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The Plague Court Murders (1934)

av Carter Dickson

Andra författare: Se under Andra författare.

Serier: Sir Henry Merrivale (1)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
23512114,264 (3.67)86
Fiction. Mystery. HTML:

THE FIRST SIR HENRY MERRIVALE MYSTERY. When Dean Halliday becomes convinced that the malevolent ghost of Louis Playge is haunting his family estate in London, he invites Ken Bates and Detective-Inspector Masters along to Plague Court to investigate. Arriving at night, they find his aunt and fiancée preparing to exorcise the spirit in a séance run by psychic Roger Darworth. While Darworth locks himself in a stone house behind Plague Court, the séance proceeds, and at the end he is found gruesomely murdered. But who, or what, could have killed him? All the windows and doors were bolted and locked, and no one could have gotten inside. The only one who can solve the crime in this bizarre and chilling tale is locked-room expert Sir Henry Merrivale… (mer)

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A Paranormal Locked Room
Review of the American Mystery Classics paperback (February 2, 2021) of the William Morrow & Company hardcover original (1934)

“Wait Blake. Wait a bit. Before I tell you about it, let me ask you whether you’re willing to give me a hand in what you’ll probably call an idiotic business. I want you to …”
“Go on.”
“To spend the night in a haunted house,” said Halliday.
“What’s idiotic about that?” I asked, trying to conceal the fact that my boredom had begun to disappear; I felt an anticipatory pleasure, and my companion seemed to notice it.


Despite an intriguing start, this started dragging for me quite early. I even resorted to mementoizing* it, although that attempt proved to be so confusing that I had to go back and persevere in chronological order. The first 40% just felt like an overextended prelude where the investigators (but not the main one), the suspects and the victim are introduced. Then it did start to get more interesting as the actual suspect interviews begin. Finally at the 60% point, Sir Henry Merrivale (the series lead) is introduced and the gradual solution to the case begins to coalesce.

Plague Court is the ancestral home of the Playge family, one of whom was an assistant executioner during the years of the Great Plague in 17th Century London, England. Now in 1930's London, the house is reputed to be haunted, but a spiritualist vows that he will exorcise the ghost. Various witnesses and authorities (including Ken Blake, the "Watson" of the case) appear on the scene to view the event. The spiritualist is instead found dead from several stab wounds (apparently from Playge's own awl-like knife which had been stolen from a museum shortly before) inside a locked and bolted stone building inside the courtyard of Plague Court. Though the yard is wet and muddy no footsteps to or from the building can be found.

That introduction overstayed its welcome, but the case starts to have some momentum when the eccentric Sir Henry Merrivale is brought in to consult on the matter. Merrivale was a Chief of Intelligence in the World War (1914-1918) and still maintains an office in Whitehall. He brings the case to a dramatic conclusion and the investigators adjourn for punch back at his office where he explains it all. As it is for all locked room mysteries, the solution is pretty far-fetched.

See front cover at https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/...
The front cover of the original 1934 William Morrow & Company hardcover when the book was first issued under the penname of Carter Dickson. Image sourced from Goodreads.

On Berengaria's Ease of Solving Scale® I would rate this as a 10 out of 10, i.e. "impossible to solve." In hindsight one might say that clues were provided, but the culprit was hidden from view for so long that it all came out as a twist in the end which was impossible to foresee.

Footnote
*mementoize
məˈmenˌtōˈīz/
verb / neologism
Definitions:
• 1. to tell a story in reverse order, as in the film Memento (2000) by director Christopher Nolan.
“Christopher Nolan didn’t invent reverse chronology story telling, but his film title Memento is the easiest to make into a verb: mementoize."
• 2. to read a book in reverse order to finish it, especially when reading it in forward order is not very interesting or compelling.
“The book was so dull I had to mementoize it in order to get through it."
• 3. a fictitious word invented for book reviews by The Lone Librarian™.


Trivia and Links
John Dickson Carr (1906-1977) is one of the 99 authors listed in The Book of Forgotten Authors (2017) by Christopher Fowler. He is No. 20 in the alphabetical listing which you can see towards the bottom of my review here.

