My Book Notes: He Who Whispers, 1946 (Dr Gideon Fell # 16) by John Dickson Carr


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International Polygonics, Ltd. 1986. Book Format: Paperback. Book Size: 166 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-930330-38-5. First published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton, London, 1946 and in the US by Harper & Brothers, New York, 1946.

5123RYN2AAL._SX277_BO1,204,203,200_Plot summary: A few months after the end of World War II, Miles Hammond is invited to the first meeting of the Murder Club in five years. When he arrives, no one else is there except Barbara Morell and Professor Rigaud. When no one else shows up, Rigaud tells the story of Fay Seton. Seton was a young woman working for the Brooke family. She fell in love with Harry Brooke and the two became engaged, but Harry’s father, Howard, did not approve. One day, he agreed to meet Fay in a tower—all that remained of a burned-out chateau. It was a secure location on a lonely waterfront, and was the perfect place for such a meeting. Harry and Professor Rigaud left Howard alone at ten minutes before four. When they returned, fifteen minutes later, Howard had been stabbed, and the sword-cane that did it was found in two pieces beside his body. At first it seemed an open-and-shut case, but a family that was picnicking a few feet from the entrance of the tower swore that no one entered the tower in those fifteen minutes, that no boat came near the tower, and no one could have climbed up, because the nearest window was fifteen feet off the ground. The only one with any motive was Fay Seton, who was believed to be able to bring a vampire to life and terrorize people. Miles quickly becomes involved in the affair because the new librarian he just hired is Fay Seton. (Source: Wikipedia)

My Take: The story is told from the perspective of Miles Hammond, a historian recently enriched by a legacy from his uncle, owner of a legendary library. It begins in 1945 when Hammond is in London invited to a meeting at the Murder Club. A group that counts with Dr Gideon Fell among its members. When Hammond arrives at the restaurant, only two other guests are there, Barbara Morell and Professor Rigaud who was supposed to be the speaker at the meeting, but none of the club members have shown up. Despite the change in plans, Professor Rigaud takes the opportunity to tell them the story of Fay Seton. Back in 1939, Fay Seton was hired to work as a secretary for Howard Brooke, an Englishman who lived in France with his wife and his son, Harry. Harry and Fay fell in love and agreed to get married. But Harry’s father did not approve their engagement and decided to pay Fay Seton to leave his son alone. Fay Seton agreed to meet him atop a circular tower. However, Howard was stabbed in the back at the top of the tower and the money disappeared. No one could explain what could have happened. No one entered the tower and the only possible entrance was guarded by several people who were picnicking. Harry died on the beach at Dunkirk in 1940, and his mother soon after. The crime remains unsolved and the money has not been found. Hammond, who happens to be in London looking for a secretary/librarian to catalogue his late uncle’s books becomes involved in the case when the person he hires for that job is none other than Fay Seton. He does not understand why he has done it and now he is afraid to regret his decision.

I don’t feel myself qualified to add anything more to what has already been said, see other reviews included in this post. This is a book that has it all, no wonder it ended up ranked first among Carr’s books in a poll run by Sergio Angelini at Tipping My Fedora some time ago. To consider that it is just the story of an impossible crime it is clearly a misstatement. He Who Whispers is much more than just that. Besides the main impossible crime, it contains a murder attempt inspired by Cagliostro. The plot is outstanding and is perfectly crafted. Carr uses effectively the supernatural elements included in the narrative until finding a fully rational explanation to the events. The characters are very attractive, when not memorable. Carr plays fair with the reader, all the clues are in view, but he does an outstanding job so that they are barely noticed. Both, the setting and the time in which the action unfolds are wonderfully described and perfectly imbedded in the plot. The denouement is completely unexpected. In a nut shell, the story is both thrilling and touching, and its execution is flawless. A book that deserves  a place of honour on any bookshelf. A true masterpiece.

He Who Whispers has been reviewed, among others, by Curtis Evans at Mystery File, Tina Karelson at Mystery File, Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp, Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, Mike at Only Detect, Steve Barge at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Les Blatt at Classic Mysteries, Moira Redmond at Clothes in Books, Sergio Angelini at Tipping My Fedora, Brad Friedman at ahsweetmysteryblog, Ben at The Green Capsule, TomCat at Beneath the Stains of Time, Laurie Kelley at Bedford Bookshelf.

19768

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets, LLC Harper & Brothers (USA), 1946)

About the Author: John Dickson Carr (1906 – 1977) was a prolific American-born author of detective stories who also published under the pen names Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson, and Roger Fairbairn. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of so-called “Golden Age” mysteries, complex, plot-driven stories in which the puzzle is paramount. Most of his many novels and short stories feature the elucidation, by an eccentric detective, of apparently impossible, and seemingly supernatural, crimes. He was influenced in this regard by the works of Gaston Leroux and by the Father Brown stories of GK Chesterton. Carr modelled his major detective, the fat and genial lexicographer Dr. Gideon Fell, on Chesterton. 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 detective (published under the nom de plume of Carter Dickson) was the barrister Sir Henry Merrivale, who debuted in The Plague Court Murders (1934).

