. Those participating will post a review, author biog or a thematic item that matches the letter of the week either with the first letter of the title or the name or surname of the author – and this week we have reached the letter C, which I am using as an occasion to celebrate in my own small way the achievements of my favourite Golden Age mystery writer of them all …

The reader is warned that the following post is utterly partisan and nothing less than a love letter to the work of John Dickson Carr,  aka Carter Dickson, aka “master of the locked room mystery”.

“Because,” said the doctor, frankly, “we’re in a detective story, and we don’t fool the reader by pretending we’re not. Let’s not invent elaborate excuses to drag in a discussion of detective stories. Let’s candidly glory in the noblest pursuits possible to a character in a book” – From Dr Fell’s ‘Locked Room Lecture’ in The Hollow Man

Although variously attributed to Terry Carr and Brian Aldiss, it is now thought that it was Peter Scott Graham who first quipped that, “The Golden Age of science fiction is thirteen.” I feel the same way about any revered era as I probably did most of my important literary detective work in my teens. And I know exactly when I had my first encounter with the work of the masterful Mr Carr: August 1983, when I was 14 years old. That month saw the re-printing of The Reader is Warned in Italy. I absolutely loved the atmosphere, the humour and the sheer cleverness of the plotting and quickly found that another book, also under the ‘Carter Dickson’ byline and still starring Sir Henry Merrivale had just been published, Nine and Death Make Ten (aka ‘Murder in the Submarine Zone’). This was another winner and I was desperate to find more of the author’s books – it turned out that both my parents had read him and my mother, being in particular a fan of historical fiction, had a copy of Fire, Burn (1957) one of a trio of mysteries Carr wrote that combined fair play deduction with time travel. This was also my first encounter with Carr’s delightful ‘Notes for the Curious’, which he appended to these books and which were full of fascinating additional historical details.

” … the deception is built up, sustained with teasing hints that can be interpreted in half a dozen different ways, and at last revealed with staggering skill.” – Julian Symons in Bloody Murder

Not all the sources I initially consulted on Carr were kind about his body of work. Barzun and Taylor are famously sniffy and Bruce F. Murphy in his encyclopedia damns with faint praise and clearly has little interest in the author. On the other hand Julian Symons as quoted above, while far from being without criticism, was full of admiration for the cleverness of Carr’s stories. All this activity in Italy coincided fairly closely with Carr’s work being championed in the US by Douglas G. Greene, who has probably done more than anybody else over the decades to help new readers discover the joys of the locked room mystery. In 1980 he edited The Door to Doom, a wonderful anthology that not only brought together several classic short stories and radio plays but also included several pieces that Carr wrote for The Haverfordian, his school magazine. Most valuable of all perhaps was the detailed bibliography that provided a truly enticing glimpse into the dozens of novels, plays and short stories written by Carr over a period of some 45 years. I wore out a copy at the library near friends in the UK and every year I used to take it out, until one day I was able to buy my own copy at the wonderful Murder One bookshop, which sadly is no longer (or rather, not as a shop in central London – they do still trade as a mail order company at least). Three years later Greene edited The Dead Speak Lightly (1983), a further collection of some of the Carr’s best radio playsthis volume is a little tougher to track down but is well worth the effort (I got my copy at the late lamented Mysterious Bookstore in San Francisco). TomCat has provided a detailed review of The Dead Speak Lightly over at his Detection by Moonlight blog.

“No one in the history of the genre could match him for sheer sustained ingenuity when it came to devising reader-bamboozling locked room and other impossible mysteries.” – William L. DeAndrea in Encyclopedia Mysteriosa

In the 80s Greene with the likes of Robert S. Adey, Jack Adrian and Tony Medawar helped bring a new generation of readers to Carr’s work through various anthologies and critical studies. This renewed interest was further enhanced by the results of a poll undertaken by Edward D. Hock on behalf of the Mystery Writers of America in which 17 authors (including Adrian, Barzun, Jon L. Breen, RE Briney, Jan Broberg, Ellery Queen, Greene, Howard Haycraft, Hoch himself, Marvin Lachman, Richard Levinson & William Link, Bill Pronzini, Symons and Donald Yates) were asked to come up with a list of their favourite locked room mysteries. Carr was, as you might have gathered, very well represented – the list became quite well-known and here are their top 10:

  1. The Hollow Man (1935; US title: The Three Coffins) by Carr
  2. Rim of the Pit by Hake Talbot
  3. The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux
  4. The Crooked Hinge by Carr
  5. The Judas Window (1938) by Carr
  6. The Big Bow Mystery by Israel Zangwill
  7. Death from a Top Hat by Clayton Rawson
  8. The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen
  9. Nine Times Nine by Anthony Boucher
  10. The Ten Teacups (1937; US title: The Peacock Feather Murders) by Carr

For decades Carr invented complex whodunits which were not just wonderfully atmospheric but also funny and on top of which had that all important extra, a massive and utterly delectable cherry on top: the impossible crime. Murderers would dispatch victims on snow, sand and tennis courts and leave no footprints; men would dive into swimming pools and apparently vanish; rooms with all entrances and exits guarded would be impossibly penetrated; and in one of my absolute favourites (He Wouldn’t Kill Patience from 1944), a person apparently commits suicide by sealing a room with tape on the inside and then turning the gas on – and yet, it’s actually murder! To solve the cases are either the satanic Henri Bencolin, the GK Chesterton inspired Dr Gideon Fell and perhaps best of all, ‘the Old Man’, the highly undignified and yet utterly brilliant Henry Merrivale, whose cases were published as by ‘Carter Dickson’. These were, as I mentioned, the first that I read and perhaps remained my preferred adventures. But there are also the historical mysteries involving hints of the supernatural (such as the 1937 classic The Burning Court). In all there were over 70 novels, approximately the same number of mysteries written for radio and about half as many short stories, including the wonder Colonel March stories collected in The Department of Queer Complaints  (1940).

There is just so much to choose from – could it all be good? Well, no. Carr (and ‘Carter Dickson’) were at their peak throughout the 30s and 40s. After that Carr suffered from some health problems and the quality did occasionally drop off, though Fell novels published as late as The House at Satan’s Elbow (1965) and Panic in Box C (1966) are still to my mind tremendously entertaining and delightfully clever – and I really like some of the later historical novels too, such as The Devil in Velvet (1951) and The Bride of Newgate (1950).  Can I generate a list of (only) my top 10 favourites? Well, if I must, then today these are my top 10, though this might change to another batch of wonderful books on a different day of the week.

Those marked with an asterisk (*) originally appeared under his ‘Carter Dickson’ pen name.

