John’s Review of Grand Guignol, 1929 by John Dickson Carr

grand_guignol-148775-264-432After my previous post here, I found the following review on Goodreads by the late John Grant that may be of some interest to the readers of this blog

I learned only days ago that Carr wrote this short novel as a sort of first draft for what would become his first book publication, It Walked by Night (1930). I was pointed to it by the indefatigable Sergio Angelini, who, in a comment to a post on In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, supplied a link to the novella’s online availability in two consecutive issues (March/April 1929) of the college magazine The Haverfordian: Part One begins here and Part Two begins here.

Keep reading the full review here.

My Book Notes: It Walks by Night, 1930 (Henri Bencolin, #1) by John Dickson Carr

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British Library Publishing, 2019. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 6630 KB. Print Length: 272 pages. ASIN: B07XJZ8ZFZ. eISBN: 978-0-7123-6725-7. With an introduction by Martin Edwards. It Walks by Night is the first detective novel by John Dickson Carr featuring for the first time Carr’s series detective Henri Bencolin. It was originally published in 1930 by Harper & Brothers, New York and London. “The Shadow of the Goat” was first published in The Haverfordian in November and December 1926.

53116327._SX318_SY475_Book Description: A would-be murderer, imprisoned for his attempt to kill his wife, has escaped and is known to have visited a plastic surgeon. His whereabouts remain a mystery, though with his former wife poised to marry another, Bencolin predicts his return. Sure enough, the Inspector’s worst suspicions are realized when the beheaded body of the new suitor is discovered in a locked room of the salon, with no apparent exit. Bencolin sets off into the Parisian night to unravel the dumbfounding mystery and track down the sadistic killer.

My Take: Paris, 1927. The story is narrated by an American called Jeff Marle. His father’s best friend, M. Henri Bencolin, at that time juge d’instuction and the director of the police, has promised him he’ll see him in action that night. On that same day, Raoul Joudain, sixth Duc de Saligny, a popular idol and legendary sportsman, had married a charming young woman, Madame Louise Laurent. She was  previously married to a certain man named Alexandre Laurent who, shortly after their wedding, assaulted her with a razor blade. He was therefore committed to an asylum for the criminal insane and their marriage was declared null and void. Ten months ago Laurent escaped and the rumour is he underwent a plastic surgery to change his appearance. And now, Laurent is in Paris, determined to kill Saligny if he marries Louise, whom he still regards as being his wife.

The night of their wedding day, Louise and Raoul are at a trendy restaurant with gaming tables, dancing and music. A place that is under close surveillance by Henri Bencolin and his men, in view of the threats received. At a given point, Raoul is seen entering the card-room, no one else is with him and all the doors are guarded by Bencolin and his men. However, after a while, the Duc of Saligny appears death, beheaded. In this way Becolin himself recalled it: 

‘Here were two doors, both guarded, one by me, and one by my most efficient man. We will take our oaths that nobody left by either door, and I trust Francois as I would trust myself. I examine the window immediately, you remember; it was forty feet above the street, no other windows within yards of it, the walls smoot stone. No man in existence –not even a monkey– could have entered or left that way. Besides, I found dust thick and unbroken over the sill, the frame, and the ledge outside. But there was nobody hiding in the room; I made certain of that… ‘

I have to thank Sergio Angelini in particular for having encouraged me to read this book I initially discarded. It Walks By Night is the first full-length novel by John Dickson Carr and, as such, this is a work composed in his youth. A minor detail, perhaps, that we should not overlook to better understand the trajectory of Carr. Even if only for this reason alone, it’s worth reading. It certainly is of interest to all those who would like to explore better the development of his ample production. A minor work, undoubtedly, but nonetheless quite interesting, not exempt of charm, where most of Carr’s favourite topics are already present. In any case I did enjoy reading it. I’m reading next The Door to Doom and Other Detections, mainly interested in the first four Henri Bencolin short stories. Stay tuned.

It Walks by Night has been reviewed, among others, at Past Offences, The Grandest Game in the World, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, ahsweetmysteryblog, Cross-Examining Fiction, The Green Capsule, The Reader Is Warned, Death Can Read, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Dead Yesterday, Bedford Bookshelf, and Shotsmag.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Harper & Brothers (UK), 1930)

About the Author: John Dickson Carr was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1906. It Walks by Night, his first published detective novel, featuring the Frenchman Henri Bencolin, was published in 1930. Apart from Dr Fell, whose first appearance was in Hag’s Nook in 1933, Carr’s other series detectives (published under the nom de plume of Carter Dickson) were the barrister Sir Henry Merrivale, who debuted in The Plague Court Murders (1934).

