Friday, 24 June 2016

Forgotten Book - A Graveyard to Let

A Graveyard to Let, my Forgotten Book for today, is a novel by Carter Dickson (aka John Dickson Carr) first published in 1949, and featuring Sir Henry Merrivale. Unusually, it's set in the author's native USA, with that extrovert Englishman Sir Henry causing chaos from the moment he arrives in New York. There are several comic scenes, and although I don't find Carr's humour as irresistible as his scenarios, there's certainly an excellent puzzle to solve.

Sir Henry is invited to visit the home of wealthy Frederick Manning to witness a miracle, and a miracle is exactly what appears to take place. Manning has three children, and he's caused consternation by becoming involved with a woman whom they believe to be some kind of floosy. There are also some reasons to believe that Manning's financial position may not be as healthy as it once was. Has he been milking corporate funds? The authorities are on his trail...

With this lead-up, Manning dives - fully clothed - into his swimming pool. But he doesn't come out again. His clothes are found, but there is no sign of him. What on earth has happened? It's a highly intriguing "impossible crime" scenario, one that has been widely admired. Nobody has ever done this sort of thing quite as well as Carr, and certainly not with such consistency.

That said, I felt that the book was flawed in some ways. For me, the solution did not live up to the brilliance of the basic premise, and the characterisation struck me as some way short of Carr at his best, with motivations that I struggled to believe in. I continue, on the whole, to prefer the Gideon Fell books to the Merrivales, but even so, the concept of a man disappearing completely after diving into a pool is memorable enough for this book to be worth a read. Below-par Carr is still, in most cases, pretty good.

1 comment:

Barry Ergang said...

I read this one a long, long time ago and recall enjoying it, even if I don't recall its specifics you refer to. That said, I realize it might be one of Carr's lesser efforts, despite its wonderful premise. On the other hand, lesser Carr is usually superior to most of the efforts of those "impossible" crime storytellers who've come after him.