As the train whipped past the platform, gathering speed, Miles stood with his face against the glass of the doors. Half a dozen persons straggled towards the way out. Dingy overhead lights swung with the wind which billowed through this stale-smelling cavern. He clearly saw Fay – in an open tweed coat and black beret, with the same blank, miserable, tortured look on her face – walking towards the way out as the train bore him past into the tunnel.
[He follows her to her home] Miles stood motionless for a second or two, watching out of the corner of his eye that blurred shadow moving on the wall, before he turned the knob. The door was not locked. He opened it. Fay Seton, still in the tweed coat over her dove-grey dress, stood in front of a chest of drawers looking round inquiringly. Her expression was placid, not even very interested, until she saw who the newcomer was. Then she gave a smothered cry.
observations: My goodness John Dickson Carr could write a book that would keep you reading. They are short and to the point, and if you think a chapter is fading away with people saying let’s go home, or let’s go to bed, you can be sure it will end with a smothered cry, or ‘It was the sound of a pistol-shot.’
He specialized in locked-room mysteries, and made no pretence that there was anything real about these murder methods, but his characters were fun and amusing, and the puzzles were great. This one is set in London in 1945, but looking back at a death in France in 1939. The London details are wonderful: the underground train goes through Strand, a station that is now only a ghost, and there is a restaurant upstairs at Waterloo station – which very recently became true again.
How can you not love a book in which, outrageously, the young dashing hero Miles won a Nobel Prize for History in 1938? A book where Dr Fell says
I could credit a vampire who killed with a sword-stick. But I could not credit a vampire who pinched somebody’s brief-case containing money.I recently rather cheekily suggested on the Guardian Books Blog that JD Carr wished he could write more openly about sex, and if he’d been writing in these more permissive times he would be writing openly sexy thrillers. The sex is hidden away in his books, just popping up now and again in a weird and surprising way. By the standards of his time, he had some quite refreshing women characters, straightforwardly sexy and often with jobs and careers, and wearing trousers – see a very good example in this blog entry.
The picture is from Dovima is devine.
Another John Dickson Carr book here.