Month: February 2017

Review: She Died a Lady (1943) by Carter Dickson

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

This entry is my second contribution to this month Crimes of the Century at Past Offences. This month, the year under examination is #1943.

Penguin Books; Reprint edition (1962). Format: Paperback edition. First published in 1943. ISBN: 5070492. ASIN: B000V66TQW. 224 pages. (Sir Henry Merrivale #14)

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The back cover blurb reads: A suicide pact was just the sort of notion that would appeal to Rita Wainwright. Her notorious love affair with the young American actor, Barry Sullivan, was flamboyant enough to warrant a dramatic ending, so when the two of them vanished over a cliff one rainy night, leaving only a farewell note for Rita’s husband and a pair of footprints to the edge, no one doubted that it was suicide. No one, that is, but Doctor Luke, Rita’s old family doctor and one of the few people in the seaside village of Lyncombe who genuinely liked her. When amateur detective Sir Henry Merrivale, who is in the district having his portrait done by a local artist, agrees to investigate, the questions start piling up. But what of it? Are the doctor’s doubts without merit, or was there a more sinister plot at play? It takes the blustering, rampaging H. M. to solve this baffling mystery.

My take: She Died a Lady, a mystery novel by American writer John Dickson Carr (1906–1977), was published under the name of Carter Dickson and is the fourteenth book in the series featuring the amateur sleuth Sir Henry Merrivale, or HM as he is usually known. Although being a traditional Golden Age mystery, it has some features making it particularly interesting. On the one hand the story is told in the first person by Dr Luke, a retired rural doctor of whose practice, his son Dr Tom, is now in charge. The action unfolds in England during the summer of 1940, shortly after the first air raids to the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany. Plot wise, it revolves around establishing whether the death of two lovers was the result of a suicide pact by mutual agreement or, as some evidences may suggest, both were murdered. Besides, although the facts take place in the open air, we can certainly describe this story as a locked-room mystery or, as I rather prefer to call it, an impossible murder. Finally, Henry Merrivale’s role takes a second place in the story. But at this point I would rather say no more about it, since I don’t want to spoil the pleasure of those who have not yet read this book. 

Consequently, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out I’ve very much enjoyed this book. a real gem in my view that has been kept largely unknown. An excellent example of a wonderful Golden Age mystery, with a perfectly crafted plot. The main accent is placed, mainly, on how was it done, instead of whodunit. And its solution is absolutely brilliant, in the sense that it is the only one that provides a satisfactory answer to all the questions raised. Besides, all the clues are in plain sight for everyone to see them and it certainly follows the rules of ‘fair play’. Highly recommended.

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the author: Carter Dickson was a pen name of John Dickson Carr. John Dickson Carr (1906 – 1977) was an American author of detective stories, who also published under the pen names Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson and Roger Fairbairn. Carr is generally regarded as the ‘King of The Locked Room Mystery’ and as one of the greatest writers of the “Golden Age” of detective fiction. In his novels the puzzle is always the central focus. He was influenced by the works of Gaston Leroux and the Father Brown stories of G. K. Chesterton. He was a true master of the locked room mystery, in which a detective solves apparently impossible crimes. The Dr. Fell mystery, The Hollow Man (1935), is usually considered to be Carr’s masterpiece. It was selected in 1981 as the best locked-room mystery of all time by a panel of 17 mystery authors and reviewers brought together by Edward D. Hoch. He was also a pioneer of the historical mystery. A resident of England for a number of years, Carr is often grouped among the “British-style” mystery writers. Most  of his novels had English settings, especially country villages and estates, and English characters. His two best-known fictional detectives were also English. In the Carter Dickson series, Sir Henry Merrivale is the man who solves the impossible crimes.  There can be little doubt that Carr was, and still remains the single most important author in the Locked Room and Impossible Crime sub-genre! (Source: Edited from Wikipedia John Dickson Carr). Carr wrote 46 novels, under his own name, and another 26 under the pen name Carter Dickson – plus over 100 short stories, plays, radio plays, and non-fiction, under both names.

