This vintage crime book was first published in 1944 and it’s another ‘locked room’ mystery.
The successful thriller writer and playwright Dick Markham has just become engaged to Lesley Grant, a new inhabitant to the village, much to the disgust of many of the villagers who had expected him to marry their favourite, the local girl, Cynthia Drew, whom he’d been friendly with for some time.
The action begins at a village bazaar with the usual entertainments like a shooting-range, cricket match and fortune-teller’s tent. When Lesley shoots the fortune teller in an accident it isn’t long before rumours start to circulate that she isn’t who she claims to be and Dick doesn’t know what to believe.
The detective Dr Gideon Fell arrives to investigate the dastardly goings on in the village and things become even more perplexing before he manages to crack the case. I was kept guessing right to the end, what more can you ask for!
This book is part of the Black Dagger Crime series which is a joint effort between BBC audiobooks and the Crime Writers’ Association.
If you want to learn more about Dr Fell have a look here.
He reminds me a bit of Rex Stout, they both have a huge girth, find it difficult to get about and have more than a fondness for beer but I can’t help wondering why Dickson Carr gave him the name of Dr Fell. It’s a name which was first used in 1680 when it appears in a nursery rhyme, you can read about it here. But that article doesn’t even mention the Dickson Carr use of the name, although several other people seem to have used it.
There’s also a song by Juliet Turner which goes like this-
I was thrilled when my blogpal Peggy Ann sent me this book all the way from the US, it was very naughty of her though and we have resolved not to be so mad in the future, the postal services of the US and UK have become so wildly expensive recently. Books and printed paper are supposed to be a cheaper rate too!
I hadn’t read anything by John Dickson Carr before, he was an American so I was more than a wee bit surprised to discover that this book is set mainly in Scotland. It begins at Euston station in London however, where Alan Campbell, a young professor of history, is catching the sleeper train to Glasgow, something I’ve done often myself. There has been a mix up with the booking and he ends up having to share with a young woman, Kathryn Campbell, and it transpires that they are both travelling to Castle Shira in the Western Highlands, having been invited there by yet another Campbell. Alan and Kathryn had met before, but only through a newspaper’s letters page where they had an acrimonious correspondence.
Angus Campbell, to whom they’re both distantly related, had fallen to his death a few weeks before and there is some doubt as to whether it was suicide or murder. It’s a ‘locked room’ mystery and I really enjoyed it. Dickson Carr wrote it with a good balance of mystery, romance and humour, so I’ll definitely be looking out for more of his books. He also managed to capture ‘Scotland’ which is a surprise really, apparently he was married to an English woman but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she had been Scottish, I’ve often seen that mistake, with Josephine Tey being described as English, she is probably ‘birling’ in her grave!
Anyway, he obviously knew Scotland well and managed to write in dialect which is something which isn’t easy to do. This book was first published in 1941. I’ll definitely be looking out for more of his books. Thanks again Peggy.
If you want to have a look at the part of Scotland the book is set in – have a look here, Argyle and Bute.