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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

The Skeleton in the Clock (Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery)

The Skeleton in the Clock - Carter Dickson

There's a lot to unpack about this book, and I doubt I'll cover all of it.  I enjoyed my first John Dickson Carr read (The Mad Hatter Mystery) so much, I wanted to try out the series he wrote under the pseudonym Carter Dickson, one title of which I happened to have on the ole TBR pile.

 

If I were to judge based only on these two books, I'd have to say the Merrivale series is the one where he let his nutty flag fly.  This book was hilarious; I laughed out loud several times at the start, and the witticisms and situational humor continue unabated throughout the rest of the story.  There was also a vibe here that kept me thinking several times that this was what a Mary Stewart book would look like if it were written by a man (if that makes sense).  That's not strictly accurate, but there's an essence of those types of storylines here.

 

The language was, to a modern reader, a bit obstructionist.  It's very, very English and Dickson spent a lot of page space on "Ho! Ho!", "Oh, ah", "Phooey" and "Ahem" in ways that are out of sync with our style of speech.  I was also never clear who the narrator was supposed to be; it's definitely third person, but there was a time or two when the fourth wall came down and comments were made that made it sound like the narrator was Martin Drake.

 

The plotting was, well, ok, here's the thing: the plotting was done so well and the murderer took me by such complete surprise, that the whole thing sort of backfired in the sense that I didn't buy into it at the end.  There was no ah-hah moment, more a wait-wtf moment.  The evidence is all there for the reader, but the psychology didn't work.

 

Still, I thought it was a hugely entertaining read.  I wouldn't go so far as to call it an essential read, or even insist it's a must for Golden Age enthusiasts, but if you're in the mood for a laugh and don't mind a narrative that can be a bit thick, it's an extremely amusing tale.