Friday, 23 September 2016

Forgotten Book - Till Death Do Us Part

Another Forgotten Book today from one of my favourite maestros of the Golden Age. First published in 1944, Till Death Do Us Part is a very well-regarded novel by John Dickson Carr, and I'm not about to dissent from the reviewers' chorus of approval. The setting is an English country village (there is even a cricket match, as well as a village fete), nicely evoked by this most Anglophile of American writers, and the detecting is done by Carr's premier sleuth, Dr Gideon Fell.

Richard Markham is, at the start of the story, blissfully happy. He's just become engaged to be married to the delightful, if rather mysterious, Lesley Grant. But in a crime novel, every silver lining has a cloud, and unfortunately one of the star attractions at the village fete is a fortune teller. Dick learns that the fortune teller is Sir Harvey Gilman, a famous criminologist, and before long he is being told something rather terrible - Lesley Grant is not the woman she appears to be.

Dick Markham learns that Lesley has been associated with three poisonings; in each case the victim was the man in her life. There was never any evidence to establish her guilt of murder, but the coincidence is appalling. Dick is not, however, destined for an early grave. In fact, it is the fortune teller who meets an unnatural end - poisoned in exactly the same way as Lesley's three supposed victims.

The plot twists and turns very nicely. One of the characters, Major Price, was evidently based on Carr's chum, the author John Rhode (who was also the model for Colonel March in another set of Carr stories). I thought I had solved the puzzle, but Carr bamboozled me - very satisfying in a fair play whodunit in the classic mould. This is an ingenious and highly enjoyable story, with a very pleasing solution and a brisk narrative pace. It's one of Carr's best books, I think.


8 comments:

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I completely agree - one of my favourites and like the Carter Dickson book, SHE DIED A LADY, weirdly overlooked despite being absolutely first rate Carr.

Jonathan said...

I think it's one of Carr's best novels too! :) I usually shy away from the histrionic excesses in Carr's writing, but I thought the melodrama worked in this one. If I recall correctly, the solution seemed slightly too technical/ mechanical for my tastes...

Keenan Powell said...

I'm so curious about him! How do I get copies of this book? It's not on US Amazon.

Barry Ergang said...

Keenan, sellers on abebooks.com have copies available at modest prices: http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/kw/till-death-do-us-part-carr-john-dickson/

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments. Barry, thanks for mentioning Abe - a very good point.

J said...

As we have noted in the Facebook pages, it's wonderful to have so many Golden Agers rescued from obscurity, but why does Carr remain out of print?

Martin Edwards said...

J, I believe that the rights of most of the Carr books are tied up somewhere or other, but there are a few that are potentially available. I'm hoping that something can be done about one or two of them.

Arthur Robinson said...

This was the first book by Carr I read, and as soon as I finished it, I visited all the used bookshops in town and bought anything by Carr I could find. It’s still one of my favorites, and I’ve been surprised that this (like She Died a Lady, another of my favorites) is seldom mentioned as one of Carr’s best--usually relegated to the second-tier “not bad” rank. I was hooked by the end of Chapter 3, and the twist at the end of Chapter 10 blew my mind. I did catch one of the clues to the murderer, but missed several others, and completely missed the secondary impossible situation, how someone was able to walk off with a rifle in front of several witnesses.