  1. The Hollow Man (1935; US title: The Three Coffins)
  2. The Judas Window (1938) *
  3. He Wouldn’t Kill Patience (1944) *
  4. She Died A Lady (1943) *
  5. The Ten Teacups (1937; US title: The Peacock Feather Murders) *
  6. The Reader is Warned (1938) *
  7. Till Death Do Us Part (1944)
  8. The Department of Queer Complaints  (1940) *
  9. The Devil in Velvet (1951)
  10. Fire, Burn! (1957)

Carr’s work, thanks largely to Greene’s efforts, had a major resurgence in the 80s and early 90 and many of his books were reprinted by International Polygonics and Greene himself has continued the good work through his Crippen & Landru imprint: www.crippenlandru.com/

All over the blogosphere there are many of Carr’s fans writing about him and discovering his work anew or re-presenting it to potential new readers. Patrick over at At the Scene of the Crime is devoted to impossible mysteries, as is TomCat, while the Puzzle Doctor over at In Search of the Classic Mystery is planning to review all the Merrivale books and has produced a good guide to them here: http://classicmystery.wordpress.com/sir-henry-merrivale/. Particular mention should be made of the many essays by Pietro De Palma, a frequent visitor to these shores. Although he also blogs in English at Death Can Read, most of his essays on Carr are in Italian – for those of you able to read the original, or make use of BabelFish Translate and the like, there is much here that I think you will enjoy – especially his essays on the novella The Third Bullet; the ‘Locked Room Lecture’, which I quoted above by Carr, here and on locked rooms more generally here and here. He has also written on the first four short stories featuring Bencolin as well as a look at Mary Shelley, automatons and The Crooked Hinge.

The most important book on Carr and his life is Douglas G. Greene’s The Man Who Explained Miracles (1995). The other main critical work in English on his books is ST Joshi’s John Dickson Carr: A Critical Study (1990). There are also works not in English that I have not sampled I’m afraid. See also such web essays as those found at the Mysterylist.com and the GADetection list. And then of course there is JDCarr.com too …

Let all these erudite enthusiasts assist you in participating in the most ingenious and diverting of murder mystery conventions and surrender to the sheer pleasure of what Carr termed, “The grandest game in the world”.

This entry was posted in 2012 Alphabet of Crime, Carter Dickson, Crime Fiction Alphabet, Gideon Fell, Henry Merrivale, John Dickson Carr, Julian Symons, Locked Room Mystery and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

114 Responses to C is for … John Dickson Carr

  1. Bill Selnes says:

    A very impressive contribution to the meme. Relating how you connected with the author made it an excellent profile.

    I have read but two of his books. The Judas Window was very entertaining. I thought the locked room and solution to the murder were elegantly set out in the book.

    • Cheers Bill – it is one of his best books and contains most of his virtues – a wonderfully impossibly crime that is then elegantly and rationally explained, a clever whodunit, bags of atmosphere – and top it all, is also a cracking courtroom drama – what more could a self-respecting Golden Age fan want?

  2. Colin says:

    Wonderful. A fantastic tribute to the great man. I’m another who likes the way you added in the little personal details of how you first got into Carr’s writing.

    A nice top 10 too, though I’m not sure I could discipline myself enough to produce one. I originally wouldhave said Fell was my favourite of his detectives (after The Nine Wrong Answers, The Three Coffins was the first of his series detective novels I read) but my appreciation of the Merrivale stories, especially the early ones, has grown over the years. The Judas Window is pure class and i retain a real soft spot for The Plague Court Murders.

    I know they’re not to everyone’s taste, with their high Gothic flavour, but I really like the Bencolin mysteries. Ok, Castle Skull, despite a great title, is a little weak and geographically confusing. However, all the others (can’t comment on the as yet unread The Four False Weapons) are tremendous fun and dripping in atmosphere.

    I think it’s about time there was another revival of interest in Carr’s work.

    • Thanks Colin, that is very kind – must admit, I had’t really planned on making it so personal, but it sorta, kinda got away from me. Four False Weapons is much lighter and on the whole very different fromt he other Bencolin tales (It Walks by Night and The Lost Gallows are probably my favourites of these) anmd was probably intended to make the character more in sync with Merrivale and Fell really. I have this incrdible urge right now to leave the office and go and re-read It Walks by Night right now (isn;t it just a wonderful title?)

      I could easily add another 10 without blushing or blinking and Nine Wrong Answers is a classic of its kind and one of his best novels with a postwar setting too. I can;t believe I didn’t include The Crooked Hinge for instance (another fabulous title) or He Who Whispers or … well, and so on!

      • Colin says:

        Generally, Carr’s titles are incredibly alluring and promise much.
        Interesting, you mention <em.The Crooked Hinge; it’s often held up as one of his best yet it didn’t quite grab me. Maybe I need to revisit it but, despite being quite horrific in tone, the central device just didn’t work for me.

        BTW, I meant to say in the last comment, and then it slipped my mind, that I was really glad to see you sticking up for Panic in Box C. That book tends to get slated quite a lot but, apart from a few unweildy passages, I think it remains one of his better later works.

        • I agree that the ending of The Crooked Hinge is a bit of a sticking point and is probably the reason i omitted it – I love the whole business about the legs but it is also very unlikely and the criminal does rather get let off in the end (which was a major failing in Carr, or more charitably shall we say that he was more interested in ‘justice’ than the strict application of the law). So glad you think the same as I do about Panic in Box C – not perfect, as you say, but works wonderfully – after decades I still remember the arrow solution with pleasure.

          • Colin says:

            I remember reaching the end of The Crooked Hinge, feeling pretty creeped out, and then thinking: What! Seriously? And thinking back over the story, I don’t see how the murderer could have acted as he did throughout, given what’s finally revealed.

            Carr did have a tendency to let his concept of natural justice take its course at times – sometimes it worked satisfactorily, sometimes not so well. But I can live with that and don’t regard it as a major flaw in his writing.

          • I agree, Carr’s approach to alw and order has never had any effect on ym enjoyment at all, but it is interesting how, compred with most of his contempraries, he was remarkably low key (sic) about applying the rule of law, and not just because he allowed murderes to take the ‘gentleman’s way out’. I have very find memories of crooked Hinge, but you and Steve are definitely right about the plausibility gap being pretty wide in that one – and yet it’s such a wonderful idea that I think I forgave him almost instantly!

  3. I cannot wait to dig in! The only problem is which one to read first, It Walks By Night or The Hollow Man? Wonderful post!

    • Cheers Peggy, really hope you enjoy these. The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins) and The Judas Window (which I reviewed here) are true classics of their kind – if either of those doesn’t turn you into a Carr fan, then nothing will!

  4. Great article, Sergio. Glad I’m not the only one with an issue with The Crooked Hinge’s ending – I figure it must be based on a true story that Carr had heard of. I’m amazed that it’s usually so acclaimed as it does seem extremely implausible.

