LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
the book: She Died a Lady by Carter Dickson/John Dickson Carr
(all books by this author listed as John Dickson Carr on the blog, though he wrote under both names)
‘Have you met Mrs Sullivan? Is she up?’
‘Up,’ answered Molly, ‘and dressing.’
‘How do you like her?’
‘I like her tremendously.’ Molly’s face was perplexed. ‘But I say, Dr Luke! Doesn’t she use the most frightful language?’
‘You’ll get used to that.’
‘And she would keep walking past the window,’ Molly said, ‘with practically nothing on. That crowd at the Coach and Horse were standing at the windows over there with their eyes popping out of their heads. If you’re not careful, Dr Luke, you’re going to get a very bad reputation in Lyncombe.’
‘At my time of life?’
‘I’ve just taken her in some stockings,’ Molly went on. ‘They were my last pair of silk ones. But, as Belle would say, what the hell?...’
[Later the landlord of the Coach and Horses comes round] Harry said: ‘Then this morning, blow me if a young lady – and a very ‘andsome young lady; I’m not saying she’s not! – goes and exhibits herself practically stark naked at the window of your ‘ouse.’
‘That didn’t upset the customers, I trust?’
‘No, but it upset my missus,’ confided Harry, lowering his voice. ‘And there’s other ladies ‘oo don’t feel too ‘appy about it neither. Somebody told the parson down at St Mark’s and ‘e come a-charging up here; ah, and seemed a bit disappointed ’e got ’ere too late to give ’er a piece ’is mind.’
observations: Another World War 2 book.
Sergio over at Tipping My Fedora last year gathered votes from readers for a poll on the best John Dickson Carr books. You can see the results here, and this was one of the top 10. He describes it like this:
A great whodunit and a great impossible crime mystery in which Henry Merrivale has to figure out how a set of footprints leading to an edge of a cliff without any returning is still murder for the couple found at the bottom. I came to this one after reading many of the old man’s cases – and was stunned by how good it was.As it was one I didn’t remember I decided to give it a go, and my goodness it’s a terrific read. It’s set in the early days of the war – one character obsessively listens to radio news bulletins – in a small village. Rita is married to a much older man, but has fallen in love with another. One night she and her new man rush out of the house in despair, and apparently jump off a cliff in a suicide pact. But is that what really happened? It’s a fairly outrageous plot, but very clever and very well done. There was one part of the mechanics that is hard to swallow, but the revelation of the guilty party completely took me by surprise. I thought I had a good idea what was going on, and was totally wrong – a most enjoyable sensation.
There’s one oddity (which doesn’t affect the solution): JDC appears to believe that the tide times remain constant – a local says ‘The tide in these parts begins to go out about 4 o’clock in the afternoon.’
The light relief in the book is excellent, and the character of Belle, above, is a delight. She’s a London night-club hostess, and after a bad experience, her brilliant choice of simile is that she is ‘as cramped as though I’d been doing marathon-dancing.’
Altogether one of JDC’s best, and would definitely be on my top 5 list if Sergio ever asks again.
Nina Hamnett is another character who likes parading in front of the window – see blog entry here, where we first used the top picture. And as ever, the blog enjoys a reference to stockings – in wartime they would start to become scarce. The picture is from the NYPL.