Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Death Turns the Tables - John Dickson Carr

Here Carr blends into his story some tricks that are the favorite plot motifs of other mystery writers.  We get a story of an attempted murder in the past, a missing murder weapon from that crime, an actual murder, a faked murder and the disappearance of a tramp accidentally run down. The business with the murder weapon reminded me of Erle Stanley Gardner's obsession with switched guns and missing bullets and all the rest of the dizzying ballistics games found in his Perry Mason novels.  And the final twist of where the victim was actually killed as opposed to where he was found is something that turns up quite often in the novels of Anthony Wynne.  The re-enactment of the faked murder towards the end of the book, however, is pure Carr. It is simultaneously one of the most preposterous and clever bits in the books of this period when he was at his most creative.  Only a reader equipped with an arcane knowledge of Canadian geology and taxidermy could possibly figure it all out.


Dr. Fell is much more somber here and less of his usual blustery, pontificating self.  We still have Fell's cries of "Archons of Athens!" and "Oh, my ancient hat!" but, with the exception of some antics at a pool party, the book is fairly devoid of the usual farcical excesses.  Since Dr. Fell is engaged in a mental game of chess with the most arrogant of Carr's villains, Fell adopts a new persona.  He is, in effect, acting as Nemesis in the classical meaning of the word.  He knows full well who is responsible very early on and is determined to give the culprit what he fully deserves.  How Dr. Fell doles out his retribution, however, surprises not only the murderer, but the reader as well.

4 comments:

  1. Fine lookin' blog, John. Steve Lewis sent me, and I'm glad he did.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The blog is one day old and already an EDGAR WINNER drops by. Thanks and congrats, Evan!

    ReplyDelete
  3. John,
    Nice blog, but I had no idea you so resembled Dr. Nikola!

    ReplyDelete

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