Monday, July 30, 2012

Hag's Nook by John Dickson Carr

 Martin Starberth has to spend one hour in a desolate prison cell all alone, on doing this he would inherit the Chatterham prison whom his forefathers have governed for many generations, but Martin's well wishers fear for him. Their fears are based on terrible antecedences of the Starberth male heirs. Anthony Starberth was the original governor of the prison and had it built on the blood and dead bodies of the prisoners. Anthony was a sadistic prison warden who kept his prisoners in abysmal conditions, with little or no light the prisoners of the Chatterham prison had to fight for their food with giant rats.

Anthony Starberth used to watch the hangings from his balcony, which was directly above a well in which the lifeless bodies of the dead were disposed to rot for eternity. One unforgettable night Anthony Starberth was himself found dead over the edge of the well, one of the spikes round the circumference of the well had gone straight through his heart.
After Anthony's mysterious death, Cholera spread through the prison and it had to be shut down. Over the years the Chatterham prison became a source of legend and horror for the villagers and the Straberths. Anthony in his will elucidated the fact that a box would be kept in his room, which was besides the balcony and a male heir would have to open the safe and retrieve the contents of the box and then take them to his lawyer as a irrefutable proof of being in the ghoulish room. Few generations later another heir to the Chatterham prison is found half dead besides the well of the prison and now his son Martin, is going to attempt to unlock the secrets of the prison on his 25th birthday, will he survive or will the curse on the Starberth's strike again? Whatever happens Dr Gideon Fell will be there to unravel the mystery.


Somebody once told me that a good measure of a book’s suspense would be how vividly you remember the atmosphere created in the book and how mystified were you, even days after reading the book. Hag’s Nook has certainly passed that test. It is a befitting debut novel for the erudite on locked rooms, Dr Fell. Carr manages to spell bound the reader through his invigorating narration and a very tight plot.
The Plot is a puzzle lover’s delight; first you have a historic unexplained murder, then another murder/accident two years ago and then another one in the time of the book. On top of that there is the situation with the prison and the idiosyncratic nature of the will along with poetic puzzles, add in cousins disappearing, a butler with a multiple personality disorder, treasures and giant rats and you get a page turner like never before. The book manages to squeeze all this in 159 pages (rue morgue edition) and it is never looked too far stretched. Kudos to the master for making all the pieces fit, it would have been so easy to make a blunder with multiple sub plots but Carr shows why he is the best of the Golden Age or any age for that matter.
Nothing is perfect, there are a few anomalies in the plot, for e.g. a few members of the Starberth bloodline survive over from the time of Anthony Starberth to Martin Starberth. few of them even went inside the prison and came back alive, what was the reward for doing this, why did they not bring the malevolent structure of the prison down if they inherited it? The characterization is inconsistent while Anthony Starberth is very well characterized, Dr Fell is certainly not. In my opinion Fell is a bit too inconspicuous at times and Carr should have given the old lexicographer some idiosyncrasy which would have made him stand out. This is compensated by giving Fell an absurd costume, he walks with two canes but he has no disability and wears a cape. Wow! “Wannabe”, addendum the poor doctor is also given the hobby of cataloging the drinking habits of the English people. These kind of glaring hobbies and get up make for a detective not indelible in the mind of the reader but someone who the reader thinks is trying too hard.

There is also this real anine antic that the Dr pulls off in the last couple of pages, for no conceivable logical reason, he puts his life in danger when there was no reason to do so.

The identity of the murderer left me stumped, he/she did come in my mind for a fleeting second but I discarded that as being a flight of fancy. I think this book will easily find its way in the top 10 Carr book and might even wiggle its way to the Top 5.

4 out of 5 Stars. 

Where can you buy it? It’s in print thanks to the rue morgue press and you can buy it from tv18’s shopping website for about 580 bucks.


  1. Good article! We are linking to this particularly great
    article on our website. Keep up the good writing.

    Look into my site ... high roller

  2. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
    Very helpful information specially the last part :
    ) I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

    Also visit my homepage -

  3. I rеally lοѵe yоur blog.. Pleaѕаnt сolorѕ & theme.
    Dіd you build thiѕ ѕite уouгself?
    Pleаse rеply bаck as Ι'm hoping to create my own website and would like to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Thanks!

    my homepage; aladdin's gоld саsіno no deрosit bοnus codes jan 2013

  4. Hi! I've been following your website for a long time now and finally got
    the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Texas!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the excellent job!

    my web blog - GHD Hair Straighteners

  5. I really like all of your writing. I hope you don't get bored to always share your experiences with me. Don't forget to visit my website below:


Featured Post

The Menagerie And Other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay

A few weeks ago I did the review of  Picture Imperfect and other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay  as part of the Glob...