    And thanks for the reminder about my bibliography – it hasn’t been updated for a long time – and neither has the Ellery Queen one. I am useless at keeping my attention on one thing. I promise to go back to it soon, if only to give The Ten Teacups the kicking it deserves… The Red Court Murders is the one that I’d replace it with in a top ten. In fact, in no particular order…
    1. She Died A Lady 2. Till Death… 3. Hollow Man 4. Judas Window 5. Wouldn’t Kill Patience 6. He Who Whispers 7. Nine Wrong Answers 8. The Black Spectacles 9. Burning Court 10. Red Court Murders and a bonus mention for Panic in Box C as that was the one that got me started.

    • Cheers Steve, very good of you. There are very few books of Carr’s that I solved before the end (My Late Wives and Hag’s Nook are the only titles I can think of) and I do really like Crooked Hinge – but with reservations. I do look forward to reading that review of Ten Teacups you’ve been promising – as we shall have a heartfel debate since it is clear to everybody it’s a classic mate (well, TomCat agrees with you as well actually)!

      I am not going to disagree at all with your top 10 chum, all wonderful books though I do need to re-read Black Spectacles as it’s been a very long time … however, before I lose my marbles, Plague Court and Burning Court notwithstanding, you’re talking about The Red Widow Murders, right?

      • Duh. Of course – thought Red Court sounded wrong. Better re-read that one too…

        Black Spectacles is one of my absolute favourites – will probably re-read it myself soon as well.

        • Really glad you mentioned Black Spectacles (aka The Problem of the Green Capsule) as it was one of the first I read (well, it’s a movie camera in it of course) but I have never read it in English, only in a pretty creaky Italian translation, so I shall have to hunt around methinks!

      • Oops, seem to have replied twice. Sergio, can you delete one of them – and this as well, obviously…

  5. Skywatcher says:

    I was well out of my teens when I first read Carr, but it did feel like I’d been looking for books like this all of my life. My favourites are the HM stories (such as the masterful CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP). There has been a tendency to lump everything after 1947 as second-best, but it’s only the last few books where he shows any serious signs of weakness.

    • Thanks for the feedback. You put that very well – I’d just started reading mysteries on a regular basis around that time and was starting to read Philip MacDonald, Edgar Wallace, Anthony Berkeley etl and carr, along with ellery queen, really was ther author that just absolutely clicked and seemed to be going exactly where I wanted to go. And how could I forget Curse of the Bronze Lamp (aka Lord of the Sorcerers)? There is a tendency to see a change in Carr’s work after the end of the war, but you are absolutely right – there a plenty pf great books still to come like The Skeleton in the Clock, A Graveyard to Let, Fear is the Same and so on. The last couple of Merrivales are pretty weak and Carr was really not a well man by the end of the 60s and sadly it shows. But mostly these are wonderfully constructed entertainments.

  6. TracyK says:

    A very interesting overview. You do pass on your love of this author very well.
    I love the book covers you included. I am nearly as fond of vintage paperback covers as I am of the novels. I checked out your review of The Judas Window also, and I have to have that cover with the skeleton hand. All this exposure (at Peggy Ann’s site also) has convinced me I must try Carr.
    Unfortunately I am much older (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), and I can’t remember what I read in my teens, although I suspect Rex Stout and Perry Mason were my first mystery reads. I wish I knew when I read my first Rex Stout.

    • Thanks very much Tracy, very kind. Actually, with regards to my dip into personal nostalgia, there was a mild bit of ‘cheating’ involved here or at least a bit of help, since I can actually date it to the exact week – not because my memory is that good this (it isn’t), but because in Italy the edition of The Reader is Warned that I referred to was part of a series of classic mystery reprints that was (and still is) published every two weeks and made available in news agents rather than bookstores. This is very common in Italy and is more akin to the pulp tradition of the 40s and 50s when you would buy cheap paperbacks that way. And, as you may see, if you look carefully at the yellow cover of that reprint that I include in my post (for ‘Il lettore in guardia’ – aka The Reader is Warned), it has a date on it at the bottom. Every two weeks I would but the next one, irrespective of the author, discovering new writers and characters as I went – and they all have the date of publication in effect like the ‘issue’ date of a magazine. It’ll be thirty tears next August … and I still have that edition!

    • Ciao Pietro, well, I did stick purely with English sources, but thanks so much for adding the links here. I read nearly all of Carr in Italian first and in English second so you’re right, I should have made an exception – and very glad to do it. I’ll embed the links into the main post right away.

      Distinti saluti ‘Carriani’,

  7. Pietro says:

    Qui ci vorrebbe anche un pugnale.
    Come stai Sergio? Hai visto? Curt ci confonde ora: mi chiama col tuo nome, e tu col mio. A dire che siamo quasi intercambiabili: sarà per il cognome tuo che è anche quello di mia madre? Mah..
    Da oggi, le scuole sono chiuse in Italia per le vacanze estive, come sai, e anche se dovrò andare a scuola per un altro mese, non sarà però come stare in classe davanti a quindici elementi. Avrò quindi più tempo libero da dedicare ad altro. Tra poco per es. devo andare al Centro a vedere di trovare qualcosa per te, così poi faccio il pacchetto e te lo invio, prima o poi.

  8. Pietro says:

    Curt sta per Curtis.

    • Mi ha fatto ridere quando Curt ci ha confusi – beh, mi sa che Italiani che scrivono anche in Inglese su gialli d’annata forse sono un po pochi!

      • curtis evans says:

        I really do know you two are separate individuals, having regularly visited both your blogs! And, indeed, once you have been to Pietros’ blog you don’t forget it. I have Italian pottery that resembles that blog backsplash. Sergio had been making all the comments on Faulkner and I must have typed his name automatically (it probably didn’t help that it was early in the morning). Pietro even signed his name Pietro, which was rather a giveaway that he was Pietro! I know when I typed the answer my brain was conscious of the fact that I was addressing Pietro, even though my fingers betrayed me.

        I just got Pietro’s email address from Mauro, by the way, and will be sending him a communication about the book, my book, since he was kind enough to express an interest. I mostly want to leave shipping to my publisher and others, but I would be happy to send the book myself to Pietro, Mauro and a few others in Europe and East Asia who have asked.

        In this connection I should mention that John Dickson Carr comes up a fair bit in the book, mostly on account of his being a great friend of John Street. I have a photo of the house where they collaborated on Fatal Descent/Drop to His Death, for example. Street had some locked room problems in his books, though not nearly as many as Carr of course.

