My Forgotten Book today is Hag’s Nook, by John Dickson Carr, the masterof the ‘impossible crime’. This novel was published in 1930, when the author was only 26 – staggeringly, he had already published five detective novels. But this was the first to feature Dr Gideon Fell, who became his most famous sleuth.
Much of the story is told from the viewpoint of a young American Anglophile, Tad Rampole, whose attitudes reflected Carr’s. Tad falls for Dorothy Starberth, and soon learns of the curse of the Starberth family – the Starberth men die of broken necks.
Unfortunately, the legend takes a fresh twist when Dorothy’s brother Martin is found dead – with a broken neck – while engaged in a complicated family ritual that has to do with mysterious documents and a cryptogram. The obvious suspect is Martin’s cousin, but we know what happens to obvious suspects in Golden Age novels, don’t we?
I enjoyed this one a lot. It's a long time since I read a Carr novel, but I do aim to read more soon. He was a good writer, who used melodramatic atmosphere,history, and a romantic way of evoking suspense and setting to make his elaborate and unlikely crimes seem credible. Implausible, but not impossible, is the theme of a Carr solution. If you like elaborate mysteries of the past, this one is well worth a read. And if you do read it, you may be as impressed as I am by the fact it was written by such a young man.