Sunday, 3 March 2013

Below Suspicion by John Dickson Carr

I read two books by John Dickson Carr last year, The Burning court and The Problem of the Wire Cage. I loved both of them. I borrowed Below Suspicion published in 1949 from the Openlibrary.

Patrick Butler, a barrister, is one hell of a defending lawyer nicknamed 'the Great Defender', he could always get his client free out of prison, even when he is sure that his client is guilty. Patrick is never wrong and he never loses his case. Joyce Ellis is accused of poisoning Mrs.Taylor. Joyce worked as a companion-nurse-secretary to Mrs.Taylor and pleads vehemently that she is innocent. Patrick feels otherwise.

When Mrs.Taylor's relative Richard Renshaw also dies by poisoning by the same substance, suspicion falls on his beautiful, blonde seductive wife Lucia. Should I say Patrick falls for Lucia and believes she is innocent? Can he prove that Lucia is innocent? Who killed Mrs.Taylor and why? Who killed Renshaw? Patrick Butler, brilliant though he is, now needs the help of Gideon Fell to solve this case.

Carr plays with our perception of innocence and guilt. Butler finds himself in a curious position after he falls for Lucia. He had saved the innocent looking according-to-him guilty Joyce and turned the suspicion on seductive Lucia, now his love. When Gideon Fell brings in the concept of serial poisoners and devil worship, I couldn't help wondering where it is going. Whatever the reason, there is a plausible explanation on who did it, how and why! I like the way the story moves from logical to fantastic and moves back again to logic.

If you wonder, what below suspicion is, Carr explains that in a murder investigation no one is above suspicion. But some are below suspicion, like the investigator, the butler, maid, and servants who have no motive. Did I figure who the murderer is? No! Carr has created a perfect smokescreen that it is not possible for me to see the truth until the revelation.

I couldn't just pass this snippet about the Labour Government and democracy without sharing it.

"The term she mentions, Doctor," he said richly, "were framed by our Labour Government to describe any man who works with his brain rather than his hands."

The star of the fanatic sprang into Miss. Cannon's eyes; as, on the other side of the fence, it was also in Butler's.

"The Government, young man," Miss. Cannon said pityingly, "do not exactly work with their hands."

"No, madam. Or with their brains. I should respect them more if they did either."
"You ought to be jailed for speaking against the Government!" cried Miss. Cannon. "We're living in a democracy!"

"Madam," said Bustle, closing his eyes, " your remark is such a perfect thing that its beauty must not be spoiled by comment. I accept the definition."

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