Till Death Do Us PartCrime, Mystery
Series: British Library Crime Classics
"Who can I trust?"
Love-sick Dick Markham is reeling. He's set to marry Lesley Grant -- a woman whom he learns is not who she appears to be. She seems to have been associated with three poisonings, all of which were in locked rooms. Another crime has been committed and we will watch the great Dr. Fell investigate through Markham's watchful eyes.
That night the enigmatic fortune teller-and chief accuser-is found dead in an impossible locked-room setup, casting suspicion onto Grant and striking doubt into the heart of her lover. Lured by the scent of the impossible case, Dr. Gideon Fell arrives from London to examine the perplexing evidence and match wits with a meticulous killer at large.
I should preface this by saying (for anyone just tuning into my reviews now) that I really didn’t like the first couple of books by John Dickson Carr that I tried. After I read He Who Whispers, though, something clicked, and I determined to give him a little more time. Now that I’ve finished this one, I’m feeling a bit more complicated about it.
First, his female characters often leave something to be desired. There’s a certain almost femme fatale character type that he uses a few times (including here and in He Who Whispers) that I really don’t enjoy, though it can be difficult to explain exactly why not. Something about the overwrought helplessness of them, I think: the highly emotionally charged scenes where I favour a practical character who just steps up and takes control for herself. Which… not everyone or every character has to be like that, but when an author leans into the overwrought female stereotype multiple times, you really start to notice.
And of course, there’s his locked room mysteries, and his detectives. He tries so hard to come up with ingenious mysteries where you need to notice the tiniest clues and draw inferences from them if you want to treat it as a fair-play mystery — and to me, it feels sometimes like a rabbit just gets pulled out of the hat.
This one does get explained well, but there was a while where it was just too frustrating for words (I made a lot of cranky noises at it; my wife was definitely laughing at me). I don’t know quite what I’d want to make it hang together better for me: maybe just a bit more sense of the detective (and those around him) as humans. I’m not sure what drives Gideon Fell, beyond the love of a puzzle, yet on several occasions he shows a very human and humane side. I think a little more of that would do wonders for me.
Anyway, my newfound faith in John Dickson Carr isn’t quite shaken, but I hope the next book of his that I read takes a slightly different tack.