She Died a Lady has been reviewed at A Penguin a week, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, The Reader is Warned, ahsweetmysteryblog, Beneath the Stains of Time, The Green Capsule,

Books by Carter Dickson

The John Dickson Carr Collector

John Dickson Carr

Sir Henry Merrivale 

Murió como una dama de Carter Dikson

La propaganda de la contraportada dice: Un suicidio pactado era la clase de idea que podría atraer a Rita Wainwright. Su célebre historia de amor con el joven actor estadounidense Barry Sullivan fue lo suficientemente llamativa como para garantizar un dramático final, por tanto cuando ambos desaparecieron sobre un  acantilado una noche lluviosa, dejando tra ellos únicamente una nota de despedida para el marido de Rita y un rastro de pisadas hasta el borde, nadie dudó que se trataba de un suicidio. Nadie, es decir, excepto  el doctor Luke, el viejo médico de familia de Rita y una de las pocas personas en el pueblo costero de Lyncombe, que realmente quería a la joven. Cuando el detective aficionado Sir Henry Merrivale, que se encuentra en la zona para que un artista local le haga un retrato, acepta encargarse de la investigación, las incógnitas comiezan a amontonarse. ¿Pero por qué? ¿Acaso no tienen fundamento las dudas del médico, o había quizá un plan más siniestro en juego? Lo que requiere del fanfarrón Henry Merrivale para poder solucionar este desconcertante misterio.

My opinión: Murió como una dama, una novela de misterio del escritor estadounidense John Dickson Carr (1906-1977), fue publicada bajo el nombre de Carter Dickson y es la decimocuarta novela de la serie protagonizada por el detective aficionado Sir Henry Merrivale o HM, como es generalmente conocido. A pesar de ser un misterio tradicional de la Edad de Oro, tiene algunas características que lo hacen particularmente interesante. Por un lado la historia está  contada en primera persona por el Dr. Luke, un médico rural jubilado de cuya práctica, su hijo el Dr. Tom, ahora está a cargo. La acción se desarrolla en Inglaterra durante el verano de 1940, poco después de los primeros ataques aéreos al Reino Unido por la Alemania nazi. En cuanto al argumento, se trata de determinar si la muerte de dos amantes fue el resultado de un pacto suicida de mutuo acuerdo o, como algunas evidencias pueden sugerir, ambos fueron asesinados. Además, aunque los hechos ocurren al aire libre, podemos describir esta historia como un misterio de cuarto cerrado o, como yo prefiero llamarlo,  un asesinato imposible. Finalmente, el papel de Henry Merrivale ocupa un segundo lugar en la historia. Pero en este punto prefiero no decir nada más, ya que no quiero estropear el placer de aquellos que aún no hayan leído este libro.

En consecuencia, no debería ser una sorpresa descubrir que he disfrutado mucho este libro. Una verdadera joya en mi opinión que se ha mantenido en gran medida desconocida. Un excelente ejemplo de un maravilloso misterio de la Edad de Oro, con una trama perfectamente elaborada. El acento principal se coloca, principalmente, en cómo se hizo, en lugar de en quién lo hizo. Y su solución es absolutamente brillante, en el sentido de que es la única que proporciona una respuesta satisfactoria a todas las preguntas planteadas. Además, todas las pistas están a la vista de todo el mundo para verlas y sin duda sigue las reglas del ‘juego limpio’. Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el Autor: John Dickson Carr (1906 – 1977) fue un prolífico escritor estadounidense de historias de detectives. A lo largo de su carrera utilizó los pseudónimos de Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson, y Roger Fairbairn, además de su propio nombre. Se le incluye habitualmente entre los mejores escritores de la llamada “época dorada” de la novela de misterio. Era un maestro del misterio de habitación cerrada. La mayor parte de sus novelas y relatos giran en torno al esclarecimiento, por un excéntrico detective, de crímenes aparentemente imposibles en los que parece haber intervenido algún tipo de fenómeno sobrenatural. En la década de 1930, se trasladó a Inglaterra, donde se casó con una inglesa. Comenzó su carrera escribiendo misterio allí, regresando a los Estados Unidos como un autor de fama internacional en 1948. Fue influido por las obras de Gastón Leroux y las historias del Padre Brown de G. K. Chesterton. Carr se inspiró en este último para crear su más genial detective, el orondo lexicógrafo Dr. Gideon Fell. En 1950, su biografía de Sir Arthur Conan Doyle le valió el primero de sus dos Premios Edgar otorgado por la Asociaón Americana de escritores de misterio, segundo le llegó en 1970 en reconocimiento a sus 40 años de carrera como escritor de misterio. Fue candidato también al premio Grand Master de la mencionada asoaciación en el 963. Varias de sus obras han sido utilizadas en películas y series de televisión.

