Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Riddle of Monte Verita by Jean-Paul Torok

"Her Face became the face of the pretty wife, and she ran out to meet her husband."

Jean-Paul wanted to write a book which ended with now the famous last lines of Carr's "The Burning Court." - perhaps the greatest mystery novel ever written? Thinking about the ending of the The burning court still makes the hair at the back of my neck stand up. Alas, we are not reviewing the master's work.

Jean-Paul, a self confessed Carr fan tries to write a novel in the fashion of those good old GAD days. That too an impossible locked room crime novel. Jean-Paul's Pastiche is remarkable work of detective fiction especially the last 30-40 pages.


Monte Verita, situated in beautiful Switzerland is holding a symposium, where the theme is detective fiction. Recently married, Pierre is accompanied by his young wife Solange. Pierre is an erudite on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Professor Lippi, another erudite attending the symposium, makes a speech and pokes fun of detective fiction, especially of impossible crimes, locked rooms and murders in hermetically sealed chambers. The German, Dr Hoenig and Lippi get into a raucous argument. Dr Hoenig claims that he will bring a locked room challenge in front of all present. Little did Hoenig knew that he will himself become the centre of a locked room murder. In view of two guards posted outside Hoenig's Villa, he is murdered by what appears to be a woman. The guards rush from their own villa to Hoenig's but found it locked, once they force themselves inside the killer has disappeared in thin air.

I enjoyed reading the Riddle of Monte Verita, the mystery is solid. The Last 40 odd pages are very well written and translated in English from French. The solution to the mystery reminds you of the Curse of the Bronze Lamp, the solution is simple and elegant.

The writer tries to create a atmosphere of murder and mystery but finds only a modicum of success. The novel is not gripping, it won't hold you. There are a lot of things to enjoy but the narration is not one of them, although novel is short but still feels stretched in the middle. At times it seems like it was written by a novice.

Characterization is the reason for the downfall of this novel, characters just seem to be coming and going through out the book. Reader does not empathize with the characters not even the protagonist. Dr Hoenig seemed like the only character who is a bit interesting. The author tries hard to make Solange, the protagonist's wife an invigorating character, unfortunately that does not happen.

The book overall is an above average pastiche to John dickson carr. Won't strongly recommend, but since its a short novel it won't be bad for time pass.


  1. Glad to see that you are back. This novel seems okay but you have aroused my curiousity about The Burning Court.

    1. Thanks Neer, do read the Burning Court its a masterpiece from Carr.


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