Henri Bencolin series: It Walks By Night (1930); Castle Skull (1931 – not published in the UK until c. 1980); The Lost Gallows (1931); The Waxworks Murder (1932); and The Four False Weapons (1937).

Henri Bencolin also appears in 4 short stories (all originally published in the Haverfordian): “The Shadow of the Goat” (1926); “The Fourth Suspect” (1927); “The End of Justice” (1927); and “The Murder In Number Four” (1928), that were later reprinted in The Door to Doom and Other Detections, 1980, edited by Douglas G. Greene

Bencolin is also mentioned in Carr’s book Poison in Jest (1932), but does not appear in it. The novel, however, is narrated by Marle.

The British Library publicity page

Poisoned Pen Press publicity page

John Dickson Carr page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki 

John Dickson Carr: the Bencolin short stories at Justice for the Corpse

audible

Anda de noche, de John Dickson Carr

john-d-carr-anda-de-noche-subida (1)Descripción del libro: Un asesino frustrado, encarcelado por haber intentado matar a su esposa, ha escapado. Se sabe que visitó a un cirujano plástico. Su paradero actual es un misterio. Ahora, su ex esposa se prepara para casarse con otro y Bencolín prevé su regreso. Efectivamente, las peores sospechas del inspector se hacen realidad cuando el cuerpo decapitado del nuevo pretendiente es descubierto en la habitación cerrada de un salón, sin salida aparente. Bencolin se adentra en la noche parisina para desentrañar el asombroso misterio y localizar al sádico asesino.

Mi opinión: París, 1927. La historia está narrada por un estadounidense llamado Jeff Marle. El mejor amigo de su padre, M. Henri Bencolin, en ese momento juge d’instuction y director de la policía, le ha prometido que lo verá en acción esa noche. Ese mismo día, Raoul Joudain, sexto duque de Saligny, un ídolo popular y deportista legendario, se había casado con una joven encantadora, Madame Louise Laurent. Anteriormente estuvo casada con cierto hombre llamado Alexandre Laurent quien, poco después de su boda, la agredió con una navaja de afeitar. Por lo tanto, fue internado en un asilo para criminales dementes y su matrimonio fue declarado nulo y sin valor. Hace diez meses Laurent escapó y se rumorea que se sometió a una cirugía plástica para cambiar su apariencia. Y ahora, Laurent está en París, decidido a matar a Saligny si se casa con Louise, a quien todavía considera su esposa.

La noche del día de su boda, Louise y Raoul están en un restaurante de moda con mesas de juego, baile y música. Un lugar que está bajo estrecha vigilancia por parte de Henri Bencolin y sus hombres, ante las amenazas recibidas. En un momento dado, se ve a Raoul entrando en la sala de juegos, nadie más está con él y todas las puertas están custodiadas por Bencolin y sus hombres. Sin embargo, después de un tiempo, el duque de Saligny aparece muerto, decapitado. Así lo recordaba el propio Becolin:

“Había dos puertas, ambas estaban vigiladas, una por mí y otra por mi hombre más eficiente. Prestaremos juramento de que nadie salío por ninguna puerta, y confío en Francois como si fuera yo mismo. Examino la ventana de inmediato, ¿recuerdas? estaba a cuarenta pies por encima de la calle, no había otras ventanas a pocos metros de ella, las paredes eran de piedra lisa. No existe hombre alguno, ni siquiera un mono, que pudiera haber entrado o salido por esa vía. Además, encontré polvo espeso e intacto sobre el alféizar, el marco y el borde exterior. Pero no había nadie escondido en la habitación; Me aseguré de eso … “

Debo agradecer en particular a Sergio Angelini por haberme animado a leer este libro que inicialmente descarté. Anda de noche es la primera novela extensa de John Dickson Carr y, como tal, es una obra compuesta en su juventud. Un detalle menor, quizás, que no deberíamos pasar por alto para entender mejor la trayectoria de Carr. Aunque solo sea por esta razón, vale la pena leerlo. Ciertamente es de interés para todos aquellos que quieran explorar mejor el desarrollo de su amplia producción. Una obra menor, sin duda, pero sin embargo bastante interesante, no exenta de encanto, donde ya están presentes la mayoría de los temas favoritos de Carr. En cualquier caso, disfruté leyéndola. Estoy leyendo a continuación The Door to Doom and Other Detections, principalmente interesado en los primeros cuatro cuentos de Henri Bencolin. Manténganse al tanto.