        • The way I see it Curt, the opportunity to raz you about this mix-up is just too good to pass up, so you just go right ahead and keep making excuses and we’ll pretend how offended we are that you think all Italians in the world are really one person! But seriously folks, congratulations on your book – finances permitting I definitely plan on getting a copy – on top of which, this reminds me that I have yet to read Fatal Descent, one of about half a dozen Carr books that I have deliberately left unread on the shelves for very special occasions.

          • curtis evans says:

            Given where Italy rates with my blog views, I never thought there could be just one person! In fact, given the amount of traffic from Italy there must be more even than you three (I think…). I’ve known Mauro Boncompagni longer than you two. He’s a CADS subscriber and has been vocal in support of my articles there (it’s always nice to hear people actually read what you write). I’m really pleased to have a (okay, small) group of global viewers. That’s one of the great things about the net, knowing you can directly reach people around the world with your writing. A “scholarly journal” article in many cases sits on a shelf of a university library and gets read by very few.

            With Fatal Descent Street surely came up with the murder method, but I imagine Carr did the writing. There are Carrian antics.

            Don’t feel obligated on the book, I’m the first to admit the publisher put quite a high price-tag on it. I’m disappointed with that, as I wrote it for both academics and fans (sometimes these groups even intersect) but it’s quite long by modern standards, as the specialist mystery genre monograph usually is around 200 pages (or less) and it’s 300 and oversized at that.

          • Ooh, I can see thi going on for ages and ages – it is fscinating how in Italy, Germany and France in particular there remains this genuine affection for the Golden Age mystery. As for us Italians, well Mauro Boncompagni is of course a rather impressive name to have on your rolodex (even a virtual one) – I have no idea how many books I have read over the years with his name in them. Definitely looking forward to your book chum.

  9. TomCat says:

    As the resident fanboy of all things impossible, I have to say that you’ve done an excellent job at penning a worthy tribute to the master and apologize for this late, late response.

    Your list of favorite John Dickson Carr novels is an interesting one, because The Department of Queer Complaints and Fire, Burn! aren’t regulars in these top 10 listings, but the only ones I would exclude from it are The Peacock Feather Murders and He Wouldn’t Kill Patience. Not because they are bad, on the contrary, they are, for the most part anyway, inventive, clever and fun detective stories, but not, IMHO, up to Carr’s A-game. The solution from Peacock Feather relies on someone having peas for brains and Patience was fun, but it always felt to me like an expanded short story, however, I do understand why a lot of fans love this book. Even though it lacks a galore of clues or subplots, it’s a fun, charming story that opens with H.M. in a zoo!

    I have no idea how my top 10 list would look today, but it would definitely include The Plague Court Murders (the book that made me a fan) and Captain Cut-Throat (a grossly underrated historical mystery).

    • Cheers TomCat, coming from you this is especially nice to hear. Both and you and Puzzle Doctor have recently been dissing The Ten Teacups (aka Peacock Feather) and yet when I read it (a few years ago, I’ll grant you) I was stunned by the cleverness of the impossible crime (unlikely, yes, but … those burning embers are seared on my brain!) and the atmosphere and I loved that sequence at the end with the body strapped to the chair! And I love the locked room in Patience and the zoo sequence at the climax. But one should learn from one’s betters so I will definitely be re-reading these two. But these are so locked in to my reading from my early teens that much of my affection is far from being 100% rational at this point – could I live with radically changing my long-held opinions? Fact is, after posting on the subject, I now have this incredible urge to spend the next few months reading nothing but Carr from end to end! Most … resist … too … many … other …books … on … the … TBR pile !!!

  10. curtis evans says:

    Favorite Carrs, off the top of my head:

    The Burning Court (brilliant mixture of mundane and otherworldly)
    The Devil in Velvet (Carr’s ultimate statement on his Cavalier obsession)
    The Crooked Hinge (the height of Golden Age baroque in that solution)
    The Man Who Could Not Shudder (very Rhode-ean)
    He Who Whispers (one of the very best with the supernatural overtones)
    The Judas Window (courtroom classic)
    The Reader Is Warned (teleforce!)
    The Gilded Man (very funny)
    She Died a Lady (more poignant than most Carrs)
    He Wouldn’t Kill Patience (again very funny)

    As you can see I love H. M., at least until he topples over into total absurdity in his later books.

    Note, I don’t say these are the best, only my personal favorites at the moment. I think I share five with Sergio, not a bad number. I need to reread Three Coffins, but recall finding the solution to the one problem tedious and underwhelming.

    • Great list Curt and I agree with all of them – She Died a Lady in particularly deserves to be better known as it just a fantastic book on every level, out-Christieing Agatha Christie (and Carr too) in its devious construction! Shudder is perhaps the only one that I might question, but I need to re-read this one (and I am very unfamiliar with Rhode …)

      • curtis evans says:

        Well, again, they are personal favorites. Shudder is for me a classic haunted house mysterytale, in my view, and the solution like I said is very Rhodean. I suspect the house in it is based on the house where Street and Carr collaborated on Fatal Descent.

        • Which is really fascinating Curt – I’ll certainly have to dig out their joint novel. Is it correct that Rhode came up with the basic plot and then Carr did most of the writing?

          • curtis evans says:

            I’m sure so. Also, the murder method in The Reader Is Warned is very similar to that in a book Street published about the same time. I think in the late 1930s, before the war started, those two were sharing a lot of ideas, as they (and their companions) spent a lot of time together. Carr was extremely impressed with Street’s ability to hold huge amounts of liquor (Street got quite stout in middle age, largely on account of stout; it’s hard to believe he used to climb trees and buildings as a forward observation officer in WW1, when one looking at his later photos).

            Street also wrote his own haunted house mystery a few years after Carr’s Shudder. His was Men Die at Cyprus Lodge. He has a much more deliberate style than Carr and wasn’t nearly as good at murderer misdirection at Carr, who, with Christie, was one of the great master in that respect (I’m not sure that was as concerned with that as Carr), but he shared with Carr a delight in accomplishing murder in incredible creative ways.

            In the book one of things I try to illuminate is why Street and Carr were such good friends, what connected them. People have this notion, helped along by Symons Humdrum appellation, that Street was this stodgy person, but that’s not true at all. He had a much different personality from the admittedly very pious Freeman Wills Crofts.

            By the way, I do part company with Barzun in his overall assessment of Carr. I agree with you (and most GA fans) that Carr was one of the greats, though I do think he had some quirks that developed into serious flaws later in his life. I must admit I’m not a fan of the later books, outside of a few of the historicals.

