Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Death in Five Boxes (1938)

Author: John Dickson Carr | Page Count: 310

"After inspecting the wreckage, he sat down on the running-board of the car, picked up a banana, peeled it, and malevolently began to eat it."

Death in Five Boxes is the seventh of Carr's Sir Henry Merrivale stories, and although it's one of the weakest, it still has some lovely riddles. It's an entertaining, borderline comical murder mystery with a cast of characters who almost feel like they've come out of a board game. In fact, there's much that feels game like about this tale. Characters bounce theories off each other like players trying their hardest to put together a solution to a complicated brainteaser.

The appeal of Carr's mysteries lies largely in his impossible crimes and intricate puzzles, and unfortunately, this might be this tale's biggest flaw. The main trick is a great one, but it's so good that it's been lifted and reused time and time again. The minor mysteries aren't as satisfying to solve, and one solution in particular feels rather cheap. Still, the mystery itself is fairly solid, and an intrepid detective should be able to solve it before Merrivale makes his grand reveal.

This is a story only for mystery die hards. The writing and characters are nothing special, and there's not much to recommend aside from the thrill of puzzle solving. Still, it's a quick read, and if you'd like to work your way up to the best Carr has to offer, it's not a bad read.

 2 suspicious uncles chucking flowerpots at constables out of 5.

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