#209: No Coffin for the Corpse (1942) by Clayton Rawson

no-coffin-for-the-corpseI generally try to do the books I have by an author in chronological order, and so should be writing about The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939) here, but when TomCat described NCftC in the comments of my review of Rawson’s first Great Merlini novel Death from a Top Hat (1938) as “abysmal” saying that it “began very promising and then turned into one of the worst locked room mysteries I’ve ever had the misfortune of stumbling across”…well, I just had to try it out.    I mean, sure, TomCat doesn’t like Rupert Penny’s Sealed Room Murder (1941) and so is immediately suspect, but I think I’ve shown myself willing enough to believe the very best of any books I try to read, and it might be interesting to go in expecting a dud.  So, let’s get into it…

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#193: Sailor, Take Warning! (1944) by Kelley Roos

sailor-take-warningSometimes you just have to bite a bullet: following the exceptionally sad loss of the Rue Morgue Press, this is the final Jeff and Haila Troy novel currently available, but, well, let’s enjoy it, eh?  Audrey and William Roos did such a great job with so many aspects of the writing in these first four books — the dialogue is genuinely funny, the plots mostly move at a great pace, the mysteries are intriguing, and third book The Frightened Stiff is a genuine genre classic for all time — that we shouldn’t get too weighed down with lamenting their unavailability.  Common sense will prevail, they’re too good to let go out of print for any length of time, and this won’t be the last we see of the Troys.  Right?

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#188: Five to Try – Debunked Séances in Detective Fiction

seance

Flying lute?  Check.  Ghostly disembodied hand?  Check.  Okay, ladies and gentlemen, let’s call this meeting to order…

Following a recent post on John Dickson Carr’s The Lost Gallows over at The Green Capsule, I was reminded of just how much I love a séance in fiction.  Now, to be clear, I’m with Charlie Brooker on psychics and other such manipulative awfulness, but have a real love of sleight of hand and up-close magic (as perhaps evinced in my enthusiasm for fair play detective fiction and impossible crimes therein) and a debunked séance is often a great way to explore the little ways a set of circumstances can be misrepresented, and often some fascinating insights come out of it.

So, here are five great séances from detective fiction, alpabetically by author.

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#177: Spoiler Warning – Coming in January: The Ten Teacups, a.k.a. The Peacock Feather Murders (1937) by Carter Dickson

ten-teacups-peacock-feather

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.

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#176: Leonardo’s Law (1978) by Warren B. Murphy

leonardos-law-revBenjamin Disraeli had it right when he said “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and publishers’ breathless comparisons to the classics”.  I’ve been bitten once by this recently, so was doubly shy of the promise on the reverse of Warren B. Murphy’s sole detective novel to feature Dr. David Vincent Leonardo that it would introduce “a splendid new addition to the ranks of Holmes, Poirot, [and] Dupin”.  To be upfront about it, obviously that’s not the case, but despite some flaws in the rendering of our genius amateur — of which more later — this is honestly a lot of fun, and joins the ranks of Hmmmm, What If They’d Written More of These? because, yeah, it lacks in artistry, but if you want a swift, reasonably smart, and engaging unheralded locked room puzzle you could do a damn sight worse.

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#171: JDC OOP – WTF?

jdc-oop

In his lifetime, John Dickson Carr published 76 novels and short story collections, plus a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle and a ‘true crime’ novel predating Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey.  Following the closure of the Rue Morgue Press, who had five Carr novels in their books, and the coming disappearance of Orion’s ebook undertaking The Murder Room, who have around 14 or so Carr novels in their ranks, we’re not too far from a point in time where only two Car novels will be available to buy: Orion’s perpetually in-print version of The Hollow Man and the Mysterious Press publication of The Devil in Velvet.  So, to return to the question in the title of this post: John Dickson Carr’s out of print — where’s the fuss?

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#164: On Failing to Engage with “the Swedish John Dickson Carr” – Deadly Reunion (1975) by Jan Ekström [trans. Joan Tate 1983]

Given that John Dickson Carr — who would have been 110 at the end of the month, folks — published seventy-eight books over a 41 year career that encompassed such joys as Till Death Do Us Part and such nadirs as Papa La-Bas, there’s probably no-one who couldn’t be compared to him at some point in his career.  So when Swedish writer Jan Ekström’s 1975 novel Ättestupan is translated into English and the synopsis opens with the tantalising promise ‘Often called the Swedish John Dickson Carr…’ well, you’re going to get a lot of peoples’ attentions even though it doesn’t at first glance really tell you anything.

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#157: The Tuesday Night Bloggers — A Background of History in The Red Widow Murders (1935) by Carter Dickson

tnbs-history

“The story of the Widow’s Room…begins in the month of August, and in the city of Paris, and in the year 1792.  It begins with the Terror, but it has not ended yet.”

Upon reflection, it’s fairly astounding that John Dickson Carr published novels for 20 years before finally writing his first ‘true’ historical tale with The Bride of Newgate in 1950.  Throughout so much of his early work there is a miasma of the past pushing through, and a revelling in the detail of such times that threatens to overload the present story as Carr seems far more interested in dumping as much detail as possible from, say, the French Revolution upon you so that the Weight of History can be added to the press of his peculiarly heady tales of mystery and imagination.

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