The Plague Court Murders
by Carter Dickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wasn't sure about this book at the start. The backstory about the history of the house (Plague Court is the name of a house) was a bit too old-fashioned and gothic for me. Once H.M. comes into it the pace picked up considerably and once the mystery of the locked room started to unravel I couldn't put it down. I don't want to give away the solution, but I will say that it was a very clever crime and that all the clues were there (though they are spelled clews which I thought was weird) if I had been sharp enough to spot them.
This book (first published in 1934) counts toward the Vintage Mystery Challenge. It is a locked room mystery, but I am going to count it in the category Things That Go Bump in the Night: a mystery with something spooky, creepy, gothic in the title (The Skeleton in the Clock, Haunted Lady, The Bat, etc.) because Plague Court is a haunted house and the first theory about the murder (I'm not saying if it holds up or not) is that it was committed by a ghost.
I have always enjoyed "The Plague Court Murders," Mary, largely because of that gothic atmosphere. Carr was really good at writing pseudo-historical documents as near-horror stories, and he really does have the reader wondering if a ghost might have committed the murder. H.M. develops over later books, and the stories with H.M. get funnier - but I still love the atmosphere created by this book, and I agree that the solution is fairly (if obscurely) clued.ReplyDelete
Les, which HM would you recommend next?Delete
I think "The Judas Window" could be the best of all the H. M. stories. It's an apparently impossible locked-room crime - one of Carr's best setups - but H.M. teases readers throughout the book by saying that it was quite clear - the crime was committed through what he calls "a Judas window." And what is that, you may ask? Why, he says, almost every room has one. The trouble, as he says, is that so few people even notice it. He'll explain. Eventually. Has some WONDERFUL H.M. in court (he's the defense attorney) scenes. As one of the characters says to him, at the very end of the book, “I am inclined to suspect that you are a disgrace to all the splendid traditions of the fairness of English law.” It's a first-rate book, and the Rue Morgue Press has republished it, so it should be readily available.Delete