Monday, January 31, 2011

A Graveyard to Let: Review

A Graveyard to Let (1949) by Carter Dickson. Carter Dickson is the alter-ego of John Dickson Carr. I love Carr under either name. He is one of the kings of the locked room/impossible crime mysteries. I have read numerous books under both names and he has never repeated a trick.

This one brings Sir Henry Merrivale to the US. On his way to Washington to visit friends, Sir Henry receives a message from another friend to come to his home in New York to witness a miracle. Before making his way to Mr. Frederick Manning's house, Sir Henry has a few adventures with the New York police and the New York subways. The miracle when it happens is a doozy....Frederick Manning dives into his swimming pool fully clothed and completely disappears--leaving his clothes behind One of the best bits for me is the sly reference by one of the policemen to The Dragon Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. A very similar thing happened in Van Dine's the policeman says:

"But, look! This was about a guy who disappeared from a swimming pool too!...Yes, sir. Only it wasn't daylight, it was night; and they couldn't see one end of the pool."

It looks for all the world like Manning has disappeared to avoid being brought to book for embezzlement but, as always with Dickson/Carr, nothing is exactly what it seems. Then Manning shows up in the graveyard adjacent to his property with a couple of knife wounds. Will he make it? And who knew where to find the man who swam away? Will Sir Henry be catching a murderer instead of an embezzler?

The entire story is a delight (as Carter Dickson/Carr's always are). Sir Henry is his usual mischievous and mysterious self. And even reveals some rather surprising talents on the baseball field. Like a good magician, Dickson, manages to have the reader looking everywhere but at the right clue at the right time. I have yet to figure out one of these "impossible mysteries" and I don't mind being muddled by a master one little bit. It was interesting to see what twist Dickson put on the man disappearing from the pool. The only thing I was quite sure of was that it wouldn't be Van Dine's trick...and I was right about that. Four stars.

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