Friday, 16 October 2020

Forgotten Book - Deadly Hall

Deadly Hall is a relatively little-known novel by John Dickson Carr dating from 1971. His penultimate book, it is another of his history-mysteries, set in New Orleans in 1927. Jeff Caldwell is summoned by an old friend, Dave Hobart, to the family home in the Big Easy. It's called Delys Hall, and it is an old English manor house which has been transplanted to the United States.

Delys Hall has earned the nickname Deadly Hall: some years ago, a man died there in mysterious circumstances. Now Dave is perplexed by the will of his late grandfather, who has bequeathed the Hall to Dave and his sister Serena. It seems that the Hall contains a great deal of gold, but the treasure is well hidden...

There is a good story lurking in Deadly Hall. The treasure sub-plot is, I feel, really neither here nor there, but the method by which a murder is committed on the premises, and the motive and identity of the perpetrator are interesting and satisfactory. The main difficulty is that it's quite a slog to get to "the good bits" of the story. The narrative is, to put it kindly, discursive. Pace is often lacking as the narrative gets bogged down time and again.

Carr was not a well man at the time he wrote this book, and it certainly doesn't compare with his best novels. There were, I must confess, moments when I thought that Deadly Dull might have been a better title. However, developments later in the story did engage my interest. If you haven't read Carr before, I certainly wouldn't start here. And if you're a fervent fan, you need to manage your expectations of this one. Overall, however, I was glad I battled through to the final revelations. 


Puzzle Doctor said...

Well, it sounds a tad better than the preceding The Ghosts’ High Noon. I was very excited to get a first edition with DJ for a pittance, until I actually read it! I wonder, is there any author who’s quality declined as much as Carr’s?

Martin Edwards said...

It was a considerable decline, that's for sure. Then again, he did have significant health problems for a long time and these undoubtedly made things very difficult for him. He kept going, admirably, but writing his kind of story demands a lot of energy.

The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

I have just rediscovered your wonderful blog Martin and I am looking forward to reading your new novel.

I hope you are well.


Martin Edwards said...

Hi Jane, lovely to hear from you. It's been a long time! Incredibly I am still a part-time solicitor-consultant, but writing is now predominant, which is great.