He Who WhispersCrime, Mystery
Series: British Library Crime Classics
'It almost seemed that the murder, if it was a murder, must have been committed by someone who could rise up unsupported in the air…'
When Miles Hammond is invited to a meeting of the Murder Club in London, he is met instead with just two other guests and is treated to a strange tale of an impossible crime in France from years before; the murder of a man on a tower with only one staircase, under watch at the time at which the murder took place. With theories of levitating vampires abounding, the story comes home to Miles when he realises that the librarian he has just hired for his home is none other than Fay Seton, a woman whose name still echoes from the heart of this bizarre and unsolved murder of the past.
I don’t normally get along with John Dickson Carr’s work. In fact, I don’t even buy the British Library Crime Classic editions — it’s one of only three gaps in my collection (a few of the short story collections, which I’m slowly picking up, and the Sergeant Cluff books are the others), because I just haven’t got along with the others.
It’s hard to say why this was an exception. I think in part it’s that it’s a fair-play mystery. Though there is a Great Detective (Gideon Fell), the POV character isn’t treated too much as his side-kick, and there’s some interesting attempts at psychological realism (even if it’s unfortunately in part about a “nymphomaniac” girl). I was able to form theories about it, and feel like I had the clues that fell into place at the right moments, and I didn’t universally hate the characters. There’s nothing so straightforward as some of Carr’s other female characters and snap romances.
It’s enough to give me hope for some of the Carr books I haven’t picked up yet: maybe some of those will equally have some joys for me. I was glad I gave this a shot thanks to my British Library Crime Classics subscription!