This edition of The Plague Court Murders is part of the Otto Penzler American Mystery Classics series (2018-ongoing). There is a related Goodreads Listopia here with 55 books listed as of early January 2024. There are currently 68 titles listed at the Mysterious Press online bookshop. The official website for the series at Penzler Publishers seems to show only the most recent and upcoming titles. ( )
  alanteder | Jan 18, 2024 |
La acción se inicia cuando Ken Blake se encuentra con su viejo amigo, Dean Halliday, que le cuenta la historia de Plague Court (la casa señorial de la familia). Halliday explica que la casa está embrujada por el fantasma del propietario original, Louis Playge, verdugo de profesión. Halliday invita Blake y el inspector jefe Humphrey Masters a tomar parte en una sesión de espiritismo, dirigido por Roger Darworth y su medium Joseph.
Sin embargo, Darworth es un fraude y está siendo vigilado por la policía. La noche de la sesión de espiritismo, Darworth se encierra en una pequeña casa de piedra, detrás de Plague Court, mientras que tiene lugar una sesión espiritista. Cuando Masters y Blake van a buscarlo, ha sido apuñalado hasta la muerte con la daga de Louis Playge.
Pero todas las puertas y ventanas están cerradas y bloqueadas, y treinta pies de barro sin pisar rodean la casa. Además, todos los sospechosos han estado tomados de las manos durante la celebración de la sesión de espiritismo.
  Natt90 | Apr 11, 2023 |
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
  fernandie | Sep 15, 2022 |
It was a dark and stormy night. Ha ha.

He went too far with the haunted house atmospherics in this one. This was early in his career and he got much better. ( )
  johnclaydon | Jul 17, 2022 |
The Plague Court Murders, first published in 1934, has a high reputation as a "locked-door" mystery. Members of a nutty family want to exorcise an ancestor from London's Plague Years from a decrepit, unoccupied property. The central event is to be a confrontation between an ancestral (meaning long dead) boogieman, Louis Playge, and a controversial psychic, Roger Darworth. Not everyone in the family approves of the plan. Dean Halliday, who owns the property, doesn't believe in ghosts or spirits. His imperious aunt, Lady Benning, is implacable in her belief in the spirits. She consults regularly with Darworth, and she has set this exorcism in motion. Dean invites the narrator, Ken Blake, a former investigator, to "spend the night in a haunted house." Blake in turn invites current Scotland Yard Detective-Inspector Masters.

Darworth proposes to lock himself inside a small stone building in the property's courtyard overnight and have it out with the evil spirit. A kind of a seance. It's a quintessential locked room: masonry walls and floor, ancient oak roof, only the tiniest of windows, sealed behind sturdy grilles. Of course Darworth dies (no story if he doesn't). When the door is rammed open, his lacerated body lies in a pond of blood.

As the plot has it, two policemen are on hand, taking names and statements of those present through the night. Many clues, opinions, statements, and possibilities are collected, but until the entry of Sir Henry Merrivale halfway through the story no one can sort the genuine from the bogus. Sir Henry is another obese, cranky but brilliant observer and thinker that John Dickson Carr created to crack these impossible cases. The book was written in 1934, so the misogynistic attitude of the crime-solver isn't surprising.

The plot is convoluted in the extreme, and the exposition struck me as overlong. I'd rate it on the minus side of Very Good.
  weird_O | May 11, 2022 |
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» Lägg till fler författare (15 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Carter Dicksonprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Dirda, MichaelInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Francavilla, Antonietta MariaÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Junila, PasiÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Penzler, OttoInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Zann, NickyOmslagmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Old Merrivale, that astute and garrulous lump who sits with his feet on the desk at the War Office, has been growling again for somebody to write the story of the Plague Court murders; chiefly, it is believed, to glorify himself.
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Wikipedia på engelska (1)

Fiction. Mystery. HTML:

THE FIRST SIR HENRY MERRIVALE MYSTERY. When Dean Halliday becomes convinced that the malevolent ghost of Louis Playge is haunting his family estate in London, he invites Ken Bates and Detective-Inspector Masters along to Plague Court to investigate. Arriving at night, they find his aunt and fiancée preparing to exorcise the spirit in a séance run by psychic Roger Darworth. While Darworth locks himself in a stone house behind Plague Court, the séance proceeds, and at the end he is found gruesomely murdered. But who, or what, could have killed him? All the windows and doors were bolted and locked, and no one could have gotten inside. The only one who can solve the crime in this bizarre and chilling tale is locked-room expert Sir Henry Merrivale

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