Murió como una dama fue editado por Espasa-Calpe. Austral nº 757. Buenos Aires 1947. Rústica con sobrecubierta. 211 pp. (Tengo entendido que existen disponibles ejemplares de segunda mano)

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OT: Orot Reserva 2014

16730491_10203160110200743_5700658744488383528_nBORNOS Bodegas & Viñedos is a shared concept that brings together all our wineries, brands, vineyards and wine varieties. It is a wine Group in which the various wineries that comprise it maintain their own history, personality and positioning, while at the same time, being governed by a common philosophy and working methods, based on quality, innovation, modernity and the pursuit of customer satisfaction. A group that grows and changes to adapt to new market trends, tastes and customer needs.

The origins of Orot date back to 1980, although it was in 1997, visualising the development and potential of the Toro D.O., when it was decided to build a winery to process their own production in the town of Toro, nerve canter of the Appellation.

  • Winery: Bodegas Toresanas. Carretera de Tordesillas s/n. 49800 Toro (Zamora). Bodegas Toresanas belongs to the group Grupo Taninia (Now Bornos Bodegas y Viñedos), owner of the wineries Señorío de Sarría, Guelbenzu and Palacio de Bornos, among others.
  • Phone: 34 983 868 116
  • Winemaker: Milagros Rodriguez (?)
  • Website: http://www.toresanas.com/
  • Brand: Orot Crianza
  • Vintage: 2014
  • DO: Toro. The Appellation of Origin Toro is located in Castilla y León, southeast of the province of Zamora, with an area of 5,500 hectares of vineyards. The arid character of the area is characterized by an extreme continental climate with Atlantic influences. The cold winters and long hours of sunshine are excellent conditions for the successful development of the grape. The soil, composed of sandstone, clay and limestone is ideal for the cultivation of native varieties. The grape varieties allowed are: Tinta de Toro, Garnacha, Verdejo and Malvasia.
  • Type: Red Wine matured 6 moths in in American and French oak barrels
  • Alcohol: 14.5 %
  • Grape Variety: 100% Tinta de Toro. Grapes coming from old bush vines, picked by hand and sorted on a sorting table before the entrance into the vat cellar.
  • Vineyards: Orot has 20 hectares of their own vineyards with the Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) variety, which is more than 15 years old. Located southeast of the province of Zamora, it is situated at an altitude of 700 meters above sea level. Origin of the grapes: 20% home-grown 80% bought from vine growers. 16832269_10203160110240744_8838517269183400142_n
  • Soil Type: The clay and sandstone terrain and limestone sediments, is ideal for growing this grape variety, which benefits greatly from soils which are lacking in organic matter, calcareous and with levels of humidity.
  • Bottle Size: 75.0 cl.
  • Price: 7,00 € at Club Bornos on line. 
  • My wine rating: 87/100 (a wine of good quality) NEW!

Why is the Golden Age fashionable again? by Martin Edwards

Though it may not be necessary to make an introduction of Martin Edwards in this blog, it is timely to show here a brief overview of his profile, taken from his website.

