Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Problem of the Green Capsule by John Dickson Carr

What would you do to prove your pet theory? Would you be willing to die to prove it? When Marcus Chesney planned an elaborate set up to prove his pet theory, that eyewitnesses are not reliable, he did not plan to get himself killed, but his murderer used this ingenious plan to kill him. Marcus not only had three eyewitnesses for his murder, he also had it filmed. So catching his murderer would be no difficulty, or would it be? If the murderer is dressed as an 'invisible man', and none of the eye witnesses agree on as simple thing as the time that is clearly visible on the clock in the stage or the height of the killer, can the police catch the culprit. Police? Maybe not. Scotland Yard? Maybe. Dr. Gideon Fell? Definitely.

"No hermetically sealed rooms. No supernatural elements." Will Dr. Fell be interested in this case? When Scotland Yard detective Elliot is infatuated with one of the main suspects, he approaches Dr. Fell and he decides to help put away the poisoner.

In Sodbury Cross, a market-town near Bath, "is a criminal lunatic who enjoys poisoning people wholesale." Somebody introduced poisoned chocolates in Mrs.Terry's tobacco-and-sweet shop, poisoning three children and an eighteen year old, one of the children died and Marcus Chesney's niece Marjorie is suspected of the poisoning. Marcus wants to prove his pet theory that "All men are unobservant". And "Whenever he had a theory, he had to test it. And this is the result." He also wants to prove how the poisoned chocolates found its way into Mrs Terry's without anybody noticing it. He sets up a short play with a list of questions to be answered afterwards, only thing he hadn't planned, is that he wouldn't be there to enjoy his victory. Who killed Marcus and why? Are the cases relates? Is a maniac running loose? Gideon Fell solves this ingenious case.

I didn't guess the killer, though I should have. There were clues. And at one point I was foolishly thinking why in detective stories 'somebody' is not the killer. Foolish because 'somebody' is often the killer in Agatha Christie's books and I told myself this immediately after the thought occurred. Foolish again because while I linked the thought to Christie's books, how have I failed to link it to this story. And even when Elliot echoed my thoughts, I should have linked it, I failed it. No matter. It is the ingenuity of the plot, John Dickson Carr lead me where he wanted to lead me and very early on I had marked someone as the murderer and I wouldn't budge. Classic detective story, some great work for the grey cells.

This book was originally published in 1939 and also published under the alternative title The Black Spectacles.

Thanks to Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out for gifting me this book, I won a prize among those successfully completing Eclectic Reading Challenge 2012. This book is a treasure.

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