Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “John Dickson Carr”

Cfar1′s #CBR4 Review #10 of John Dickson Carr’s It Walks by Night

My third book read by this author was originally published under the pen name of Carter Dickson.  It features his second recurring detective, Prefect of the Police Henri Bencolin and takes place in Paris.  Bencolin is almost the opposite of Dr. Fell.  He is official rather than consulting, tall and flamboyant rather than overweight and untidy.  Where Dr. Fell is affable and seems like the sort of person you could have a beer with, Bencolin is arrogant and rather unpleasant to be around.   This book, like the previous two, was told in first person by a narrator.  The style of this book was also a bit different.  The clues were all laid out for you, although not always pointed out.  This book seem to actually be more fair about the clues than the previous two.  In this case, a madman who attempted to kill his wife has escaped custody.  The now divorced wife is about to remarry into a wealthy, noble family.  A plastic surgeon is found murdered and a threat on the former wife is received.  The police go on alert.  The evening of the wedding, a reception is held in a club.  The groom is seen, by Bencolin and the narrator, go into a room with a police guard on each door .  A few minutes later a waiter, summoned to the room with drinks, drops the tray of glasses at the site of the groom, beheaded, a bloody sword beside his corpse.  The only unguarded entrance to the room is a window, which opens onto a 40 foot drop with smooth walls and the grit and dust on the ledge are undisturbed.

I did not, at first, like this book as much as the previous two.  The tone was more formal and the detective a bit of a dick.  I did not notice the interruption of someone relaying important information in this book, however, it was replaced by the repeated insertion of phrases in French.  I do think the author was more forward with the clues to the identity of the murder, but not with how the murder was done.  I was let down by the explanation of the method.  It was too simplistic and I think the author hid some stuff there to keep the reader from picking up on it.

Cfar1’s #CBR4 Review #09 of John Dickson Carr’s The Man Who Could Not Shudder

The second of Mr. Carr’s books I read, The Man Who Could Not Shudder also featured Dr. Gideon Fell, his overweight detective.  In this book, the narrator is asked by a friend to escort an acquaintance around London.  The narrator, who is an author of some sort, spends time with the man, who mostly visits small, out of the way museums.  At some point, while in a club (all British men in these types of mysteries belong to clubs) they hear a tale of a haunted house.  The mysterious acquaintance is a well-off business man, and the tale of the house intrigues him.  Apparently, an elderly butler had, for reasons unknown, shoved a heavy wooden dining table out of the way one night, climbed onto a dining room chair, leaped up and grabbed hold of a large chandelier and swung wildly until it ripped loose of the ceiling and crashed down onto him.  Now the house is the site of mysterious moving furniture, odd noises, ect.  The business man hires a friend of the narrator, a young architect, to check out the house, then buys and restores it.  He then throws a ghost party.  He invites the narrator and the narrator’s fiance, a business acquaintance and the acquaintance’s lovely younger wife, the architect and a young lawyer.  The first night a couple of mysterious things happen, but the next morning things really start.  A man is shot, in front of witnesses, by a gun that moves by itself.  Scotland Yard is called in and Dr. Fell comes along.  

This outing was as interesting as the first.  The solution seems like something you might see on the Mythbusters.  This story also had more twists and turns The Dark of The Moon.  Mr. Carr does seem to have a quirk to his writing.  He likes to have a character start to reveal something or make an important point, only to be interrupted.  This happened enough times in both books to move from amusing to irritating.  Overall this was a nice little book to read before bed.  


Cfar1’s #CBR4 Review #08 of John Dickson Carr’s Dark of the Moon

When I was a child, one of my summer treats was to go to work with my father on occasion.  He was manager of a business in a nearby town and went to work fairly early in the morning.  Later, the business was sold and converted into something unrelated, and he was given the option of moving to another location or being laid off.  He bought into a similar business on the other side of town.  It was smaller and older and not nearly as nice, but it had one major advantage to a 12 year-old bookworm.  Heaven, in the form of a used bookstore, was just a short walk up the street.

I was recently prowling through one of the local used bookstores with my foster son, trying to influence him to read.  As we left the children’s section, a small stack of paperbacks caught my eye.  There were 4 books written by John Dickson Carr.  He was one of the authors I discovered long ago in that small bookstore.  I bought them on a whim and dived in.  I was curious to see if they held up to my memories.

Mr. Carr also published under 3 other pen names, including Carter Dickson.  He specialized in “locked room” mysteries or crimes, usually murders, committed under seemingly impossible situations, but which turn out to be possible, although not necessarily plausible, at the end of the book.  The first book I read was Dark of the Moon.  I am much older, more cynical and jaded, but I still find the books entertaining.  They were period pieces to me back then and more so now.  They seem to transport you back to a more innocent time, which should be odd in books dealing with murder.  But it’s nice, at least for me, to go back to when the violent death of a single individual was seen as an evil thing, and the finding of who was responsible of the highest importance.  We as a society, now seem to take violence as a normal part of our world.

In this book, a South Carolina family has a history of violence and mysterious deaths.  The patriarch of the family throws a party for his daughter, who is being trying to pick between two very similar suitors.  Among the invited guests are Dr. Gideon Fell (sort of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe albeit with more pronounced sense of humor) and the narrator.  The night after the arrival of Dr. Fell, the host is found with his skull caved in behind the house on a patio covered with wet white sand, no footprints other than his own present.  The mystery also involves someone leaving cryptic messages on a blackboard, a creepy deserted elementary school, and lots of suspicious characters with secrets.  There are generally 2 to 4 deaths in this type of book, but in this case there was only one murder and an attempt.  Mostly Carr plays fair in his books and presents you with all the clues, although he is never obvious.  I felt in this one a few things were held back.   Also don’t expect anything resembling police procedure, Dr. Fell may be a lecturer on criminology and the stories may be set in the past, but massive suspension of belief is still required.  But only Ed McBain and Joe Gore ever seemed to write books with actual realistic police procedure.  I personally enjoyed the book, it was a good story but not his best.  I felt the method of murder was too finicky and left a lot to chance.  There is also usually a romantic side story and it was here mostly it provided a bit of light comic relief.  The stories were a bit gloomy for their time, but by modern standards aren’t dark.  If you like a nice puzzle and a fun quick read, check your local used book stores and libraries.

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