Martin Edwards was born at Knutsford, Cheshire and educated in Northwich and at Balliol College, Oxford University, taking a first class honours degree in law. He trained as a solicitor in Leeds and moved to Liverpool on qualifying. He published his first legal article at the age of 25 and his first book, about legal aspects of buying a business computer at 27, before a career as an equity partner of a law firm, where he is now a consultant. He is married to Helena with two children (Jonathan and Catherine) and lives in Lymm. A member of the Murder Squad, collective of crime writers, Martin is Vice Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and in 2015 he was elected eighth President of the Detection Club. He is also Archivist of the CWA and of the Detection Club.

Martin Edwards first novel, All the Lonely People, introduced Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin and was published in 1991, earning a nomination for the John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best first crime novel of the year. To date, Edwards has written eight novels about Devlin; the most recent is Waterloo Sunset (2008). The Coffin Trail (2004) was the first of seven books set in the Lake District (The Lake District Mysteries) featuring Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind; it was short-listed for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Award for best crime novel of 2006. The Arsenic Labyrinth (2007) was short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award in 2008. The Hanging Wood (2011) was long-listed for both the Audible Sounds of Crime Award and the Ebook Award at Crimefest 2012. Edwards has also written a stand-alone novel of psychological suspense, Take My Breath Away (2002), and completed The Lazarus Widow by the late Bill Knox. 2008 also saw the publication of his first historical novel, Dancing for the Hangman, a fictional account of the life and misadventures of Hawley Harvey Crippen. (Source: Wikipedia). Follow his blog: Do You Write Under Your Own Name? Find him on Twitter: @medwardsbooks Author’s Website: http://www.martinedwardsbooks.com/index.htm

20170220_141005I’m recalling all this because I’m looking forward to meeting Martin Edwards in Madrid during the course of this week. He will be giving the inaugural lecture at an International Congress on detective novel, entitled Why is the Golden Age fashionable again? I’m confident I will be able to attend and I hope to be able to greet him personally.

Fortunately I have just received my copy of The Golden Age of Murder (Harper Collins, 2016, paperback edition), that I have started to read right now. For this reason I’m taking a break on my reading schedule and I’m reading as well The Serpent Pool, The Lake District Mysteries #4 (Allison & Busby, 2010). Stay tuned.

About The Golden Age of Murder: Winner of the 2016 EDGAR, AGATHA, MACAVITY and H.R.F.KEATING crime writing awards, this real-life detective story investigates how Agatha Christie and colleagues in a mysterious literary club transformed crime fiction. Detective stories of the Twenties and Thirties have long been stereotyped as cosily conventional. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Golden Age of Murder tells for the first time the extraordinary story of British detective fiction between the two World Wars. A gripping real-life detective story, it investigates how Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Agatha Christie and their colleagues in the mysterious Detection Club transformed crime fiction. Their work cast new light on unsolved murders whilst hiding clues to their authors’ darkest secrets, and their complex and sometimes bizarre private lives. (HarperCollinsPublishers publicity page)

About The Serpent Pool: DCI Hannah Scarlett is determined to uncover the truth behind Emily Friend’s mysterious drowning in the Serpent’s Pool. Though the evidence at the time did not rule out suicide, why would Emily, so afraid of water, choose drowning to end it all? Hannah has to face distraction though with a new sergeant with a troublesome reputation, a new house, and new cause to doubt her partner, Marc Amos. Historian Daniel Kind has just returned from America and is hard at work on a new book. Meeting with Hannah again, they can’t help but make connections between Emily’s death and two recent murders which struck close to home. (Allison & Busby publicity page)

Georges Simenon’s Maigret Books

This entry was first intended as a private note, but I have thought it can be of some interest to readers of this blog. Most of this information has been taken from the excellent resources provided by Maigret site at http://www.trussel.com/f_maig.htm

I have highlighted in the text, in bold, the books that are generally recognised as Maigret bests. For some his best novels can be found in The Gallimard cycle, but my personal preference, at this stage, is tending towards the Fayard cycle. However I must recognise I have read very few of the books from his last period, the ones published between 1955 and 1972, after his return to Europe.

