Saturday, June 2, 2012

The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

Plot:Sir Henry Merrivale’s favorite sex siren, Marcia Tait has been murdered. She is found bludgeoned to death in a room called the Queen’s mirror, which was the 17th Century trysting place for King Charles II. Queen’s mirror is surrounded by a frozen lake if anyone steps on it then the ice would crack and that person would die a freezing death. Entry and exit to the room is restricted by only a pavilion, which is covered by snow.

Now, what is baffling the police is that there is only one set of footprints which leads towards the room. So, how did the murderer managed to escape without leaving another set of footprints?
And like in all murder mysteries there is another murder and that too of the most likely suspect.
HM and the newly promoted Chief Inspector Master’s investigate the White Priory Murders.

Another Impossible locked room crime written by Carr in 1934, who is writing here under his famous synonym “Carter Dickson”. While the book is only second in the Henry Merrivale series it has all the common plot and character intricacies that you would expect out of a HM story.  Expect that HM himself is a bit subdued in his early novels, in later novels he keeps getting into more jocular and sometimes even ridiculous situations.

The “no footprints in the snow” plot is a common plot theme in many Carr book like the “Hollow man” and “She Died a Lady”. In my opinion this plot idea is best handled in She Died a Lady which is a far superior novel then the White Priory murders. The solution to the impossible crime in white priory murders is simple and nicely explained but far better in She Died a Lady.

One thing which made the book a little dry was that it was missing any kind of humor. Most of the Carr books have enough content and context to leave the reader in splits. Also HM novels are well known for their light moments, I guess this book was an exception to the rule.

Carr is very good at weaving supernatural and tension in the atmosphere of the book. But that is also absent from this book. The book is missing the spark that you would generally associate with a Carr book. I would like to have seen the setting of the Queen’s room being explored more it was a great idea and adding a bit of supernatural there would have given the book that much needed edge.

HM delivers a lecture about: in what situation a locked room murder would take place. It is thoroughly enjoyable. The book is a great example of needing solid characters, compelling dialog and a seductive atmosphere, the mystery won't alone sell the book. Overall I think the book had some good things and little tweaks would have made this a great read but it ends up being an average read where you keep counting how many pages are left to the end

 Where can I get it? It's out of print. only way to procure it is through Amazon or Infibeam but be ready to pay a premium price since it will be imported and you know $1 = Rs 55.43


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