The following list is not, nor is it intended to be, an exhaustive bibliography. It is just a selection of  Carr’s books I have read or l look forward to reading. Any further suggestion of books I should include is welcome

Henri Bencolin: It Walks By Night (1930); The Lost Gallows (1931); Castle Skull (1931); The Waxworks Murder aka The Corpse In The Waxworks (1932), and The Door To Doom, And Other Detections (1980) a collection of short stories.

Dr Gideon Fell: Hag’s Nook (1933), The Mad Hatter Mystery (1933), The Eight of Swords (1934), The Blind Barber (1934), Death-Watch (1935), The Hollow Man aka The Three Coffins (1935), The Arabian Nights Murder (1936), To Wake the Dead (1938), The Crooked Hinge (1938), The Black Spectacles aka The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939), The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939), The Man Who Could Not Shudder (1940), The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941), Death Turns the Tables aka The Seat of the Scornful (1941), Till Death Do Us Part (1944), He Who Whispers (1946), The Sleeping Sphinx (1947), The Dead Man’s Knock (1958), In Spite of Thunder (1960), and The Man Who Explained Miracles (1963) a collection of short stories.

Sir Henry Merrivale (as Carter Dickson): 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 Ten Teacups aka The Peacock Feather Murders (1937), The Judas Window aka The Crossbow Murder (1938), Death in Five Boxes (1938), The Reader is Warned (1939), And So To Murder (1940), Murder in The Submarine Zone aka  Nine And Death Makes Ten (1940), 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 Merrivale, March and Murder (1991) a collection of short stories.

Historical Mysteries: The Bride of Newgate (1950), The Devil in Velvet (1951), Fire, Burn! (1957), Deadly Hall  (1971).

Other novels as John Dickson Carr: The Burning Court (1937); The Emperor’s Snuff-Box (1942); The Nine Wrong Answers (1952).

Further reading: Douglas G. Greene’s John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles (Otto Penzler Books/ Simon & Schuster, 1995). Biography & critical study of his works.

John Dickson Carr – by Michael E. Grost

The Locked-Room Lectures : John Dickson Carr Vs Clayton Rawson

A Room with a Clue: John Dickson Carr’s Locked-Room Lecture Revisited by John Pugmire (pdf) The Reader Is Warned: this entire article is a gigantic SPOILER, with the solutions given to many pre-1935 locked room mysteries.

El que susurra, de John Dickson Carr

28496486._SY475_Resumen de la trama: Unos meses después del final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Miles Hammond es invitado a la primera reunión en cinco años del Murder Club. Cuando llega, no hay nadie más que Barbara Morell y el profesor Rigaud. Cuando nadie más aparece, Rigaud cuenta la historia de Fay Seton. Seton era una joven que trabajaba para la familia Brooke. Se enamoró de Harry Brooke y los dos se comprometieron, pero el padre de Harry, Howard, no lo aprobó. Un día, acordó encontrarse con Fay en una torre que era todo lo que quedaba de un castillo incendiado. Se trataba de un lugar seguro en un paseo marítimo solitario y era el lugar perfecto para tal reunión. Harry y el profesor Rigaud dejaron a Howard solo diez minutos antes de las cuatro. Cuando regresaron, quince minutos después, Howard había sido apuñalado, y el bastón espada que lo hizo fue encontrado en dos pedazos al lado de su cuerpo. Al principio parecía un caso clarísimo, pero una familia que se encontraba de picnic a unos metros de la entrada de la torre juró que nadie entró en la torre en esos quince minutos, que ningún bote se había acercado a la torre, y que nadie pudo haber subido, porque la ventana más cercana se encontraba a cinco metros del suelo. La única con algún motivo era Fay Seton, de quien se creía que podía dar vida a un vampiro y aterrorizar a la gente. Miles se involucra rápidamente en el asunto porque la nueva bibliotecaria que acaba de contratar es Fay Seton. (Fuente: Wikipedia)

Mi opinión: La historia está contada desde la perspectiva de Miles Hammond, un historiador enriquecido recientemente por un legado de su tío, propietario de una biblioteca legendaria. Comienza en 1945 cuando Hammond está en Londres invitado a una reunión en el Murder Club. Un grupo que cuenta con el Dr. Gideon Fell entre sus miembros. Cuando Hammond llega al restaurante, solo hay otros dos invitados, Barbara Morell y el profesor Rigaud, quien se suponía iba a ser el orador en la reunión, pero ninguno de los miembros del club se ha presentado. A pesar del cambio de planes, el profesor Rigaud aprovecha para contarles la historia de Fay Seton. En 1939, Fay Seton fue contratada para trabajar como secretaria de Howard Brooke, un inglés que vivía en Francia con su esposa y su hijo, Harry. Harry y Fay se enamoraron y acordaron casarse. Pero el padre de Harry no aprobó su compromiso y decidió pagarle a Fay Seton para que dejara a su hijo en paz. Fay Seton accedió a reunirse con él en lo alto de una torre circular. Sin embargo, Howard fue apuñalado por la espalda en la parte superior de la torre y el dinero desapareció. Nadie pudo explicar qué pudo haber sucedido. Nadie entró a la torre y la única entrada posible estaba custodiada por varias personas que estaban haciendo un picnic. Harry murió en la playa de Dunkerque en 1940, y su madre poco después. El crimen sigue sin resolverse y no se ha encontrado el dinero. Hammond, que se encuentra en Londres buscando una secretaria/bibliotecaria para catalogar los libros de su difunto tío, se ve involucrado en el caso cuando la persona que contrata para ese trabajo no es otra que Fay Seton. No entiende por qué lo ha hecho y ahora teme arrepentirse de su decisión.

