Friday, February 14, 2014

Not Your Usual Carr

By John Dickson Carr.
Harpers/Hamish Hamilton.
1942 [US], 1943 [UK]. $2.00
No Merrivale, no Fell, no impossible crime, and no spooks. Can this really be a JDC novel? Oh, yes:
Death of antiquarian peer in French resort town laid at door of young English girl. Perceptive psychologist extracts her from jam. - A bang-up puzzle, good writing, interesting characters, sly humor, and soupcon of "zizi-pompom." Maestro Carr at his very best. - Verdict: Required reading. — THE SATURDAY REVIEW (November 14, 1942)
The murder of an antiquarian in a small French resort is solved by a specialist in criminal psychology although all the circumstantial evidence points to the girl engaged to the victim’s son. A very slick whodunit. THE AMERICAN MERCURY (May 1943; scroll to page 631)
The Emperor's Snuff-Box is a non-series mystery novel (1942) by mystery novelist John Dickson Carr. The detective is psychologist Dr. Dermot Kinross.
The novel takes place in France and concerns a jeweled snuff-box in the shape of a pocket watch said to have belonged to Napoleon. A pretty young Englishwoman living in France forms a romantic attachment and becomes a suspect in the murder of her fiance's father; the theft of a valuable necklace and the smashing of the snuff-box are also mysteries to be solved. The novel served as the basis for the 1957 film That Woman Opposite, for which Compton Bennett wrote the screenplay.
It is considered one of Carr's great novels and is considered the best among those with no locked room murders or impossible crimes. There's nothing supernatural in it either. — Wikipedia
Singled out by Carr himself as one of his best efforts, this is quite an anomalous title from the great writer's oeuvre, though it displays many of his greatest virtues. Constructed with his trademark cunning, the story does not feature an impossible crime and is also one of the author's comparatively few books set in contemporary times not feature either of his popular detectives Dr Gideon Fell or Sir Henry Merrivale. Indeed it is the only one of his novels from the 1940s not to feature them. Which is to say that this book is indeed a bit special—not least because it may be the closest Carr ever came to writing a murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie, the entire plot based on a superbly clever psychological device rather than locked room pyrotechnics. — Sergio, TIPPING MY FEDORA (2 September 2012)
This makes for an engrossing psychological suspense story that neatly plays a tune on one of Agatha Christie's most well-used themes, the eternal triangle, which also boasts a clever, but ultimately simple, plot—whose crafty misdirection lead me away from the murderer. I think every well-read and clued-up mystery fan will guess the murderer instinctively, but a talented mystery writer can fling the solution in your face and laugh at you as you reject it and settle on a different suspect. That's exactly what Carr did here. — TomCat, BENEATH THE STAINS OF TIME (April 27, 2012)
The characters have enough depth to be convincing, and—although relatively little happens after the murder—the plot moves fast enough to keep the reader's interest. There are a couple of coincidences which seem a little strained on reflection, but Carr puts them through with gusto at the time, which is what counts—and the red herring is first-rate. — Jon, GAD Wiki
One of the best uses of misdirection and one of the most fairly clued of Carr's detective novels. A truly astute reader will catch on easily. The use of the wrongly accused motif was very Hitchcockian. Very cinematic in how the murder is accomplished . . . — J. F. Norris, GAD Wiki

Category: Detective fiction

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