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The John Dickson Carr Treasury: The Three Coffins, The Burning Court

1 rating: 5.0
A book by John Dickson Carr

The John Dickson Carr Treasury includes two novels; The Three Coffins and The Burning Court. 

Author: John Dickson Carr
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Nelson Doubleday, Inc.
1 review about The John Dickson Carr Treasury: The Three...

Two mystery novels of creeping horror

  • Jul 7, 2010
"The Three Coffins"--This author is known as the Master of the Locked Room Mystery, and he does not disappoint his aficionados in "The Three Coffins." In fact Carr's serial detective, Gideon Fell takes a chapter off from the plot to present his famous 'locked room' lecture to a handful of long-suffering friends.

I can just picture myself with his friends after a nice lunch in the pub, throwing myself about and moaning, "Not THAT lecture again. Let's get on with the plot." All I got out of the lecture were the many ways ice and frozen blood could be used to kill someone who is supposedly alone in a sealed room.

Plus if you ask me, the murders in this book were cheats done with smoke (actually snow) and mirrors, and a clock that only the lumbering Dr. Fell had the brains to notice was incorrectly set. However, I don't read this author for his intricate murder set-ups. I read his books for their wonderfully ominous atmosphere. Here Carr does not disappoint. In "The Three Coffins," three brothers, jailed in Transylvania for bank robbery fake their deaths during an outbreak of the plague and are buried alive. The one with the shovel in his coffin digs his way to freedom, then leaves his brothers in their graves and runs off alone with the hidden bank loot.

Let's just say that the two brothers who are left behind play important roles in the murder and counter-murder many years later in London. I don't want to give away the plot, gimmicky though it is. Read "The Three Coffins" for a few good shudders.

Note: this mystery is also published under the alternate title, "The Hollow Man" (1935).

"The Burning Court"--This is an unusual mystery for John Dickson Carr in that none of his serial detectives take a hand in solving it; it is set in Pennsylvania rather than Great Britain (after all, the author was American); and there is a strong whiff of the supernatural in this story.

A young 20th century editor is working on a book of nineteenth century murders, when he finds the photograph of a murderess who was guillotined in 1861. The woman exactly resembles his wife. And as it happens, the editor's uncle recently died under mysterious circumstances, with an oddly knotted piece of string next to his pillow.

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