Acerca del autor: John Dickson Carr nació en Uniontown, Pensilvania, en 1906. Anda de noche, su primera novela policíaca publicada, protagonizada por el francés Henri Bencolin, se publicó en 1930. Aparte del Dr. Fell, cuya primera aparición fue en Hag’s Nook en 1933, el otro detective de las  series  de Carr (publicados bajo el pseudónimo de Carter Dickson) fue el abogado Sir Henry Merrivale, quien debutó en The Plague Court Murders (1934).

Serie de Henri Bencolin: Anda de noche (It Walks By Night, 1930); El castillo de la calavera (Castle Skull, 1931); The Lost Gallows, 1931; El crimen de las figuras de cera (The Waxworks Murder / The Corpse in the Waxworks, 1932); y Las cuatro armas falsas (The Four False Weapons, 1937).

Henri Bencolin también aparece en 4 cuentos (todos publicados originalmente en el Haverfordian): “The Shadow of the Goat” (1926); “The Fourth Suspect” (1927); “The End of Justice” (1927); y “The Murder In Number Four” (1928), que fueron recopilados posteriormente en The Door to Doom and Other Detections, 1980, editado por Douglas G. Greene, no publicado en España.

Bencolin también es mencionado en Poison in Jest (1932), publicada en castellano como Veneno en broma, pero no aparece en esta novela también narrada por Marle.

(John Dickson Carr. Ed. El elefante blanco (distribuido por Ed. Saturnino Calleja) 1949, Fuente: Ricardo Bosque)

Jacques Futrelle (1875-1912) Updated 27 October, 2020

Further to my previous post, here, I’ve just discovered the following website, here, devoted to Jacque Futrelle. In case it can be of some interest to readers of this blog.

jacquesJacques Heath Futrelle (1875-1912) was an American journalist and mystery writer. He is best known for writing short detective stories featuring the “Thinking Machine”, Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen. He worked for the Atlanta Journal, where he began their sports section; the New York Herald; the Boston Post; and the Boston American. In 1905, his Thinking Machine character first appeared in a serialized version of The Problem of Cell 13. In 1895, he married fellow writer Lily May Peel, with whom he had two children. While returning from Europe aboard the RMS Titanic, Futrelle, a first-cabin passenger, refused to board a lifeboat insisting his wife board instead. He perished in the Atlantic. His works include: The Chase of the Golden Plate (1906); The Simple Case of Susan (1908); The Thinking Machine (1907); The Thinking Machine on the Case (1908); The Diamond Master (1909); Elusive Isabel (1909); The High Hand (1911); Blind Man’s Buff; My Lady’s Garter (1912); and The Master Hand (1914, posthumous)

Jacques Futrelle’s stories of The Thinking Machine originally appeared in popular newspapers and magazines from 1905 – 1912. They at first were run as week-long serials, with prizes given to readers who solved the mysteries. The swift popularity of the Thinking Machine stories at home and overseas led to Futrelle’s brief but successful career as a detective story writer and novelist. Two collections of selected Thinking Machine stories appeared in his lifetime: The Thinking Machine (1907) and The Thinking Machine on the Case (1908).

“The Thinking Machine” Stories by Jacques Futrelle: “The Auto Cab”; “The Broken Bracelet”; “The Brown Coat”; “The Cast of the Life Raft”; “The Case of the Mysterious Weapon”; “The Case of the Scientific Murderer”; “Convict #97”; “The Cross Mark”; “The Crystal Gazer”; “The Disappearance of Baby Blake”; “Dressing Room A”; “The Deserted House”; “The Fatal Cipher”; “The Flaming Phantom”; “The Ghost Woman”; “The Golden Dagger”; “The Green-Eyed Monster”; “The Grinning God”; “The Haunted Bell”; “The Hidden Million”; “The Interrupted Wireless”; “The Jackdaw Girl”; “The Knotted Cord”; “The Lost Radium”; “The Man Who Was Lost”; “The Missing Necklace”; “The Motor Boat”; “The Mystery of the Studio”; “The Opera Box”; “The Organ Grinder”; “The Perfect Alibi”; “The Phantom Motor”; “A Piece of String”; “Prince Otto”; “The Private Compartment”; “The Problem of Cell 13” (1907); “The Ralston Bank Burglary”; “The Red Rose”; “The Rosewell Tiara”; “The Scarlet Thread”; “The Silver Box”; “The Souvenir Cards”; “The Stolen Bank Notes”; “The Stolen Rubens”; “The Superfluous Finger”; “The Three Overcoats”; “The Vanishing Man”; and “The Yellow Diamond Pendant”. (Source: Based on Goodreads and the official website of Jacques Futrelle).

