Lord Mantling owns an old and decaying mansion in London, in that Mansion there is a particular room. A sinister room which has caused the death of various friends and family of the Mantling's. The terror of that room claimed its first victim back in 1803 when the body of the victim was found with his face discolored, it was immediately attributed to poisoning, and then over the years the room kept on killing and got its infamous name The Red Widow Chamber. The Legend of the room is that anybody who goes into it alone dies within a couple of hours.
Lord Mantling's father got the room locked up after another death 30 years ago, now before this decaying mansion is taken down. Mantling wants to open the room and sit inside for 2 hours, a test of the testosterone but there are other suitors for the red widow so in the end it is decided that they will draw cards and whoever gets the highest will sit in the room alone for 2 hours.
An unobtrusive man draws the ace of spades/ the death card and moves in the room to spend 2 hours, it is decided that people sitting outside will call him after every 15 minutes to check whether is alright or not. The room itself has two entrances the front door and a french window which is barred and the screws so tight, that opening it would require a superhuman effort.
2 hours pass and the assemblage sitting outside keep on calling and the voice at the other end keeps on responding. At the end of the 2 hours the man is asked to come out of the room and have a drink but there is no one who responds, they hurry towards the red widow chamber and found the man lying dead. How can it be? no one came in as the entrance was watched and no one came out, on searching they find the room empty without any vestige of a man or a demon.
But the real twist in the tale is that when the Doctor arrives and declares the man to have been dead for over an hour, no one can fathom who or what was replying from the room if this man has been dead for over an hour?? HM is at site present as an independent witness. who must now solve one of the most scary and obscure cases of his career.
Review: I think that the abstract above speaks for the mystery. It is quite bewildering and engrossing, This is one of the best Carr's I have read and the best part is that the solution is easy to understand unlike the Hollow Man. HM is at his witty best, there is one part in the book which will have you in splits this is where Chief Inspector Masters explains to HM and the rest of the crew on how he thinks the murder was done, this is especially hilarious as the old man gets pissed off cause of Master's antics.
The Characters in the Mansion are extremes some have been drawn well others haven't been given much book space. I for one would have like to see more book space for the prima donna.
Also I felt that the book could have been a tad smaller that what it was.
The eerie ambiance that Carr creates around the room and the history/legend of the room can be immediately felt by the user.
I was impressed by the amount of research that Carr must have done for this book like the part about the French revolution or the part about the Sanson family(official executioners of France) or the very riveting little part about Ventriloquism.
Where do I get this: Unfortunately this is not in print and very difficult to find, try infibeam or that relative in NY or London.