No me siento capacitado para agregar nada más a lo que ya se ha dicho, vea otras reseñas incluidas en esta publicación. Este es un libro que lo tiene todo, no es de extrañar que terminó en primer lugar entre los libros de Carr en una encuesta realizada por Sergio Angelini en Tipping My Fedora hace algún tiempo. Considerar que es solo la historia de un crimen imposible es claramente un error. El que susurra es mucho más que eso. Además del principal crimen imposible, contiene un intento de asesinato inspirado en Cagliostro. La trama es sobresaliente y está perfectamente elaborada. Carr utiliza eficazmente los elementos sobrenaturales incluidos en la narrativa hasta encontrar una explicación completamente racional a los hechos. Los personajes son muy atractivos, cuando no memorables. Carr juega limpio con el lector, todas las pistas están a la vista, pero hace un trabajo sobresaliente para que apenas se noten. Tanto el escenario como el tiempo en el que se desarrolla la acción están maravillosamente descritos y perfectamente integrados en la trama. El desenlace es completamente inesperado. En pocas palabras, la historia es emocionante y conmovedora, y su ejecución es impecable. Un libro que merece un lugar de honor en cualquier estantería. Una verdadera obra maestra.

Acerca del autor: John Dickson Carr (1906 – 1977) fue un prolífico autor de historias policiacas nacido en Estados Unidos que también publicó bajo los seudónimos de Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson y Roger Fairbairn. En general, se le considera como uno de los mejores escritores de misterio de la llamada “Edad de Oro”, historias complejas basadas en tramas en las que el enigma es primordial. La mayoría de sus muchas novelas y relatos cuentan con el esclarecimiento, por un excéntrico detective, de crímenes aparentemente imposibles y aparentemente sobrenaturales. En este sentido, estuvo influenciado por las obras de Gaston Leroux y por los relatos del padre Brown de GK Chesterton. Carr modeló a su detective principal, el gordo y genial lexicógrafo Dr. Gideon Fell, en Chesterton. It Walks by Night, 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, la otra serie de detectives de Carr (publicada bajo el nombre de pluma de Carter Dickson) está protagonizada por el abogado Sir Henry Merrivale, quien debutó en The Plague Court Murders (1934).

La siguiente lista no es, ni pretende ser, una bibliografía exhaustiva. Es sólo una selección de los libros de Carr que he leído o espero leer. Cualquier sugerencia adicional de libros que deba incluir es bienvenida.

Henri Bencolin: It Walks By Night (1930); The Lost Gallows (1931); Castle Skull (1931); The Waxworks Murder aka The Corpse In The Waxworks (1932), y The Door To Doom, And Other Detections (1980) una colección de relatos.

Dr Gideon Fell: Hag’s Nook (1933), The Mad Hatter Mystery (1933), The Eight of Swords (1934), The Blind Barber (1934), Death-Watch (1935), The Hollow Man aka The Three Coffins (1935), The Arabian Nights Murder (1936), To Wake the Dead (1938), The Crooked Hinge (1938), The Black Spectacles aka The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939), The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939), The Man Who Could Not Shudder (1940), The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941), Death Turns the Tables aka The Seat of the Scornful (1941), Till Death Do Us Part (1944), He Who Whispers (1946), The Sleeping Sphinx (1947), The Dead Man’s Knock (1958), In Spite of Thunder (1960), y The Man Who Explained Miracles (1963) una colección de relatos.

Sir Henry Merrivale (as Carter Dickson): 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 Ten Teacups aka The Peacock Feather Murders (1937), The Judas Window aka The Crossbow Murder (1938), Death in Five Boxes (1938), The Reader is Warned (1939), And So To Murder (1940), Murder in The Submarine Zone aka  Nine And Death Makes Ten (1940), 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) y Merrivale, March and Murder (1991) una colección de relatos.

Misterios históricos: The Devil in Velvet (1951)

Otras novelas como John Dickson Carr: The Burning Court (1937); The Emperor’s Snuff-Box (1942); The Nine Wrong Answers (1952).

Lectura recomendada: Douglas G. Greene’s John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles (Otto Penzler Books/ Simon & Schuster, 1995). Biografía y estudio crítico de sus obras.

One thought on “My Book Notes: He Who Whispers, 1946 (Dr Gideon Fell # 16) by John Dickson Carr”

  1. Indeed this is a masterpiece from Carr. Thanks for highlighting it. Let’s hope it will soon be re-printed so many more can enjoy this excellent example of near-perfect GAD.

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