My Book Notes: Death Comes to Cambers, 1935 (Bobby Owen #6) by E. R. Punshon

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Dean Street Press, 2015. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 606 KB. Print Length: 293 pages. First published in 1935 by Victor Gollancz. This new edition features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans. ASIN: B00ZO3RT9I. eISBN: 978 1 910570 36 4.

9781910570364_p0_v1_s550x406Book Description: Police officer Bobby Owen is a weekend guest at Lady Cambers’s majestic country pile, there to advise on security following recent burglary scares. But when the lady of the house disappears, her bed unslept-in, it’s a case of murder not burglary – for Bobby discovers her ladyship, strangled, in a nearby field. One of the finest of the early Bobby Owens novels, Death Comes to Cambers combines wit and excellent characterization in a satisfying and classic whodunit, featuring an eccentric creationist, a superior archaeologist and an inventive cipher.

My Take: Death Comes to Cambers is the sixth outing in the Bobby Owen mysteries by E.R. Punshon. A series which eventually spanned thirty-five novels published between 1933 and 1956. As Curtis Evans tells us in his Introduction: In Death Comes to Cambers Punshon deftly balances an ingenious plot with considerable character interest and amusing satire of English class conventions.

When the story begins detective-sergeant Bobby Owen is spending a weekend at Cambers House, invited by his grandmother Lady Whirlpool. The reason behind this invitation is partly to advise Lady Cambers on the precautions she should take against an eventual burglary. Apparently,  rumours have quickly spread that such occurrences had significantly increase in the area. But nobody would have suspected what happened that morning when Lady Cambers is found strangled in the countryside. The strangest thing about it is that all Cambers House’s doors were locked inwardly when the service awoke that morning and they could not find Lady Cambers anywhere,  with clear signals she had not slept in her bed. Moreover, Colonel Lawson has been recently appointed head of the county police and Owen has serious doubts he is best suited to handle the case. Anyway, there’s no shortage of suspects within her close circle, including her husband, Sir Albert; her nephew Tim Sterling; her butler, Farman; her maid, Amy Emmers; her protégé, Eddy Dane; her tenant’s son, Ray Hardy; the vicar, Mr Andrews; her neighbours, Mr Bowman and his sister, Miss Bowman; and her rival jewellery-connoisseur, Mr Tyler. All and each of them seem to have an adequate motive for murder. In fact she had manage to make a good many enemies. After all she was a strong-willed woman, very fond of interfering in other people’s lives, confident that she always knew what was best for everyone else, and not too scrupulous how she used the power her wealth gave her to enforce her will on others.

As Martin Edwards rightly indicates Death Comes to Cambers is a competent piece of work. It might not be an outstanding novel, but it is really entertaining, the story is well crafted and has an excellent set of quite attractive characters. In all probability one of Punshon’s best , and one that is certainly well worth your while. I strongly recommend it.

Death Comes to Cambers has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, The Grandest Game in the World, Pretty Sinister Books, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, and Classic Mysteries.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. V. G. Gollancz (UK), 1935)

About the author: E. R. Punshon, in full Ernest Robertson Punshon, (born East Dulwich, London 25 June 1872 – died Streatham, London 23 October 1956) was an English novelist and literary critic of the early to mid 20th century. He also wrote under the pseudonyms Robertson Halkett and Robertson Halket. Primarily writing on crime and deduction, he enjoyed some literary success in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, he is remembered, in the main, as the creator of Police Constable Bobby Owen, the protagonist of many of Punshon’s novels, who was eventually promoted to sergeant, inspector, superintendent and, finally, commander. A popular Scotland Yard detective, Owen appeared in 35 novels from 1933 to 1956. Punshon reviewed many of Agatha Christie’s novels for The Guardian on their first publication. Punshon was also a prolific writer of short stories, and a selection of his crime and horror fiction has recently been collected together. (Source: Wikipedia)

Suggested bibliography: Information Received (1933); Death Comes to Cambers (1935); The Bath Mysteries (1936); Mystery of Mr. Jessop (1937); Suspects – Nine (1939); Ten Star Clues (1941); Diabolic Candelabra (1942); The Conqueror Inn (1943); Secrets Can’t Be Kept (1944); There’s a Reason for Everything (1945); It Might Lead Anywhere (1946); and Six Were Present (1956).

Plus some others: Crossword Mystery (1934); The Dark Garden (1941); Night’s Cloak (1944); Music Tells All (1948); and The House of Godwinsson (1948).

