Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Emperor's Snuff Box by John Dickson Carr

Beautiful Eve Neill has fought a bitter divorce battle with her ex husband Ned Atwood, Eve is now free and living in a villa in France. Ned, the insolent, handsome devil is out of her life. She can now focus her attention on Toby Lawes, Toby is the stiff shirt son of Sir Maurice Lawes who with his family live in the villa opposite to Eve's. Senior Lawes has an interest in collecting precious antique objects, and maintains them in a room on the first floor.

All is going well, Toby has proposed marriage to Eve and Toby's family i.e. his father, mother, sister and Uncle have started accepting her as part of the family. Nobody is interested in Eve's past, and she is slowly recovering from the shadows of Ned Atwood.

But Alas, word has reached Ned that her ex plans to remarry.  Ned, who still has a spare key to Eve's villa trespasses and confronts his ex wife in the middle of the night. Eve is dumbstruck, just when her life was getting back on track, her husband has come back to derail it.

Eve is worried that if anyone discovers that her ex husband is in her bedroom in the middle of the night it would lead to total and utter disaster. Eve tries to get rid of Ned, but Ned is obstinate, he won't take no for an answer and this leads him to open the curtains of Eve's bedroom, so that Maurice who by habit sits in his room, can discover them in a dicey situation and bring her affair with Toby to an end. Very soon Ned and Eve discover that someone wearing brown gloves is switching off the light in Maurice's room, meanwhile Maurice lays dead on his swivel chair. Eve and Ned panic, in her panic Eve shoves Ned down the staircase, Ned hits his head and starts bleeding but manages to flee Eve's house. The Police later investigate the crime and come to the conclusion that only one person could have committed the murder, which is Eve! now, the only person who can save Eve is her ex husband who can corroborate her story, the only problem is that he is suffering a concussion and lying in a comma.


This is one of the few Carr books which has no supernatural element, impossible crime or a locked room in it, it was one of Carr's personal favorite and also is one of those rare Carr books which has been filmed - "That Woman Opposite".

The book starts out pretty decently, we see Eve gradually adjusting to her new life and from being a witness to the murder, she herself becomes the accused. The scene where Ned forcibly enters her bedroom and tries to malign her is quite a tense read. The novel becomes a bit of a bore in the middle, and it is a long novel(judging by Carr's standards), but the pace really quickens up in the last 50 odd pages, when the identity of the killer is revealed and trust me Carr does the art of misdirection to a perfection in this one. I was so convinced that I had nailed the murderer but then Bam! I was completely awed by the discovery of the true murderer and then I couldn't believe that I could not connect something so obvious.

Carr builds his characters nicely. Eve, the heroine of the piece is shown as a "bimbo" she falls in and out of love with 3 characters in the space of nine days, had there been more eligible men in the book, that count would have gone up. Ned, is the suave, charming ex husband who is unpredictable in his actions and thoughts. Toby, is the pompous fiance of Eve and is a bit of a chauvinist. The detective in this GAD is Dr Kinross, who is no where near Henry Merrivale or Gideon Fell but manages to hold his own in this puzzle. With the absence of the two stalwarts of detective fiction, humor in the book which is so important in a mystery is missing.

There are a few flaws in the book as well, and I would not call these minor flaws, like how come the police did not look for blood splattered clothes when the victim was hit on the head violently about 10 times and how come we get a solution based on the semantics of the snuff box, when the killer could have easily identified it as one because he looked through...(spoiler alert) binoculars.  you will have to highlight the empty space to the right of "(spoiler alert)"

Rating this as 3 out of 5

Where can you buy this? Online second hand book stores like Infibeam, I got this one for 550 bucks, and it is in OK condition.


  1. Hey! I am so glad to have found this blog. But, I am rather intrigued to find Byomkesh but not Feluda. I admit, I have not gone through your entire blog.

    1. hi Tina,

      thanks for visiting and no I haven't got to Feluda yet.


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...