Dick Markham is one lucky fellow. He is a local celebrity and a successful play writer, he is also engaged to the beautiful, rich, 28 year old girl(who does not look a day over twenty) called Lesley Grant. Life could not get better for Dick. The two of them attend a local fair and Lesley insists on seeing the fortune teller alone. She is apparently unaware that the fortune teller is being played by Sir Harvey Gilman, the Home Office pathologist and expert on crime. After her conspicuous meeting with the fortune teller Lesley looks visibly perturbed. Dick confronts the fortune teller about the same and just as the fortune teller is about to make Dick Privy to a secret about Lesley Bang! There is a shot fired and Sir Harvey Gilman is shot through the back accidentally by Lesley.
Later, Dick gets a call from the local GP's home. There he meets the convalescing Sir Harvey Gilman. Sir Harvey has dark deep secrets about Lesley. Sir Harvey tells Dick Diabolical tales about Lesley's Antecedence, he tells him that she has been married twice and engaged once and all three suitors were found dead in a locked room. All three of them committed suicide by injecting themselves with Prussic Acid. Woha! also the sweet innocent looking Lesley is actually 41 years old!
Dick's fairy tale life comes crashing down on him, crestfallen he goes back home when he is woken in the early hours of the morning by a telephone call. The enigmatic caller requests Dick to come over to the GP's house without wasting a second.
On reaching the GP's cottage he finds that Sir Harvey Gilman is dead. He is inside a locked room and has apparently poisoned himself by injecting Prussic acid through his arm. Enter our caped crusader Dr. Gideon Fell, the "Sachin Tendulkar" of locked rooms.
John Dickson Carr does an Agatha Christie he attempts a cozy English county mystery with all the Carr components. most of the Carr books at least the ones that I have read are usually based in London but this is based in a little English village. Carr is successfully able to integrate his plot in the village setting. But the characters in the book I felt were not very well handled, few of the supporting characters felt like pedestrians in the book. It felt like they just keep coming and going in the story, they did not seem real but make belief.
When I think of Carr and I think of somebody who is his complete opposite it has to be Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner books are only dialogues but Carr on the other hand is so eloquent in describing situations and description of rooms that you fell they are real and you are right there in the thick of things. So for example he would describe something as simple as sunlight coming from the window in such a way that you could actually feel the sun in your eye. But both Authors are enjoyable in their own way.
The identity of the murderer is pretty tough to workout and I completely failed to deduce the murderer. I guess not many people would have been able to figure this one out. Regarding the Locked room, the solution is right in your face you just have to be very smart to understand how the trick was achieved. It's a simple solution. Though in the end you feel like the murderer took way too many chances and he was very fortunate to pull it off.
Half of the secret is revealed half way through the book and the other half in the end. The book gets a little boring in the middle. but over all it is one of the better Gideon Fell mysteries. Its a recommended read.
I have always felt that Fell is more unobtrusive then the old man. but HM is my favorite.
Where can you buy it? book is not in print and will cost you a lot of money to order from Amazon. look up that relative in the West.
I'm submitting this as part of the Vintage Mystery Challenge and the British Book Challenge.
3.5 Stars out of 5.