Dean Street Press has released all the Bobby Owen detective stories, with introductions by mystery scholar Curtis Evans.

Dean Street Press publicity page

Recommended reading

Death Comes to Cambers, de E. R. Punshon

Descripción del libro: El oficial de policía Bobby Owen es invitado a pasar un fin de semana en la imponente casa de campo de Lady Cambers, para asesorar sobre seguridad después de los recientes robos ocurridos. Pero cuando la dueña de la casa desaparece, sin haber dromido en su cama, se trata de un caso de asesinato, no de robo, porque Bobby descubre a la Señora, estrangulada, en un campo cercano. Una de las mejores novelas iniciales de Bobby Owen, Death Comes to Cambers combina ingenio y una excelente caracterización en una novela de policía clásica y satisfactoria, con un creacionista excéntrico, un arqueólogo arrogante y un cifrado ingenioso.

Mi opinión: Death Comes to Cambers es la sexta entrega de los misterios de Bobby Owen de E.R. Punshon. Una serie que finalmente comprendió treinta y cinco novelas publicadas entre 1933 y 1956. Como nos dice Curtis Evans en su introducción: En Death Comes to Cambers, Punshon equilibra hábilmente una trama ingeniosa con unos personajes sumamente interesantes y una divertida sátira de las convenciones de clase inglesas.

Cuando comienza la historia, el sargento detective Bobby Owen pasa un fin de semana en Cambers House, invitado por su abuela, Lady Whirlpool. La razón detrás de esta invitación es en parte para aconsejar a Lady Cambers sobre las precauciones que debe tomar contra un eventual robo. Aparentemente, se han difundido rápidamente rumores de que tales incidentes habían aumentado significativamente en el área. Pero nadie hubiera sospechado lo que sucedió esa mañana cuando encuentran a Lady Cambers estrangulada en el campo. Lo más extraño de esto es que todas las puertas de Cambers House estaban cerradas por dentro cuando el servicio se despertó esa mañana y no pudieron encontrar a Lady Cambers por ningún lado, con señales claras de que no había dormido en su cama. Además, el coronel Lawson ha sido nombrado recientemente jefe de la policía del condado y Owen tiene serias dudas de que sea el más adecuado para manejar el caso. De todos modos, no hay escasez de sospechosos dentro de su círculo cercano, incluido su esposo, Sir Albert; su sobrino Tim Sterling; su mayordomo, Farman; su doncella, Amy Emmers; su protegido, Eddy Dane; el hijo de su arrendatario, Ray Hardy; el vicario, Sr. Andrews; sus vecinos, el señor Bowman y su hermana, la señorita Bowman; y su rival conocedor de joyas, el Sr. Tyler. Todos y cada uno de ellos parecen tener un motivo adecuado para el asesinato. De hecho, se las había arreglado para hacerse con muchos enemigos. Después de todo, era una mujer de voluntad fuerte, muy aficionada a interferir en la vida de otras personas, segura de que siempre sabía lo que era mejor para todos los demás, y no muy escrupulosa en cómo usaba el poder que su riqueza le daba para imponer su voluntad a los demás. .

Como bien indica Martin Edwards, Death Comes to Cambers es un trabajo competente. Puede que no sea una novela sobresaliente, pero es realmente entretenida, la historia está bien elaborada y tiene un excelente conjunto de personajes bastante atractivos. Con toda probabilidad uno de los mejores de Punshon, y uno que sin duda merece la pena. Lo recomiendo encarecidamente.

Acerca del autor: E.R. Punshon, su nombre íntegro Ernest Robertson Punshon (nacido en East Dulwich, Londres el 25 de junio de 1872 – muerto en Streatham, Londres el 23 de octubre de 1956) fue un novelista y crítico literario inglés de principios y mediados del siglo XX. También escribió bajo los seudónimos de Robertson Halkett y Robertson Halket. Escribiendo principalmente sobre delitos y su investigación, disfrutó de cierto éxito literario en las décadas de 1930 y 1940. Hoy en día, se le recuerda, principalmente, como el creador del agente de policía Bobby Owen, el protagonista de muchas de las novelas de Punshon, quien finalmente fue ascendido a sargento, inspector, superintendente y, finalmente, comandante. Owen, un popular detective de Scotland Yard, apareció en 35 novelas entre 1933 y 1956. Punshon reseñó muchas de las novelas de Agatha Christie para The Guardian en su primera edición. Punshon también fue un prolífico escritor de cuentos, y recientemente se ha recopilado una selección de sus novelas policíacas y de terror. (Fuente: Wikipedia)

My Book Notes: The Plague Court Murders, 1934 (Sir Henry Merrivale #1) by John Dickson Carr, writing as Carter Dickson

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The Langtail Press, 2010. Book Format: Paperback. Number of pages: 230. ISBN: 978-1780020075. First published in the US by Morrow, 1934 and in the UK by Heinemann, 1935.