            Of course Carr was so prolific decline was to be expected. It’s not humanly possible to maintain that level for over two decades, I think. Interestingly, though he hit his stride at a much younger age than Street and Christie, his decline roughly mirrors theirs. The quality of the work of all three of these authors in the 1950s is clearly inferior to that of the 1930s and 1940s, in my view,

          • It is very hard not to feel that the seismic changes in British society wrought by the end of the War eventully led to a tailing off for some many of the great writers from the interwar years. Allingham is one of the few who initially seemed to truly benefit, though even that didnlt last long after Tiger in the Smoke – though I am generalisating to a quite spectaular extent here (am I not …).

    • Not just me who likes Shudder – that’s good to know. I read it after reading all of the Fell’s that were generally considered classics and was really pleasantly surprised by it. The method’s a load of nonsense though, but I enjoyed it all the same.

      • It’s one of the less spectacular cases in terms of the murder as I recall, and although I remember it had all to do with electricity, I remember little else. Another great Carr title (albeit via the brothers Grimm) so clearly should be reading it again – thanks for the prompt.

      • curtis evans says:

        “The method’s a load of nonsense though”

        Don’t try this at home! LOL

        I really do like this book. The house and the characters and the pace, everything appeals to me. It’s a Carr I can always go back to and reread with pleasure.

  11. Colin says:

    I think She Died a Lady has been cited by three people now as among the best/favourites, and I reckon that’s pretty fair. I read it maybe a year or so back and was immediately struck by the depth of characterization, something that’s not always the case with Carr.

    • You just pipped me to the post on that one – it is virtually a perfect mystery and oddly overlooked.

      • Colin says:

        Yeah, coming to it off the back of a couple of “lesser” Carr books like Papa Là-Bas & Below Suspicion, I enjoyed it immensely.

        • I haven’t read either of those two in 25 years probably (gulp) – I quite liked Patrick Butler, but can’t remember much of the plot or of the spin-off, Patrick Butler for the Defence either.

          Steve did an excellent review of She Died a Lady over at his blog, In Search of the Classic Mystery.

          • Colin says:

            I don’t think either of those was especially bad, that’s why I used the quotes, just not what I’d term top flight Carr. Actually, I kind of like the character of Patrick Butler too.

            Thanks for the link – off to check it out now.

          • Steve’s is a really excellent blog – and he is just about to say terrible things about The Ten Teacups apparently … which he is allowed to do as a genuine fan, though I fear what he might say all the same – what if I’ve been wrong all these years?!

  12. Sergio, it’s always a delight to read a blogger who knows his subject-post as thoroughly as you do. As I have mentioned before, I have never read Dickson Carr and would love to read some of his books as soon as I can. Where do you think I should start? Thanks, too, for the many links to other blog posts on Carr.

    • Hi Prashant, you are much too kind. There are a great many Carr aficionado out there, but I’ll give you what I think it the ‘party line’ in terms of his material. Chronologically he created three main detectives:

      Henri Bencolin: I’d start with his first book, It Walked By Night and then maybe The Lost Gallows. He appeared in 5 novels only. Thgese are darker, less humorous.
      Gideon Fell: He is a huge and moustached genius detective, given to making cryptic statements, who physically resembles GK Chesterton, the creator of ‘Father Brown’. He stars in Carr’s best-known book, The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins). I’d start here, but many others are almost equally as good such as Till Death Do Us Part, The Arabian Nights Murders or The Case of the Constant Suicides.
      Sir Henry Merrivale : These tend to be more humorous – I love most of these and really any of those published before 1950 will be wonderful – personal favourites include The Judas Window, She Died a Lady, The Plague Court Murders, The Ten Teacups (aka The Peacock Feathers Murder).

      Carr also wrote many fine historical mysteries, including The Burning Court, The Devil in velvet, The Bride of Newgate and Fire, Burn.

      Hope you can get your hands on some of these and look forward to hearing what you think.


  13. Mauro Boncompagni says:

    Ciao Sergio, una rapida risposta da chi è stato in gran parte il responsabile della pubblicazione degli inediti di Carr in Italia a partire dai primi anni Ottanta. Una cosa di cui vado molto orgoglioso, anche perché Carr è il mio giallista preferito. Concordo con molte delle tue scelte, specie sulla tua predilezione per “Ten Teacups” e “She Died a Lady”, due dei miei favoriti. Aggiungerei solo due o tre titoli che mi pare di non aver visto citati: “The Unicorn Murders” (il Carter Dickson preferito da Bob Adey e dal sottoscritto), “The Red Widow Muders” (il miglior giallo mai scritto sulle “camere assassine”) e “To Wake the Dead”, singolarmente poco amato da molti, ma per me un vero gioiello, con uno degli incipit più strepitosi nella storia del giallo.
    Complimenti per il tuo Blog, uno dei migliori sul genere che tutti noi amiamo.
    My apologies to American and English friends for having replied in Italian, but tonight I was in a hurry…

    • Caro Mauro,
      ti ringrazio sinceramente per il tuo intervento su questo sito – specie visto sono appunto uno di quei lettori che, a partire agli inizi degli anni 80, ha veramente imparato ad amare il giallo ‘classico’ appunto grazie alle tue traduzioni (e di Anna Maria Francavilla) e il grande lavoro di guida editoriale presso la Monadori – e quindi faccio tanto di cappello.

      Distinti saluti,
      Sergio Angelini

      [A quick translation for my non bilingual readers – Mr Boncompagni has done more than most to celebrate the golden age mystery in Italy as an editor and a translator – at Fedora we gladly tip our hat in tribute. Those interested in a fascinating and thorough guide to the italian editions of Carr’s work should click here: http://www.genovalibri.it/dickson_carr/index_2.htm]

  14. Jeff Flugel says:

    Excellent overview on Carr, Sergio! I wholeheartedly agree that he is one of the greats. I only recently discovered him, say about three or four years ago. I knew him by name and reputation, of course, but had just never got around to reading any of his books, partially due to their relatively hard-to-find status. I remember being intrigued by some of the covers of the H.M. reprints by Zebra Books in the 80s (wish I had bought them all now). Then one day a few years back, I was browsing in a used bookstore and found a large swathe of Carr books and bought them all. Since then I’ve read about 8-10 of his novels, and have enjoyed them thoroughly.

    One thing that surprised me a bit is how atmospheric his books are, even the non-Bencolin books at times just drip with a creepy Gothic vibe (for example, He Who Whispers.) Unfortunately, there weren’t any Merrivale books in that bookstore haul…those I need to track down ASAP. I quite enjoyed the historical/time travel novels I’ve read so far, which include The Burning Court, Fire, Burn and Papa-La-Bas. My favorite Bencolin so far is The Lost Gallows and I really got a kick out of The Problem of the Wire Cage (pretty ingenious if far-fetched method of murder).

    Knowing that there are many, many more books of Carr’s left to read is an exciting prospect, Thanks for spotlighting some of his best! I’ll be heading home Stateside soon and will be combing the bookstore shelves for more.

