Friday, May 1, 2015

Murder as a "calming reprieve"

Every now and then the editors of First Things post about "What We've Been Reading." Mark Bauerlein's choice reminds me of an author I once read, enjoyed, and might again:
John Dickson Carr's Hag's Nook is an old whodunit: the first of Carr's mysteries with Dr.Gideon Fell as prime inquirer. An amateur lexicographer living outside London with his wife in a modest cottage, Fell is fat and disheveled, blustering and eccentric in manner, and it is said that he is based upon Chesterton, whose Father Brown mysteries Carr admired.

Carr's fiction focuses on puzzles, like the “locked-room murder” in which a victim is found inside a locked room and there is no apparent way the killer could have escaped. Hag's Nook poses the same kinds of impossibility, and to enter Carr's 1930s English world after a day of protests in Union Square, cars rushing past booming a benumbing hip-hop beat, and construction taking place on the other side of my office wall is a calming reprieve. (John Dickson Carr, Hag's Nook)
John Dickson Carr also collaborated with Adrian Conan Doyle (son of Arthur Conan Doyle) on The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes based on "unresolved cases" referred to in the original Holmes stories including one titled "The Sealed Room." I've owned a copy of that collection since I was in high school.