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John Dickson Carr: AKA ‘Carter Dickson’
Locked Room Novels


JD CarrCarter Dickson was a pen name of John Dickson Carr. Carr was an extremely prolific author, and for this reason, we have divided his works into three separate pages: John Dickson Carr Novels; John Dickson Carr Novels (AKA: Carter Dickson); and John Dickson Carr Short Stories.

John Dickson Carr (1906 – 1977) was an American author of detective stories, who also published under the pen names Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson and Roger Fairbairn.

Carr is generally regarded as the ‘King of The Locked Room Mystery’ and as one of the greatest writers of the “Golden Age” of detective fiction. In his novels the puzzle is always the central focus. He was influenced by the works of Gaston Leroux and the Father Brown stories of G. K. Chesterton. He was a true master of the locked room mystery, in which a detective solves apparently impossible crimes. The Dr. Fell mystery, ‘The Hollow Man (1935), is usually considered to be Carr’s masterpiece. It was selected in 1981 as the best locked-room mystery of all time by a panel of 17 mystery authors and reviewers brought together by Edward D. Hoch. He was also a pioneer of the historical mystery.

A resident of England for a number of years, Carr is often grouped among the “British-style” mystery writers. Most  of his novels had English settings, especially country villages and estates, and English characters. His two best-known fictional detectives were also English. In the Carter Dickson series, Sir Henry Merrivale is the man who solves the impossible crimes.  There can be little doubt that Carr was, and still remains the single most important author in the Locked Room and Impossible Crime sub-genre!

(Source: Edited from Wikipedia John Dickson Carr)

Carr wrote 46 novels, under his own name, and another 26 under the pen name Carter Dickson – plus over 100 short stories, plays, radio plays, and non-fiction, under both names. Due to the number of works written by this prolific author, we have divided his works into five different pages. Other than this page ‘John Dickson Carr: AKA Carter Dickson’, there are four additional pages:

Go to John Dickson Carr: Novels
Go to John Dickson Carr: Collections
Go to John Dickson Carr: Short Stories
Go to John Dickson Carr: Radio Plays & More

More on John Dickson Carr Wikipedia / Gadetection
More on Dr. Gideon Fell   More on Sir Henry Merrivale


The Carter Dickson Novels


Note: Many of the Carter Dickson novels are getting quite rare and pricey. Our suggested links attempt to show the best current value, but prices and availability are constantly changing. It pays to shop around for the more expensive titles. Try our custom Google Search to find the best deal from all major sellers!


Bow stringThe Bowstring Murders (1933) 
Also published as ‘Carr Dickson’
No Series

Best Review
***

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only 

Note: A fairly good first effort!

The old and eccentric Lord Rayle has a valuable collection of medieval arms and armour housed at Bowstring Castle. When he is found strangled by one of his own bowstrings, it is up to John Gaunt to solve the crime.

A bit of a weak start for Carter Dickson, but still well worth the read.

More on ‘The Bowstring Murders


plague courtThe Plague Court Murders (1934) 
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
*****

Available in ebook and paperback formats. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A rather dark and haunting mystery

There had always been a ghostly atmosphere around the old mansion in Plague Court, but it wasn’t until Chief Inspector Masters broke into the little stone house in the rear court, that they found the body of Darworth, a psychic medium, impossibly stabbed to death inside a room that was locked and bolted on both sides, with a dagger that belonged to Plague Court’s nastiest ghost. 

One of my favourites, though rather dark!

More on ‘The Plague Court Murders’


White PrioryThe White Priory Murders (1934)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note:  A good solid Merrivale mystery

Marcia Tait is a glamorous film star who has left Hollywood for a London play ‘The Private Life of Charles II’. The eccentric Maurice Bohum is the author of the play and owner of White Priory; John Bohum, his brother, is in love with Marcia Tait; Emery and Rainger are determined to bring Marcia back to Hollywood; Lord Canifest is the backer of the play; and James Bennett is the nephew of Sir Henry Merrivale, who is called in by Chief Inspector Masters to solve an extremely baffling mystery.

Not a five star, but one of the better Carter Dickson titles.

More on ‘The White Priory Murders


red widowThe Red Widow Murders (1935) 
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
*****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: The Red Widow Chamber is open for business!

Lord Mantling’s mansion on Curzon Street, has a room called the Red Widow’s Chamber. In 1802, a man died there; in 1825, it was a girl; in 1870 and 1876, two more gentlemen were mysteriously found dead. Then the room had been sealed up – until now. One night, eight men and one woman gather around a table, including Sir Henry Merrivale and Lord Mantling. One of them would draw the Ace of Spades and enter the Red Widow’s Chamber!

Another one of the best Carter Dickson novels!

More on ‘The Red Widow Murders


unicorn murdersThe Unicorn Murders (1935)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
***

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only 

Note: Finding Flamande falls flat!

Flamande is France’s greatest criminal. He is also a master of disguise and can pass as anyone. Even worse, no one has ever seen his true face. Finding him will prove to be a real challenge for Sir Henry Merrivale.

