Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Curse of the Bronze Lamp aka Lord of the Sorcerers by Carter Dickson

It is said that a Curse will fall on those who disturb the undead of Egypt.

Lady Helen and her Father Lord Severn excavate a tomb in Egypt, very soon one of their party dies from a Scorpion Bite. Then Lord Severn falls ill and induces his daughter to go back to London.

Among other things found out of their excavations in Egypt there is a  Bronze Lamp. Lady Helen now intends to take this lamp back to England and place it on the mantelpiece of her bedroom to prove that the curse is a farce. On her way a Seer declares that anyone who takes the bronze lamp outside Egypt will be blown to dust.

Lady Helen reaches London and then with a couple of friends proceeds to Severn Hall where she has planned to dispel the myth of the curse. On reaching Severn Hall, Lady Helen jumps out of the car, turns the knob of the door and goes inside.
After a brief moment her two friends follow her inside and see no one in the hall except two old and faithful servants approaching them. The Butler eager to meet his mistress enquirers about her, but he is told that she has already entered. then where did she go? she could not have gone outside as all the windows were watched by gardeners, she could not have gone upstairs as there was a plumber working there. A search of the whole house is ordered immediately but it is in vain, apparently Lady Helen has vanished, she opened the door went inside but was then blown to dust just as the Seer predicted.


"Get it" says the Saturday Review. "Carter Dickson has surpassed himself and that takes some doing" - NY Times book Review.

Above are some encomiums for this book also this one is quite popular among the fans of detective fiction and some call it Carr's best work for Henry Merrivale. I would agree that this is a good book and that is where the agreement ends.  I did not find the book to be as good as the hype, you cannot compare it with The Judas Window or The Reader is Warned or even with The Red Widow Murders.

The book starts out very strongly that is the first half of the book is a fascinating read. It is gripping and the mystery is baffling, the humor part is well handled and warrants a few genuine laughs.

As I read on few thing started annoying me, like why whenever there is a revelation big or small lightning goes off to give a dramatic and "chilling effect" and how come its always raining in all Carr books. England is not Cherrapunji. These are trifle issues but there were a lot of these in the book which just kept on adding like whenever HM or some other character is about to divulge something or make the reader privy to a secret there is either a phone call or some other interruption. I thought these things were a bit childish and when overdone would give the impression of reading a book which provides cheap thrills.

The Mystery is baffling if you are new to the Mystery Genre but if you have read The Mystery of the Yellow Room (which incidentally is Carr's favorite mystery) then how the trick is done with the disappearance of Lady Helen is not difficult to figure out. sorry but I cannot divulge more about the same as mine is a spoiler free blog. This book is also a bit similar to "And so to murder" by Carter Dickson because in both these books there are no actual murders.

In the final  pages of the book when a American Spiritual guru comes down to England to take away the lamp and contrive the events in the book to show that the Curse of the Lamp was true even when HM had proved it otherwise. Sir Henry does not let him, HM comes up with a silly twist ending which ruined not only the American Seer's plans but also the book. I thought he should have let him take the lamp and do whatever he wanted to, it would have been more poetic.

2.5 Stars out of 5.

Where can you buy it: It is out of print and if you live in India then Good Luck!! just kidding try Amazon or Infibeam you will get a second hand edition which will be imported in a month.

I'm submitting this review as part of the BBC and the Vintage Mystery Challenge.

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