    • Thanks very much for all the kind words Jeff, they are greatly appreciated. I love The Problem of the Wire Cage, and have always had a soft spot for it, not least because in the opening scene in the 1972 film Sleuth it has Laurence Olivier as the mystery author in effect dictate, as the ending to his novel featuring ‘St John Lord Meridew’, one of the ‘false’ solutions to Cage, which I thought was a nice little homage by playwright Anthony Shaffer, who later went on to adapt Christie’s Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. It’s probably the closest Gideon Fell is going to make it to the big screen … You can see that sequence about 5 minutes into the YouTube clip below:

  15. curtis evans says:

    This piece has made me want to dust off some of my old John Dickson Carr pieces and post them on the blog, may do that. I read almost everything by him in the 1990s. Did do Castle Skull on the blog (a new piece) a few months ago. Still haven’t read five of his novels, six if you count The Cavalier’s Cup, which I didn’t finish!

    I do think some of these writers lost their zest for the world after WW2. It’s not a coincidence they largely disapproved of political and social changes–even the ones who were not as conservative in the 1930s as is often assumed.

    • It would be great read you other ‘Carrian’ writings Curt.

      Symons is very hard on the historical novels but I think the ones from the 50s and early 60s hold up extremely well. With the exception of the last couple of Merrivale novels, I actually think Carr’s work, while dipping from the 50s, holds up pretty well up to about the mid 60s, dropping off very steeply after Panic in Box C (1966), for which I retain enormous affection (plus it was one of the earliest Carr’s I read, so …)

  16. neer says:

    Your post reflects the affection you have for Carr. Very well-written. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy The Three Coffins and so was put-off Carr. But lately I picked him up once again: He Who Whispers and The Eight of Swords and quite enjoyed them, the latter more than the former. Another Carr fan, Rishi Arora has suggested The Reader is Warned and so I am looking for a copy of that.

    • Thanks for the comments. I love The Reader is Warned of course – I hope you enjoy that. Otherwise, I would suggest The Judas Window which I regard as an absolute Golden Age classic. What is it you didn’t like about The Three Coffins (aka The Hollow Man) in particular?

      • neer says:

        One of these days I will definitely pick up The Judas Window, of which I have heard nothing but praise.

        What I didn’t like about The Three Coffins? Well, the atmosphere was great and everything but the modus operendi of the murders was too convoluted for my liking. Perhaps the fact was also that I had heard so much about the book (it being featured in so many top 100 lists) that when I read it, it just had to fall short of my expectations which were HUGE.

        • I think I know what you mean about The Three Coffins (aka The Hollow Man), as this relies in part on a big mechanical device to literally ‘do it with mirrors’ – I love magic so that is part of my reason for liking the books so much but that is not for everyone. Judas Window is quite different in that respect.

  17. Pingback: The Ten Teacups aka The Peacock Feather Mystery by Carter Dickson aka John Dickson Carr | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

  18. Just to let anyone who’s interested know, my review of The Ten Teacups is now up and, thanks to this article, The Red Widow Murders will be coming soon as well.

  19. westwoodrich says:

    Great piece, and great discussion.

    For fans of Queer Complaints, I noticed recently that someone has uploaded the 1950s series with Boris Karloff as Colonel March onto YouTube. Some great retro TV.


    • Thanks for the link (I’ve truncated it a bit as it went on forever and then broke on my browser but it still directs to the right search). We embedded clips to one story quite a bit further up the (now gratifyingly) long list of responses but its great to have a link to so many of them – thanks again, very handy indeed.

  20. John says:

    Interesting that neer mentions she liked THE EIGHT OF SWORDS more than HE WHO WHISPERS. I find EIGHT OF SWORDS to be more of a crime novel than a detective novel. It’s filled with incident unrelated to the detective story aspect of it that I feel impedes the action (“digressions” as Henry Morgan calls them), but I think probably a lot of other readers would like the book exactly for that reason. As I was reading it I thought this is the kind of mystery by Carr that would appeal to modern fiction readers. The mystery element is not as outrageous (implausible seems to be everyone’s favorite word) as Carr tends to get, the characters have richer inner lives, we get to know nearly everyone (except, ironically, the murderer!), the puzzle elements are solved piecemeal throughout the novel and not all at once in the finale. I thought it one of Carr’s funnier books. There is another self righteous woman character along the lines of the Scottish Catholic in …CONSTANT SUICIDES who is insulted left and right by Fell. Almost like a Groucho & Margaret Dumont routine. I loved that sequence. Gives you a very good idea how Carr fells about self-important snobs. I’ll have a post of this not often reviewed book in a few days.

    Here’s my two cents worth on a few other Carr books I enjoy immensely that tend not to show up on the “Best of Carr” lists:

    THE PUNCH & JUDY MURDERS (if you like Carr’ when he’s farcical this is perhaps the best. Absurd humor abounds. Loved it. The puzzle is unusual if not brilliant.)
    SHE DIED A LADY (this was mentioned it above but it often gets overlooked. Ingenious impossible crime in this one.)
    THE EMPEROR’S SNUFF BOX (action oriented, very cinematic at times)
    DEATH TURNS THE TABLES (Carr in a more serious mood. I recommend it as the book fro any neophyte Carr reader.)
    DEATH IN FIVE BOXES (one of the best “can’t stop reading” openings, action filled, bizarreness galore)

    • Thanks very much and really looking forward to the review. You mention some grand books there chum. By the way, you might be amused to know that Carr, in a 1969 interview with an edition of Italian publication, Il Giallo Mondadori (issue number 1056), listed as his favourites at the time: The Emperor’s Snuffbox, The Crooked Hinge, Below Suspicion and He Who Whispers.

    • neer says:

      You are right John I enjoyed the comic elements in Swords. I mean, bishops who slide down bannisters and play detectives! Looking forward to your review of it.

      Didn’t like He Who Whispers despite the terrific atmosphere was because I didn’t like the presentation of a particular character. Despite the fact that a mystery story is more plot-driven, characters can put me off it. Had the same problem with Blake’s The Beast Must Die.