One of the weaker early Merrivale novels. Part of a recurring theme of revealing a hidden identity, none of which are among the best!

More on ‘The Unicorn Murders


Punch & JudyThe Punch and Judy Murders (1936) 
UK title: The Magic Lantern Murders
Sir Henry Merrivale

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: A locked room spy story!

Kenwood Blake is about to marry his fellow British Secret Service operative, Evelyn Cheyne, when he  is sidetracked by Sir Henry, who wants him to come to Torquay to play an undercover role – but when he arrives, to his surprise, he is arrested! Blake later escapes and breaks into the house of a German spy named, Hogenauer – only to find him dead in his chair, poisoned with strychnine and wearing a Turkish fez. 

A little too much of the secret agent stuff, but still a good read!

More on ‘The Punch and Judy Murders


Peacock FeathersThe Ten Teacups (1937)
US title: The Peacock Feather Murders
Sir Henry Merrivale

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: Murder by invitation!

The killer provides Scotland Yard with an invitation to witness a murder, complete with time and place. Sir Henry Merrivale and Chief Inspector Masters accept the invitation, surrounding an empty house, but  when a  man enters the house at the set time  – a shot is fired. They find the man on the floor with two bullet in the back of his head and impossibly alone!

Never a critic’s favourite due to several small technical problems, but always a popular title.

More on ‘The Peacock Feather Murders


third bulletThe Third Bullet (1937)
Novella / No Series

Out of print: Available only as a used book. See ‘The Third Bullet and Other Stories’ on The John Dickson Carr short fiction page.


Judas WindowThe Judas Window (1938)
US paperback title: The Crossbow Murder
Sir Henry Merrivale

Best Review
*****

Available in ebook and paperback formats. 

Book  eBook   (eBook N/A in Canada)

Note: Carr at the top of his form!

Avory Hume is stabbed to death with an arrow – inside a study with bolted steel shutters and a heavy door locked from inside. In the same room, James Caplon Answell lies unconscious, apparently the victim of a struggle and his fingerprints are on the arrow. The solution seems obvious.

Sir Henry Merrivale eventually startles the crowd in the Old Bailey with a logical reconstruction of the crime – that comes to a very different conclusion.

More on ‘The Judas Window


Five BoxesDeath in Five Boxes (1938)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only  

Note: Another one of the best Merrivale novels

A murder victim, both poisoned and stabbed, is found seated at a table surrounded by his three drugged guests. The question is whether any of the guests murdered their host – and how they did the deed?

More on ‘Death in Five Boxes


fatal descentDrop to His Death (1938)
US Title: Fatal Descent
(with John Rhode)
No Series

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book

Note: Written with classic mystery author, John Rhode

The automatic elevator stops and the hall porter glances toward the bronze doors. Twenty minutes later, no one has emerged, and the porter decides to investigate. Inside he finds the body of Sir Ernest Tallant – shot through the heart in a sealed elevator!  Two famous mystery authors combine their talents in this baffling case.

Another one from the golden period – could argue for five stars!

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Reader WarnedThe Reader is Warned (1939)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
*****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: The best Carr novel?

Sir Henry Merrivale faces another impossible crime when a man dies in his own home when no one could have been close enough to commit the murder, and the cause of death is far from clear. The  victim’s wife is a writer of clever detective stories, and the disappearance of a book in which she jots down unusual methods of murder is a cause for concern. 

Some critics claim this is the best Carter Dickson novel – even best Carr novel overall. Tough claim against some amazing competition – but the argument is not totally out of bounds!

More on ‘The Reader is Warned


so to murderAnd So To Murder (1940)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
****

Available in ebook and paperback formats. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Death stalks the movie set!

Monica Stanton, the daughter of a British clergyman, is the author of a scandalous best-seller. She is then hired as a script writer for Albion Films, working with William Cartwright, a mystery author, helping him adapt his latest novel – And So to Murder.

At Pineham Studios, a series of mysterious attempts on Monica’s life begin – one exceptionally nasty and completely inexplicable incident involves sulphuric acid. However, it is only when someone nearly kills scene writer Tilly Parsons with a poisoned cigarette, that Sir Henry Merrivale is called in to help Chief Inspector Masters solve these bizarre crimes.

A solid work, though not one of my personal favourites!

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nine death tenMurder in The Submarine Zone (1940) 
US Titles: Nine – And Death Makes Ten / Murder in the Atlantic
Sir Henry Merrivale

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: A locked ship murder in ‘The Battle of The Atlantic’!

Nine passengers aboard the S.S. Edwardic are crossing the Atlantic during World War II, facing the constant threat of attack by German u-boats. Then one passenger is brutally murdered, apparently to steal a military secret. Sir Henry Merrivale must solve the mystery – only problem is that the killer’s fingerprint doesn’t match anybody on the ship!

A really well done story, that is far better than many critic’s have suggested!

More on ‘Murder in The Submarine Zone


seeing believingSeeing is Believing (1941)
UK paperback title: Cross of Murder
Sir Henry Merrivale

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only 

Note: The rubber dagger that wasn’t!

