The Ten Teacups

thetenteacupsAs soon as I got this book it went to the top of my reading list.  How could it not?  The premise is so intriguing – the police receive a cryptic letter warning “there will be ten teacups”.  The address indicated in the note leads to an abandoned house containing a dead man amidst an odd crime scene.  Only one room of the house is furnished, and in the center is a table with ten teacups arranged in a circle.  The crime is never solved.  Two years later, a similar note is sent, and the circumstances repeat themselves, despite the address being under heavy police surveillance.

It was the mysterious notion of the ten teacups that drew me to the book.  Why were the two crimes set up in such a particular way?  How could something as innocent as a teacup play into murder?  Although this Merrivale novel, also published as The Peacock Feather Murders, doesn’t seem to make top 10 lists, it does appear to have a strong underground following.  After reading it, I can say that the reputation is well deserved.

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The Red Widow Murders

redwidowI’m surprised that I don’t read more about this book.  It doesn’t show up on many Top Carr lists and I haven’t seen it reviewed on many of my favorite sites.  It seems to occupy a strange limbo alongside The Ten Teacups, The Unicorn Murders, The Reader is Warned, and The Mad Hatter mystery – I find very little mention of these books, and yet they seem to be held in fairly high regard.

My verdict?  This could have easily been Carr’s masterpiece.  Could have…  The atmosphere is gripping – possibly his best.  The puzzle is mind bending – possibly his best.  The pace is riveting – again, possibly his best.  Similar to The Judas Window, each successive chapter seems to include its own shattering revelations.  There is even a long fascinating passage set in the time of the French Revolution, dripping with Carr’s usual historical details.

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The Burning Court

burningcourtBlind Man’s Hood was the second story I ever read by John Dickson Carr.  Beyond an enjoyable story, what struck me was the eerie quality introduced by the supernatural element.  The notion of supernatural should normally be a deterrent for a fan of locked room mysteries and impossible crimes.  How can you truly have fair play if anything is possible?  Carr pulled it off perfectly – providing a faithful impossible crime with a clever solution, and then introducing just enough of a supernatural element to make you rethink what you just read.

I approached The Burning Court with curiosity.  Not only does it seem to make most Top 10 Carr lists, but reviews suggested that a supernatural element was at play.  But good reviews were hard to come by – I prefer blogs that tease me enough into making me want to read a book (or avoid it), rather than put me at risk of stumbling upon some detail that ruins the puzzle.  My favorite sources provided nothing on this non-series novel.

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