Saturday, November 7, 2015

In Spite of Thunder: Review

In Spite of Thunder by John Dickson Carr (1960) is aptly named. There's all kinds of thunder in this one. There is thunder rolling all 'round the villa in Switzerland where Eve Eden will plunge to her death. But mostly there is the thunder of yelling. Just about everyone in this book spends a great deal of time yelling, shouting, crying, exclaiming, and, yes, thundering at one another. I've never seen so many exclamation points in one novel. It's as though Carr decided he had to write a book wherein he could use ever possible synonym for yelling that he could find in the most extensive thesaurus available to him. And, of course, when Gideon Fell tires of shouting "Archons of Athens," he can throw out a "By thunder!" or two.

There would appear to be plenty to shout about. Back in 1939, Eve Eden's wealthy fiancé Hector Matthews dies in bizarre fashion while the couple is paying a visit to Hitler at his "Eagle's Nest"get-away. Matthews, who is engagement to the lovely star is the envy of many a man, would seem to have no reason to commit suicide, but he apparently flung himself off a balcony to die on the rocks below. Though many would like to blame Eve Eden for his death, witnesses which include Sir Gerald Hathaway and journalist Paula Catford all say that she was no where near enough to him to have caused his fall. No one was.

Several years later, after Eve has married actor Desmond Ferrier and sets up house in Geneva, the actress decides that she wants to make a huge come-back on the screen. She feels that to do so she must clear away the suspicions from the past once and for all. She invites Sir Gerald and Paula Catford to come and provide eyewitness accounts that she can publish in a forth-coming book of memoirs. She also invites her step-son's girlfriend Audrey Page. Audrey's father asks his old friend Brian Innes, a painter who also lives in Geneva, to intercept Audrey and prevent her from going to Eve's villa. Brian has little influence over the headstrong girl and as he watches her head straight into danger he realizes that he loves her and will do anything to save her. But when history seems to repeat itself and Even is the one who flings herself off the villa's balcony will he be able to save Audrey from a charge of murder? Fortunately, Eve's husband suspected that something dangerous was in the making and had called in Dr. Gideon Fell. Sir Gerald thinks he can outwit and upstage the old duffer, but only Dr. Fell can understand where all the clues poin and who the dangerous person really is.

Honestly, this is the most exasperating book. Not only did I feel as though I were in the middle of a shouting match for the entirety of the thing, but conversations that weren't annoying for their emotional tenor were just down-right confusing. The characters (when not shouting, though sometimes even when shouting) tend to speak in half-sentences and non-sequiturs. Between the shouting and the rather incoherent speaking style, it seemed that Carr must have felt that he needed to distract the reader with all the language and emotional hocus-pocus just in case the impossible crime wasn't mysterious enough and we all figured it out. 

The murder method itself was intriguing enough. And I wasn't familiar with the aspects of the particular device used, so I don't think I would have figured it out even if I hadn't been distracted by all the "thunder." But then I also don't think the clues were as fairly displayed in this one. The relevant information that helps pinpoint the murderer is referred to so obliquely that it will take a most perceptive reader to latch onto it properly. I'm not saying one couldn't spot the killer--one might. But I'd be surprised if it were for all the right reasons. Not one of Carr's best. ★★

Since most of the murderous action takes place at the villa, I'm counting this for the "Country House" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card and another complete Bingo.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Sorry to hear it fell flat for you. Great review!