9781780020075Book Description: The first Sir Henry Merrivale mystery from Golden Age author John Dickson Carr. When Dean Halliday becomes convinced that the malevolent ghost of Louis Playge is haunting his family estate in London, he invites Ken Blake and Detective-Inspector Masters along to Plague Court to investigate. Arriving at night, they find his aunt and fiancée preparing to exorcise the spirit in a séance run by psychic Roger Darworth. While Darworth locks himself in a stone house behind Plague Court, the séance proceeds, and at the end he is found gruesomely murdered. But who, or what, could have killed him? All the windows and doors were bolted and locked, and no one could have gotten inside. The only one who can solve the crime in this bizarre and chilling tale is locked-room expert Sir Henry Merrivale.

My Take: The story opens on September 6, 1930. It is told by Ken Blake and revolves around a house called Plague Court that belongs to the family of his friend Dean Halliday. Halliday believes the house is haunted by the ghost of Louis Playge, a hangman who lived in the 17th century and is suspected of having been buried there. Halliday convinces Blake, and Inspector Masters of Scotland Yard, the latter unofficially, to spend the night there. The purpose is to find out if what they see or hear can be explained rationally. That same day the morning papers bring the news of the disappearance of a steel dagger from the London Museum. The dagger had been donated to the Museum by J. G. Halliday, Esq, at the beginning of the century and it is believed to have been the property of Louis Playge. Finally, we learned that a charlatan called Roger Darworth has convinced Halliday’s aunt, Lady Anne Benning, he is able to free Court Plague from Playge’s spell.

That evening, when Blake, together with Halliday and Masters, arrive at Court Plague, they find that Lady Benning, Halliday’s fiancée Miss Marion Latimer, her brother Ted and an old family friend called Major Featherton are gathered there. They have come to Court Plague following Darworth’s instructions. Darworth plan is to confine himself in a little stone house in the yard at midnight to spend the night there while everyone else waits outside. In this way, he will carry out an exorcism to make the spell disappear before daylight. Not even Darworth assistant, a boy named Joseph, who accompanies him for his skills as a medium, will stay with him during his confinement. But something goes wildly wrong and Darworth is stabbed to death inside the house whose door and windows were all firmly locked inwardly. This macabre finding challenges all the laws of logic and appears inexplicable. Besides, Louis Playge’s dagger appears lying on the ground next to the body and not a single footprint is found on the great spot of mud that extends all around outside house. This is, undoubtedly, a tailor-made case for Sir Henry Merrivale.

Even at the risk of sounding repetitive, The Plague Court Murders is the first Sir Henry Merrivale mystery. However, he will only make his appearance after the second half of the story, at which point he begins to play the leading role. It also turns out curious that the first edition of this novel was subtitled A Chief Inspector Masters Mystery, and we might wonder if John Dickson Carr changed his mind as he was writing it. Be that as it may, between 1934 and 1955, Sir Henry Merrivale will be present in a total of twenty-two novels and several short stories, compiled in 1991 by Douglas Greene under the title Merrivale, March and Murder.

There isn’t much more I can add to what already has been said about this book. I very much like the perfect mix between reality and legend, the rational and the irrational, what has reminded me of the nowadays novels by Fred Vargas. I wonder whether this possible relationship between both authors has already been investigated by the critic. We must not forget that Carr was still in a learning period when this book was published, he was twenty-eight years old and his career was at its early stages. However, it can be enjoyed as if it had  been written by a more experienced author. Besides I was thinking, as I was reading it, that the plot was structured in a Matryoshka or Russian doll shape, what Xavier Lechard has confirmed me this morning when I read his article, here. And it just remains me to highlight Carr’s skill to create the perfect atmosphere in which the story unfolds. If to all this we add Carr’s talents as a storyteller, I can only but recommend reading this novel. Unfortunately, this book is out-of-print but there are used copies available. And the good news is that, if my information is correct, a new edition of this book by American Mystery Classics is scheduled to be release on 2 February 2021.

The Plague Court Murders has been reviewed, among others, at The Grandest Game in the World, The Green Capsule, Death Can Read, Dead Yesterday, ahsweetmysteryblog, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Classic Mysteries, My Reader’s Block, and Vintage Pop Fictions.

