Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Late Wives by John Dickson Carr

Image result for my late wivesThe Grand master of mystery returns! JDC is back with another mystery involving the 'old man', perhaps one of the greatest detectives in detective fiction, Sir Henry Merrivale(HM). My Late wives is not a locked room mystery nor an impossible crime novel, but it is an excellent murder mystery. Very different from the standard Christie fare.

My Late wives offers a serial killer as the pivot to the engrossing story. Roger Bewlay is a serial murderer, he preys on young lonely woman and when he has taken what he needs, he kills them. Roger has been elusive and enigmatic to the police.  They don't even have an accurate description of the charlatan. Chief Inspector Masters(Watson to HM) has been trying to hunt down Roger for years without any success.

Enter Bruce, a well known actor who receives a script on the life of Roger Bewlay. The content of the script are suspiciously detailed. This makes Bruce and his coterie of friends to think about a most dangerous plan i.e. to act out the script in real life and see how the unwitting participants react. This decision sets off chain of events which leads to murder, mystery and the eventual discovery of Roger Bewlay.

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JDC leaves the world of impossible crimes and locked room mysteries to write about a conniving serial killer.  The identity of the killer is quite apparent to anyone who has ever read a few dozen mystery novels. The book is nicely paced and the author manages to wrap up the story in 200 odd pages. Carr's repeated attempts to make this book a murder mystery cum romantic novel fall flat, quite like his previous attempts.

JDC was never great at romance and this book is just a reaffirmation of that understanding. his characters are plastic behave in weird inhuman ways and just seem a distraction from the main plot.
The final showdown between the protagonist and  antagonist was sub par and the protagonists revelations of the antecedents and machinations of the antagonist seem out of place and irrelevant, unlike HM's big reveal in the end, this one just seems forced and an attempt by the author to do something different.

All in all it was a good break from the plethora of history books that I have been reading.

3 stars out of 5.

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