  21. Anne H says:

    My high school librarian, a middleaged unmarried Quaker lady, is responsible for my lifelong enjoyment of the books of John Dickson Carr / Carter Dickson. When I was fourteen, in 1955,, I discovered all her latest acquisistions and was hooked. For those days, they were a bit spicy too, something my friends and I appreciated. Then I started buying my own, thanks to Penguin and other paperback publishers.
    I now have all of them, apart from Fatal Descent, and have read some many times, and Papa La-Bas, a recent internet purchase about fifty years later, not yet. I read too many books to have a ‘favourite’ author and Carr’s political views annoy me, but he still entertains and always will. Even the silly ones, like Patrick Butler for the Defence, probably the flimsiest of all, manage to be amusing.
    Thanks to the internet – again – I was fortunate enough to find an affordable copy of the Greene biography about eighteen months ago, and later the Joshi one.
    I always enjoy reading blogs and the readers’ contributions. (And I will go look for Boris Karloff – Col March on YouTube.) This stream has been particularly interesting.
    My favourite, for all its faults, is The Crooked Hinge. I enjoy The Hollow Man, but how did Carr expect us to swallow a policeman on his regular beat who can’t see that a clock is so far out? Cheeky!

    • Hello Anne, thanks very much for the lovely response. Well, yes, much as I love Carr, and I do, and as much as I admire him, as I really do, and as much as he is second to no one in my estimation in the ranks of Golden Age bamboozlement (and I just love typing the word ‘bamboozle’), many of the plots are very unlikely and on top of which, Carr had views of society and politics that are quite the opposite of mine. On the other hand, he has none of that casual racism and antisemitism that you will find in Sayers and Christie from that time (and his beloved Chestertoon too of course), which I I did not mention in my celebration of his work though it does strike me as significant and quite important. Even Ellery Queen was not immune from using racial stereotypes in his (their) early books.

      The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins) may not be his best book per se – the time thing in the street has always been a weak spot, but it is wonderfully done in many respects with wonderful atmosphere and the lecture of course is such a classic that in the end it is just a fantastic place to start.

  22. Kingshuk says:

    Thanks! That was an excellent post on my favourite detective fiction writer. I got into Carr rather late (when I was 32) when an older friend gave me a couple of books to read: The Mad Hatter Mystery and Death Watch, and I have been hooked ever since. I still haven’t read quite a number of the books and I eagerly await the day when I will. In the beginning, my favourite detective used to be Gideon Fell, but of late I have been enjoying the more humorous Merrivale books. Well here are my current top 10…
    1. He Who Whispers
    2. The Hollow Man
    3. Till Death Do Us Part
    4. The Judas Window
    5. She Died A Lady
    6. Fire Burn!
    7. The Plague Court Murders
    8. The Problem of the Green Capsule
    9. The Waxworks Murder
    10. The Mad Hatter Mystery

    • Thanks for that and an excellent top 10, all top notch Carr books. I think I may also prefer the Merrivale books probably for the additional bits of humour, but it is a very rich pool to draw from thankfully.

  23. Marco says:

    Hi Sergio.

    First of all, thank you! Only now I read this wonderful review of Carr and his works.
    I have many stories of Carr, and I’m waiting for other reprints by Mondadori and Polillo.
    I think Carr is the best mystery writer in the history of whodunits, far superior to Agatha Christie: then their works have had a different commercial success, is another matter. Perhaps those who criticize this extraordinary author, arguing that in many cases the solutions of the crimes seem a little improbable, forget that we are still talking about novels and not real life. And, if we wanted to make the fussy IN ANY detective story we find “improbable” elements, considering that the author will try to win the challenge to the reader, that is, to get to an unexpected solution but, after all…. possible.

    I find it amazing especially the atmosphere of the novels of Carr. The author combines an excellent sense of humor (“The Case of Constant Suicide”, “Arabian Nights Murder,” “The Blind Barber” and many novels with H.M. are significant in this sense), with Gothic elements, often with references to historical (“Hag’s Nook”, “The Red Widow Murders”, “The Crooked Hinge”, “The Mad Hatter Mystery”, “The Plague Court Murders”), creating the perfect background for his impossible crimes.

    Among the works that I read, I have to mention a very underestimated novel in my opinion (perhaps because it lacks the “closed room” or the “impossible situation”) and this novel is “The Arabian Nights Murder”. The way in which Carr shows the clues in this story is absolutely unique. In addition, the chapters in which Dr. Illingworth tells his misadventures at Wade museum are incredibly funny, the best example of comedy ever written in a crime novel.
    Among the novel I’ve read, my ten favorites (so far I tend to prefer Fell and Bencolin, than H.M.):
    1. Arabian Nights Murder (in my opinion the best crime novel ever).
    2. The Problem of the Green Capsule (aka The Black Spectacles)
    3. He Who Whispers (Wow! No doubt one of the finest.)
    4. The Crooked Hinge (…and contrary to others I don’t think the final solution is stupid!)
    5. The Case of Constant Suicides (very funny, one of the reasons I visit Inveraray in the Highlands)
    6. Hag’s Nook (can terrifying me…)
    7. Castle Skull (first Carr I read. I know it is not very popular and for many it is a little banal, but I would have given anything for a dinner out with Maleger and Alison).
    8. The Three Coffins
    9. The Judas Window (do not read it for a long time. Unfortunately I lost it! but I remember that it was remarkable, especially the opening).
    10. The Corpse in Waxworks

    Sorry for bad English (I’m Italian). I hope it is given due prominence to the work of Carr in Italy in the future.


    • Ti ringrazio molto per gli elogi Marco. Carr remains my favourite but of course this has more than a little to do with the fact that I discovered him in my early teens, which I think can make all the difference. If you haven’t read the Merrivale adventures She Died a Lady (Saper Morire) and He Wouldn’t Kill Patience (Perche Uccidere Patience?) then you have a couple of real treats ahead of you. Yours is a great list though I may need to re-read Arabian Nights Mystery as I was strangely disappointed when I read it 20 years ago (probably because there is no locked room mystery as I recall) but that is a very long time! Thanks for the very kind words and glad that you enjoyed the post. Viva Carr!

      • Marco says:

        Figurati, grazie a te, anche per i suggerimenti. Non ho letto in effetti nè Patience nè Saper Morire, per cui a questo punto aspetto con trepidazione una loro ristampa.

        • Non sapevo che non fossero facilmente reperibili – spero che non sia troppo difficile comunque trovarne delle copies di seconda mano perche sono delle opere davvero gloriose! Be, adesso mi sto zitto pero’ …

  24. Pingback: JOHN DICKSON CARR. He Who Whispers (1946). | Only Detect

  25. Colin says:

    Hi Sergio, popped in to leave a comment here as I’ve just finished The Arabian Nights Murder. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot, even if Fell is hardly in the story at all. I thought the humor was well done in this one, not overwhelming as in some of the later Merrivale books or plain annoying like The Blind Barber – a book I can’t see myself ever reading again.

    I loved the atmosphere Carr evokes in the museum and the general air of the strange and bizarre. The murder in this one may not be of the impossible variety but it is satisfyingly tricky. I guess the stuff with alibis and timings can be a little wearing but Carr keeps it under contol and it never descends into the kind of tedium I associate with Freeman Wills Crofts.