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Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Morrow Mystery (USA), 1934)

About the Author: Born in 1906, John Dickson Carr was an American author of Golden Age ‘British-style’ detective stories. He published his first novel, It Walks by Night, in 1930 while studying in Paris to become a barrister. Shortly thereafter he settled in his wife’s native England where he wrote prolifically, averaging four novels per year until the end of WWII. Well-known as a master of the locked-room mystery, Carr created eccentric sleuths to solve apparently impossible crimes. His two most popular series detectives were Dr. Fell, who debuted in Hag’s Nook in 1933, and barrister Sir Henry Merrivale (published under the pseudonym of Carter Dickson) who first appeared in The Plague Court Murders (1934) Eventually, Carr left England and moved to South Carolina where he continued to write, publishing several more novels and contributing a regular column to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. In his lifetime, Carr received the Mystery Writers of America’s highest honor, the Grand Master Award, and was one of only two three Americans ever admitted into the prestigious – but almost exclusively British – Detection Club. He died in 1977.

Sir Henry Merrivale selected bibliography: (Novels) The Plague Court Murders (1934)
The White Priory Murders (1934), The Red Widow Murders (1935), The Unicorn Murders (1935), The Punch and Judy Murders aka The Magic Lantern Murders (1936), The Judas Window aka The Crossbow Murder (1938), Death in Five Boxes (1938), The Reader is Warned (1939), She Died a Lady (1943), He Wouldn’t Kill Patience (1944), The Curse of the Bronze Lamp aka Lord of the Sorcerers (1945), My Late Wives (1946), Night at the Mocking Widow (1950). And a collection of short stories Merrivale, March and Murder (1991).

John Dickson Carr page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki 

John Dickson Carr – by Michael E. Grost

Sir Henry Merrivale at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

El Patio de la Plaga, de John Dickson Carr como Carter Dickson

coverDescripción del libro: El primer misterio de Sir Henry Merrivale del autor de la Edad de Oro John Dickson Carr. Cuando Dean Halliday se convence de que el fantasma maligno de Louis Playge está rondando la finca de su familia en Londres, invita a Ken Blake y al Detective Inspector Masters a Plague Court para investigar. Al llegar de noche, encuentran a su tía y a su prometida preparándose para exorcizar al espíritu en una sesión dirigida por el vidente Roger Darworth. Mientras Darworth se encierra en una casa de piedra detrás de Plague Court, la sesión prosigue y al final lo encuentran espantosamente asesinado. Pero, ¿quién o qué pudo haberlo matado? Todas las ventanas y puertas estaban cerradas y bloqueadas, y nadie podría haber entrado. El único que puede resolver el crimen en esta historia extraña y escalofriante es el experto en cuartos cerrados Sir Henry Merrivale.

Mi opinión: La historia comienza el 6 de septiembre de 1930. La cuenta Ken Blake y gira en torno a una casa llamada Plague Court que pertenece a la familia de su amigo Dean Halliday. Halliday cree que la casa está embrujada por el fantasma de Louis Playge, un verdugo que vivió en el siglo XVII y se sospecha que fue enterrado allí. Halliday convence a Blake y al inspector Masters de Scotland Yard, este último extraoficialmente, para que pasen la noche allí. El propósito es averiguar si lo que ven o escuchan se puede explicar racionalmente. Ese mismo día los periódicos matutinos traen la noticia de la desaparición de una daga de acero del Museo de Londres. La daga había sido donada al Museo por J. G. Halliday, Esq, a principios de siglo y se cree que fue propiedad de Louis Playge. Finalmente, nos enteramos de que un charlatán llamado Roger Darworth ha convencido a la tía de Halliday, Lady Anne Benning, de que puede liberar a Court Plague del hechizo de Playge.

Esa noche, cuando Blake, junto con Halliday y Masters, llegan a Court Plague, encuentran que Lady Benning, la prometida de Halliday, la señorita Marion Latimer, su hermano Ted y un viejo amigo de la familia llamado Major Featherton están reunidos allí. Han venido a Court Plague siguiendo las instrucciones de Darworth. El plan de Darworth es confinarse en una casita de piedra en el patio a medianoche para pasar la noche allí mientras todos los demás esperan afuera. De esta forma, realizará un exorcismo para hacer desaparecer el hechizo antes del amanecer. Ni siquiera el asistente de Darworth, un niño llamado Joseph, que lo acompaña por sus habilidades como médium, se quedará con él durante su encierro. Pero algo sale terriblemente mal y Darworth muere apuñalado dentro de la casa, cuya puerta y ventanas estaban todas firmemente cerradas por dentro. Este macabro hallazgo desafía todas las leyes de la lógica y parece inexplicable. Además, la daga de Louis Playge aparece tirada en el suelo junto al cuerpo y no se encuentra una sola huella en la gran mancha de barro que se extiende por todo el exterior de la casa. Este es, sin duda, un caso hecho a medida para Sir Henry Merrivale.