Please bear in mind that this post is a work in progress, you may read my reviews of the books I’ve read so far clicking on the books’ titles. Besides, your comments are welcome.

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The Other Maigrets. Seven “Maigrets” have apparently never been published in English — three short stories, and four novels written in the summer of 1929, published under the pseudonyms Christian Brulls and Georges Sim: the so-called “precursors of Maigret,” since Simenon proclaimed that “Pietr-le-letton” was “the first Maigret”

The Early Maigrets, (The 19 novels of the Fayard cycle): Pietr the Latvian (Pietr-le-Letton, mai 1931), The Late Monsieur Gallet (Monsieur Gallet, décédé, février 1931), The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien (Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien (février 1931), The Carter of ‘La Providence’ (Le Charretier de la Providence, mars 1931), The Yellow Dog (Le Chien jaune, avril 1931), Night at the Crossroads (La Nuit du carrefour, juin 1931), A Crime in Holland (Un crime en Hollande, juillet 1931), The Grand Banks Café (Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas, août 1931), A Man’s Head (La Tête d’un homme – L’homme de la Tour Eiffel) septembre 1931), The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin (La Danseuse du Gai-Moulin, novembre 1931), The Two-Penny Bar, (La Guinguette à deux sous, décembre 1931), The Shadow Puppet (L’Ombre chinoise, janvier 1932), The Saint-Fiacre Affair (L’Affaire Saint-Fiacre, février 1932), The Flemish House (Chez les Flamands, mars 1932), The Madman of Bergerac (Le Fou de Bergerac, avril 1932), The Misty Harbour (Le Port des brumes, mai 1932), Liberty Bar (Liberty Bar, juillet 1932), Lock Nº 1 (L’Écluse 1, juin 1933), and Maigret (Maigret, mars 1934)

The Gallimard cycle, 6 novels: Cécile is Dead (Gallimard, 1942); The Cellars of the Majestic (Gallimard, 1942); The Judgeʻs House (Gallimard, 1942); Signed, Picpus (Gallimard, 1944); Inspector Cadaver (Gallimard, 1944), and Félicie (Gallimard, 1944).

The Presses de la Cité cycle (50 novels)

a) In the United States and Canada, 1945–1955: Maigret Gets Angry (’47), Maigret in New York (’47), Maigret’s Holiday (’48), Maigret and His Dead Man (’48), Maigret’s First Case (’49), My Friend Maigret (’49, Maigret at the Coroner’s (’49), Maigret and the Old Lady (’50), Madame Maigret’s Friend, (’50), Maigret’s Memoirs (’51), Maigret at Picratt’s (’51), Maigret Takes a Room, (’51), Maigret and the tall woman, (’51), Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters, (’52), Maigret’s Revolver (’52), Maigret and the Man on the Bench, (’53), Maigret is Afraid (’53), Maigret’s Mistake (’53), Maigret Goes to School (’54), Maigret and the Dead Girl (’54), Maigret and the Minister (’55), Maigret and the Headless Corpse (’55).

As from here onwards, I don’t have yet the titles of the New Penguins, under new translations except for Maigret Sets a Trap (’55).

b) The return to Europe, 1955–1972: Maigret Sets a Trap (’55), Maigret’s Failure (’56), Maigret Enjoys Himself  (’57), Maigret Travels (’58), Maigret Has Scruples (’58), Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses (’59), Maigret Has Doubts (’59), Maigret in Court (’60), Maigret in Society (’60), Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (’61), Maigret and the Black Sheep (’62), Maigret and the Saturday Caller (’62), Maigret and the Dosser, Maigret and the Bum (’63), Maigret Loses His Temper (’63), Maigret and the Ghost, Maigret and the Apparition (’64), Maigret on the Defensive (’64), The Patience of Maigret, Maigret Bides His Time (’65), Maigret and the Nahour Case (’67), Maigret’s Pickpocket (’67), Maigret Takes the Waters, Maigret in Vichy (’68), Maigret Hesitates (’68), Maigret’s Boyhood Friend (’68), Maigret and the Killer (’69), Maigret and the Wine Merchant (’70), Maigret and the Madwoman (’70), Maigret and the Loner (’71), Maigret and the Flea, Maigret and the Informer (’71), Maigret and Monsieur Charles (’72).

