The Eight of Swords (1934) by John Dickson Carr

The Eight of Swords by John Dickson Carr

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“Of all the motiveless and unenterprising sluggards to gather up as suspects, the rest of us are the worst! At least, in a crime story, you get a lot of motives and plenty of suspicious behavior. You have a quarrel overheard by the butler, and somebody threatening to kill somebody, and somebody else sneaking out to bury a blood-stained handkerchief in the flower bed. . . . But here we’ve nothing of the kind.”

The Bishop of Mappleham has lost his mind. This worthy gentleman, previously known only for his interest in criminology, has turned the country home of his host Colonel Standish upside down with his antics, from sliding down the bannisters to throwing inkwells at the vicar. No one seems to know whether the Bishop is going mad or there’s a poltergeist on the loose. Still, it’s hardly a matter for Scotland Yard, until the Colonel’s neighbor, Septimus Depping, is found murdered in his study after a late-night thunderstorm, with all the windows wide open.

Dr. Gideon Fell doesn’t think it’s his kind of case. It seems far too ordinary. His interest is piqued, however, when he learns that a card depicting the eight of swords was found beside the body. Dr. Fell sets out to investigate, along with a host of fellow sleuths that include the crime-loving bishop and a detective story author, but will too many cooks spoil the murder? Continue reading “The Eight of Swords (1934) by John Dickson Carr”

The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson (1934)

The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson

9 Stars (9/10 stars)

They say that a soul on the lower plane, a malevolent one, is always watchful and always cunning. That this one mass of dead evil is always waiting for the opportunity to take possession of a living body, and change the weak brain for its own, just as it infests a house. Do you think, then, that the clot could take possession …?”

The house on Plague Court has been in the Halliday family for centuries, quietly falling into ruin. Lately, however, things have not been so quiet. Lady Anne Benning believes her nephew Dean Halliday is possessed by the spirit of a sixteenth-century hangman. Under the influence of an enigmatic “psychical researcher” named Roger Darworth, she and Dean’s fiancée, Marion Latimer, are drawn to Plague Court, obsessed by the thought of evil spirits. When the hangman’s dagger vanishes from a London museum, even the skeptical Halliday starts to wonder whether they might be correct. Could he really be possessed by his ancestor’s ghost? Continue reading “The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson (1934)”

It Walks By Night (1930) by John Dickson Carr

It Walks By Night by John Dickson Carr

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“Somewhere in the house, unsuspected behind a familiar mask, was walking a man who had no heart or brain, but only a mechanism tuned to kill.”

It is the wedding night of Raoul de Saligny and his bride Louise, yet this couple is far from happy. Louise’s violently insane ex-husband Laurent has escaped from the asylum. All they know is that he received plastic surgery, then killed the surgeon. Threatening letters claim that he has infiltrated their inner circle. Seeking safety in crowds, Louise and Raoul spend the night of their wedding at Fenelli’s casino, under the watchful eye of magistrate Henri Bencolin.

A gruesome locked-room murder leaves even Bencolin confounded. “I often kill,” Laurent has told his psychiatrist. “I have a way of getting into houses, Herr Doktor, which nobody knows but myself.” Could a werewolf be roaming the streets of Paris? Continue reading “It Walks By Night (1930) by John Dickson Carr”

Till Death Do Us Part (1944) by John Dickson Carr

Till Death Do Us Part by John Dickson Carr

10 Stars (10/10 stars)

“Whatever your interpretation of the facts, don’t you find this situation just a little suspicious? Just a little unsavory?”

Dark clouds are threatening the village fete. Newly engaged Dick Markham and Lesley Grant are too much in love to care, however. Dick shows off his prowess at the rifle range, while keeping a fond eye on Lesley as she heads for the fortune-teller’s tent.

When she emerges from the tent, deeply shaken, it’s clear something has gone wrong. As thunder crashes and lightning throws their shadows on the walls of the tent, Dick confronts the soothsayer. Only this is no ordinary fortune-teller, but a figure from Lesley’s past. Before the man has a chance to share his revelations with Dick, a gunshot rings out. The fortune-teller has been shot—by sweet, shy Lesley. In the days that follow, Dick must face village gossip, a series of impossible crimes, and his own doubts. Is his fiancée a cold-blooded killer? Continue reading “Till Death Do Us Part (1944) by John Dickson Carr”

The Mad Hatter Mystery (1933) by John Dickson Carr

The Mad Hatter Mystery by John Dickson Carr 1933

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“I’ve got to separate the nonsense and the happenings of pure chance from the really ugly side of the business. Chance started it, and murder finished it; that’s what I think.”

London is paralyzed by an unprecedented crime wave—someone is stealing hats from the heads of prominent men and replacing them in ridiculous locations. Reporter Philip Driscoll has seized on the story of the “Mad Hatter” with special glee. His uncle, newspaper magnate Sir William Bitton, has already lost several hats, but that isn’t why he’s consulting Chief Inspector Hadley and Dr. Gideon Fell. Sir William has lost something far more valuable, the manuscript of a previously unknown Edgar Allan Poe story.

Before Fell can begin his investigation, however, the Mad Hatter strikes again. This time the prank has turned fatal. Driscoll is found dead at the Tower of London, his body sprawled at Traitor’s Gate with the bolt from a medieval crossbow protruding from his chest. In a final, macabre touch, the casually dressed corpse is wearing his uncle’s missing top hat. Continue reading “The Mad Hatter Mystery (1933) by John Dickson Carr”

The Burning Court (1937) by John Dickson Carr

Book Cover of The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr 1937

10 Stars (10/10 stars)

“This is April, not Halloween. Women on broomsticks are a little out of my line. If you tell me that a woman put a spell on Mr. Miles Despard, and rubbed herself with ointment, and got into a dress several hundred odd years old, and consequently walked through that wall—well, all I’ve got to say is, I want a case that’ll at least get past the grand jury.”

Ted Stevens is a happy man. He loves his job as a book editor, his weekend home in a quaint Pennsylvania village, and, most of all, he loves his wife Marie. The only small shadow on his contentment is the recent death of his neighbor, Miles Despard—a bit untimely, but surely natural.

Then one day he opens a book and his life changes forever. Ted begins reading a manuscript about historical crime and sees the photograph of a woman executed for murder seventy years earlier. The woman in the photograph is his wife.

Continue reading “The Burning Court (1937) by John Dickson Carr”