Incluso a riesgo de sonar repetitivo, The Plague Court Murders es el primer misterio de Sir Henry Merrivale. Sin embargo, solo hará su aparición después de la segunda mitad de la historia, momento en el que comienza a desempeñar el papel principal. También resulta curioso que la primera edición de esta novela estuviera subtitulada Un misterio del inspector jefe Masters, y podríamos preguntarnos si John Dickson Carr cambió de opinión mientras la escribía. Sea como fuere, entre 1934 y 1955, Sir Henry Merrivale estará presente en un total de veintidós novelas y varias novelas cortas, recopiladas en 1991 por Douglas Greene bajo el título Merrivale, March and Murder.

No hay mucho más que pueda agregar a lo que ya se ha dicho sobre este libro. Me gusta mucho la mezcla perfecta entre realidad y leyenda, lo racional y lo irracional, lo que me ha recordado a las novelas actuales de Fred Vargas. Me pregunto si esta posible relación entre ambos autores ya ha sido investigada por la crítica. No debemos olvidar que Carr todavía estaba en un período de aprendizaje cuando se publicó este libro, tenía veintiocho años y su carrera estaba en sus primeras etapas. Sin embargo, se puede disfrutar como si hubiera sido escrito por un autor más experimentado. Además pensaba, mientras lo leía, que la trama estaba estructurada en forma de Matryoshka o muñeca rusa, lo que Xavier Lechard me ha confirmado esta mañana cuando leí su artículo, aquí. Y solo me queda destacar la habilidad de Carr para crear la atmósfera perfecta en la que se desarrolla la historia. Si a todo esto le sumamos el talento de Carr como narrador, solo puedo recomendar la lectura de esta novela. Desafortunadamente, este libro está descatalogado pero hay copias usadas disponibles. Y la buena noticia es que, si mi información es correcta, está programada la publicación de una nueva edición de este libro de American Mystery Classics el 2 de febrero de 2021.

Acerca del autor: John Dickson Carr, nacido en 1906, fue un autor estadounidense de novelas policiacas al estilo británico de la Edad de Oro. Publicó su primera novela, It Walks by Night, en 1930 mientras estudiaba en París para convertirse en abogado. Poco después se instaló en la Inglaterra natal de su esposa, donde escribió prolíficamente, con un promedio de cuatro novelas por año hasta el final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Conocido como un maestro del misterio del cuarto cerrado, Carr creó excéntricos detectives para resolver crímenes aparentemente imposibles. Sus dos detectives de series más populares fueron Dr. Fell, que debutó en Hag’s Nook en 1933, y el abogado Sir Henry Merrivale (publicados bajo el seudónimo de Carter Dickson), quien apareció por primera vez en The Plague Court Murders (1934) Finalmente, Carr dejó Inglaterra y se mudó a Carolina del Sur, donde continuó escribiendo, publicando varias novelas más y contribuyendo con una columna regular al Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. En vida, Carr recibió el más alto honor de los Mystery Writers of America, el Grand Master Award, y fue uno de los dos tres únicos estadounidenses admitidos en el prestigioso, pero casi exclusivamente británico, Detection Club. Murió en 1977.

Bibliografía selecccionada de Sir Henry Merrivale: The Plague Court Murders (1934) El patio de la plaga, The White Priory Murders (1934) Sangre en el espejo de la Reina, The Red Widow Murders (1935) Los crímenes de la viuda roja, The Unicorn Murders (1935) Los crímenes del unicornio, The Punch and Judy Murders aka The Magic Lantern Murders (1936) Los crímenes de polichinela,The Judas Window aka The Crossbow Murder (1938) La ventana de Judas, Death in Five Boxes (1938) Muerte en cinco cajas, The Reader is Warned (1939) Advertencia al lector, She Died a Lady (1943) Murió como una dama, He Wouldn’t Kill Patience (1944) Empezó entre fieras, The Curse of the Bronze Lamp aka Lord of the Sorcerers (1945) La lámpara de bronce / El señor de las hechicerías, My Late Wives (1946) Mis mujeres muertas, Night at the Mocking Widow (1950) La noche de la viuda burlona. Y en una coleccion de novelas cortas Merrivale, March and Murder (1991).