(updated 12-08-2017)

Which Maigret to Read First?

A gentle reader of my blog, in a comment to The Carter of “La Providence”, has asked me: If this is not a good place to start with Simenon what would you recommend as a beginning? In my answer I told her: It’s hard to say. Maybe you can start with Pietr the Latvian following the book order of the New Pengun series, or even better read some of the best known among which, just from the top of my head, I can suggest: The Cellars of the Majestic, Signed: Picpus or Maigret at Picratt’s, would be among my personal preferences to enter Maigret world.

But I recognise I’m not qualified at all and I have preferred to search in the Internet to find an answer. And I’ve come across an article by Murielle Wenger, Which Maigret to Read First?

Among the various options that she presents us, the six Maigret novels of the Gallimard period are among her favourites. Namely Cécile is Dead (Gallimard, 1942); The Cellars of the Majestic (Gallimard, 1942); The Judgeʻs House (Gallimard, 1942); Signed, Picpus (Gallimard, 1944); Inspector Cadaver (Gallimard, 1944), and Félicie (Gallimard, 1944).

She also puts forward a series of alternatives:

  • begin Maigret with the first novel of the Presses de la Cité vintage, “Maigret se fâche” (Maigret in Retirement)
  • a variation which I can propose is to consider the short story “La pipe de Maigret” (Maigret’s Pipe), written just before “Maigret se fâche“, and which gives its title to the first volume from Presses de la Cité; this story permits us to enter in small steps into the world of Maigret.
  • another way of proceeding could be to discover the Chief Inspector in his debut with the police, to start with “La première enquête de Maigret“, where we can find the germ of what will become later the “methods” of Maigret.
  • along the same lines you could begin with “Les Mémoires de Maigret“, so that you could later enjoy finding in other novels the multiples allusions and reminiscences.
  • another suggestion, which I would perhaps take myself, is to start with “Maigret et son mort“, which shows, it could be said, a “case-type” of the Chief Inspector: a little world of Paris, Maigret’s intuitions, the “installation” of Maigret into the life of the victim, life with Madame Maigret, the relationship with Judge Coméliau, the work of the Criminal Records Office, the Chief Inspector’s flu, etc…
  • finally, if I can be permitted a personal note, the first Maigret that I read (I was around 12!) was “Maigret et l’indicateur” (Maigret and the Informer, and it also introduced me to a new world characteristic of Maigret, that of a Chief Inspector awakened in the middle of the night by the ringing of a telephone, who would be leaning over a corpse extended on a rain-drenched sidewalk in Butte-Montmartre, and would investigate in the life of a microcosm of Paris, among “the boys and girls of the underworld”….

In conclusion, we have before us numerous possibilities for the choice of a “first Maigret”, and the list doesn’t end there… We might also begin with “L’Ombre chinoise” and its plunge into the heart of an apartment in the Place des Vosges, or “L’Affaire Saint-Fiacre” and a return to the sources of Maigret’s childhood, or yet “Maigret et la jeune morte” and the extraordinary empathy of the Chief Inspector for a young girl, victim of her fate, or “Maigret et le corps sans tête” and the strange links woven between the Chief Inspector an a suspect, or even…. But let’s stop there… In fact, I think their are many ways to enter into Maigret’s world… and finally, whatever Maigret you start with, you will be seduced, and you risk but one thing… to catch the “virus” of the Maigretphile… and the desire to read them all!

I certainly have been infected by  the “virus” of the Maigretphile. Stay tuned.