    I thought that having the tale narrated by three different people, all bringing slightly different perspectives, and bookending the whole thing with Fell was a nice touch. Generally, I had a good time with the book.

    • Thanks very much for the comments Colin – I haven’t read this one in decades so I’m really glad to hear it holds up. Barring comic escapades like BLIND BARBER and the unusually predictable Carter Dickson book MY LATE WIVES, I really can’t think of a single Carr from from the 30s and 40s that wasn’t well above average. I really want to read ARABIAN NIGHTS again now!!

      • Colin says:

        I won’t say it’s a perfect story – all that moving around by various characters in the museum does need a bit of concentration – but the blend of humor, mystery and a hint of weirdness worked very well for me anyway.

        • Actually, I’m glad you mentioned that because in books of this vintage I often find the emphasis on complicated movements, very specific descriptions of place and split-second timing often a littloe bit hard to keep straight in my mind (always have in fact, even as a teen) – I guess I don’t have that kind of purely logical mind to appreciate the scientific method behind it all – thannkfully there is Carr’s ingenuity, atmospehere and humour to make it all stand out!

          • Colin says:

            Yeah, I think you have to have a particular kind of mind to keep up with some of that stuff – whatever kind it is it doesn’t seem to be my kind either.

            The geography in this book is reasonably clear though (there’s even a floor plan, thankfully) and certainly didn’t cause me the headaches I remember suffering from trying to workout just where on earth everything was inCastle Skull.

          • I remember loving the atmosphere of that book but that is precisely the kind of detail that now completely eludes me … With movies however it’s often the opposite with me though, which is why I am such a fan of directors like De Palma who have such a specific, even architectural approach to construction and shot design. Weird, but there you are …

          • Colin says:

            But it’s easier to achieve with a visual medium like film. Mind you, poor directors who fail to provide clear establishing shots can confuse the hell out of me too.

            When it comes to books everything depends on the author getting the description right and the reader interpreting it properly. I’ve tried closing my eyes and visualizing the physical spaces described to see if I can get them straight in my head. Sometimes it works.

          • I agree completely – though with Chandler for instance I don’t really care what he’s describing because I just love the way he expresses it!

  26. Glen McIntyre says:

    What a pleasure to see so many people reading and commenting on John Dickson Carr and Carter Dickson. He is an author I love to read and reread. HAGS NOOK was the first I ever read by Carr and it creeps me out still. I really, really liked THE PLAGUE COURT MURDERS even though to this day I am not sure I understand the mechanism by which the locked room was done. I also really liked THE RED WIDOW MURDERS in which a room somehow can kill. As far as Dr. Fell versus H.M.-I think I’d go for H.M.every day. i agree on the titles-what wonderful atmosphere they evoke!

    • Thanks for the great feedback Glen, and always good to meet another fan! I read HM before Fell, so probably have a slight bias there too.

    • Ela says:

      I felt that way about the murder method in Edmund Crispin’s SWAN SONG – just could not visualise it at all!

      Sorry I’m so late to the party, but I’ve been reading a few of Carr’s books lately (as e-editions) – I really enjoyed THE PROBLEM OF THE GREEN CAPSULE and HE WHO WHISPERS, as well as TO WAKE THE DEAD and DEATH-WATCH. Those are all Fell mysteries – for whom I have a soft spot, since I also enjoy Chesterton – though the first Carr I read, I think, was a short story featuring Sir Henry Merivale, ‘The House in Goblin Wood’ in the excellent anthology The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories. They are so beautifully ingenious, and even rather meaty stories – there’s real emotion and pathos involved (unlike Anthony Berkeley’s, of which I read one at about the same time and decided was just far too flippant for my tastes).

      • Thanks very much Ela – if you picked some very fine Fell cases there and that is probably the best of Carr’s short stories – in fact I just want to go and re-read them all now!!

  27. Colin says:

    Back again Sergio! Maybe you already know this, but I see there have been reissues of a number of Carr’s books in the last few months and more on the way too –

  28. Pingback: Fedora’s 400,000 visits | Tipping My Fedora

  29. neer says:

    Sergio,I have just finished reading The Burning Court and am trying to recover from the knock-out epilogue. I have come to know that Carr wrote a sequel to it. Do you know which book is that? Please do help.

    • Dear Neeru, so glad you enjoyed it. However, I must admit, I have no knowledge of a direct sequel – where did you hear this? Carr wrote other books that combined fantastical elements with fair-play mysteries – most notably The Devil in Velvet, Fear is the Same (as by ‘Carter Dickson’) and Fire, Burn – all of which I highly recommend. In an appendix to his wonderful biography of Carr, The Man Who Explained Miracles, Douglas G. Greene does suggest a possible third solution to The Burning Court – is that perhaps what you might be referring to? I could always send you a PDF of those two pages if you like.

      • Santosh Iyer says:

        A possible third solution to the Burning Court ?
        Well, I have just placed an order with Amazon for a used copy of the book by Douglas G. Greene and I expect to get it in 3 weeks, so that I can see for myself.

        • Well … see what you think 🙂 Just sent you a PM

          • Santosh Iyer says:

            Read the excerpts sent by you. The arguments are quite valid !

          • Santosh Iyer says:

            I have since received the book by Douglas Greene. Though a used copy, it looks new and previously belonged to Austin Public Library.
            I have browsed through the book and find that it is a remarkable book with over 500 pages. It includes not only an interesting biography of Carr, but also detailed discussions of his novels and stories.
            This is a must-have for all Carr fans. Unfortunately, the book is out of print. Only 9 new copies are available at Amazon, the lowest price being 65 dollars plus shipping. Used copies are available at more moderate rates though still costly (especially after adding international shipping charges).

          • Sorry to hear it is so expensive even second hand Santosh – I think it is probably essential for Carr fans though. I got mine when it first came out and have read it many times since.

  30. neer says:

    Dear Sergio

    Thanks for the prompt reply. Here’s where I read about it:
    “Mantiore: Yes, The Burning Court had a double denouncement and it was such a hit Carr later wrote a second novel with some of the BC’s characters that carried the tale forward.”

    The entire post can be accessed over here:


    I’d love to have the solution offered by Douglas Greene. Thanks a lot.

    • Thanks for the link – I have no idea what they are talking about however, really sorry about that. I’ll see about getting the PDF to you in the next couple of days when I can get access to a scanner.

  31. neer says:

    Sergio, I recently read a book which could be said to be the backstory of THE BURNING COURT: the story of Sainte-Croix, Marquise de Brinvilliers, and Desgrais.

    Here’s the link if you are interested:


  32. Pingback: The Ten Teacups aka The Peacock Feather Mystery by Carter Dickson aka John Dickson Carr – In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s