Friday, 1 June 2012

The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr

Edward Stevens, 'who was not much different from you or me', was going by train to his weekend home in the countryside. It was not an unusual day or evening. Working in an important position in a publisher's house, his editor had given him a manuscript of murder trials by Gaudan Cross, the mysterious writer who liked having his photo printed on the jacket.

Stevens couldn't help thinking about the death of his neighbour, Miles Despard of gastro-entritis. Miles did not have children of his own, so his brother's children would inherit the estate. They found a string with nine knots beneath the dead man's pillow. And Mrs Henderson had reported a strange event, a woman in a 'queer old-fashioned dress' was in Miles' room just before he died and went out of a door that didn't exist. Nothing really significant. Maybe something wrong with Mrs Henderson.

Abroad the train Stevens starts reading the manuscript by Cross and gets the shock of his life, to see the photo of his wife, underneath the photo her name and that she was guillotined in 1861. Probably, an ancestor of his wife?

He comes home and finds the photo missing. No longer this evening is ordinary. There are so many bizzare events. At one point of time, I was expecting zombies walking in the middle of the night to the heavy metal music. (influence of watching too many horror movies). There are people disappearing into mirrors, corpses missing from their coffins. There are two locked room mystery components in this book. One, who entered the room and disappeared into the mirror and possibly murdered Miles when all the doors are locked. Next, how did the Corpse disappear from the vault. How or where did the Corpse go from a closed coffin?

Who killed Miles, if he was killed? And more importantly how? How did somebody enter a locked room and walk out of a door that did not exist? Oh! I love the twist in the end. I didn't see it coming. One of the best mysteries I have read and Carr creates quite an atmosphere. Now I want to read all books written by Carr.

My post for Letter B for the Crime Fiction Alphabet.


Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this review - Carr is my all time favourite Golden Age writer, even after 30 years as a fan.

Carol said...

This is one of my favorite books by Carr. A fantastic premise for a novel and you're right, the twist at the end is stunning.

Unknown said...

What an odd but lovely book you've review. Thanks.

J.L. Campbell said...

Your write up is so interesting that I too want to read this book.

Eustacia Tan said...

Sounds like an interesting mystery(: