My forgotten book today is an obscure but extraordinary novel written by a fascinating, idiosyncratic and sometimes maddening American Golden Age storyteller. The book is Careless Corpse, first published in 1937, and the author C. Daly King. And it included that odd paragraph on economics that I teased you with yesterday.
I’ve mentioned King before in this blog. He was a psychologist who wrote books on the subject, and he drew from his professional expertise for his novels. But this did not take him down the road of “psychological suspense” – his fiction bears no resemblance to that of Francis Iles, say, or C.S. Forester. On the contrary, he specialised in elaborate puzzles, often weighed down by strange digressions into academic debates. An example is the passage I quoted in my quiz question.
In this novel, a series of deaths occur among members of a party of celebrities – including a concert pianist, a violinist, a dancer, a composer, and a musical critic. The party is organised by a wealthy scientist, and the setting is an island amid the ice-floes of the Hudson River.
As so often, King provides helpful diagrams – no fewer than five – and arranges the text in a series of “movements” to underline the musical aspects of the story. The plot is elaborate and wildly ingenious (and, of course, improbable) and there is some entertaining writing mixed in with a bit of padding here and there. I don’t claim this book is great literature, but I really did enjoy it as a light, escapist read.