Arthur Fane arranges an unusual entertainment for his uncle, a long-term guest, and a few other witnesses – he hires Dr. Rich to hypnotize his wife Victoria. The guests, but not Victoria, have been shown that a gun in the room is actually harmless; everyone, including Victoria, is aware that a stage dagger is made of rubber. The hypnotized Victoria is invited to shoot her husband, and refuses; but when told to stab him, she agrees. Unfortunately, someone has substituted a real dagger, even though everyone agrees that such a switch would have been impossible.

Sir Henry Merrivale must take a break from dictating his memoirs and lend a hand to Chief Inspector Masters.

More on ‘Seeing is Believing


Gilded ManThe Gilded Man (1942) 
US Title: Death and The Gilded Man
Sir Henry Merrivale

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: Merrivale tries his hand at magic

Wealthy art connoisseur Dwight Stanhope and his family have invited guests to their mansion “Waldemere”. Dwight Stanhope has also moved his priceless collection from a burglarproof gallery to the main floor, and cancelled the insurance policy. No one is too surprised when the house is roused in the middle of the night and the body of  a burglar is found stabbed to death in front of the paintings – at least not until they discover that the body is actually Dwight Stanhope. Sir Henry Merrivale mixes investigation with a performance as a stage magician and solves the crime along the way.

One of the lighter and more amusing Merrivale titles – but a bit short of placing as one of the best locked room plots.

More on ‘The Gilded Man


died a ladyShe Died A Lady (1943) 
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
***

Available in ebook and paperback formats. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Double suicide or a cunning murder?

Rita Wainwright is a mature lady with a taste for younger men. Her older husband seems more interested in World War II radio news than his wife’s affair with an American actor, Barry Sullivan.

Rita and Barry are finally set to make a run, when a radio broadcast of Romeo and Juliet apparently turns their minds to double suicide. Two lines of footprints lead up to the cliff edge and none return. Then their bodies are found – each shot through the heart at close range.

Sir Henry Merrivale is in the neighbourhood posing for a portrait, when he agrees to investigate this odd mystery.

The first signs that Carr was losing his edge are apparent, but still well worth the read!

More on ‘She Died A Lady


kill patienceHe Wouldn’t Kill Patience (1944)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: Snakes, magicians & a good locked room puzzle

Edward Benton, of the Royal Albert Zoological Gardens is worried about what war will bring to his beloved collection of snakes and reptiles. The Department of Home Security is worried they might escape during an air raid, but he is still making plans, including adding “Patience”, a tree-snake from Borneo.

Rival stage magicians Carey Quint and Madge Palliser are visiting the zoo, researching snakes for a new illusion, when they quarrel and break the glass cage of a tropical American lizard. The lizard attacks Sir Henry Merrivale, also a visitor, who soon returns with the others to Dr. Benton’s home for apologies and dinner.

They arrive to find an empty house, with dinner burning, and discover that Dr. Benton has locked and sealed all the doors and windows of his study, then gassed himself and Patience to death. His daughter doesn’t believe its suicide – her father would never have killed an innocent snake!

Sir Henry’s investigation is confounded by war and professional magicians accustomed to illusion, but he finally extracts a confession in a dramatic final scene with a rattlesnake, a mamba, and a cobra.

One of the most entertaining Merrivale stories, quite amusing with a fairly decent locked room plot.

More on ‘He Wouldn’t Kill Patience


bronze lampThe Curse of the Bronze Lamp (1945)
UK Title: Lord of The Sorcerers
Sir Henry Merrivale

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: A cursed lamp or coincidence?

A curse is promised for anyone who takes the bronze lamp out of Egypt, but Lady Helen Loring is not superstitious!  She takes the lamp back to England, and places it on the mantelpiece at Serven Hall, then she disappears – just as promised!

Another light and amusing Merrivale, with a very entertaining plot, but a little short of substance. Some critics rate it quite high, other view it as Carr in decline. Take your pick!

More on ‘The Curse of the Bronze Lamp


late wivesMy Late Wives (1946) 
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
***

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: Another Merrivale identity case

Roger Bewlay murdered at least four wives, who mysteriously vanished before the honeymoon was over. Scotland Yard knows he’s guilty, and so does noted explainer of the impossible, Sir Henry Merrivale.

Years after these events, a famous actor receives an anonymous script about Bewlay that contains information only known by the police, a single witness, and Bewlay himself. He is determined to produce and star in this new play, which means the old case is reopened, and soon another body appears. Sir Henry Merrivale must identify Roger Bewlay and uncover a hidden corpse.

The critical opinion is again divided on this one, but I see more of the Carr of the glory days, than the tired post war author that soon followed. Still, it is another one of those ‘identity’ cases that never quite make the grade.

More on ‘My Late Wives


skeleton clockThe Skeleton in the Clock (1948)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
***

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: An odd motive for murder!

Martin Drake reunites with Jennifer West at an auction. Three years earlier, he had suffered a bad case of Carrsian ‘love at first sight’, when he met her during a brief encounter on a railway platform – then she vanished. Now she is engaged to Richard Fleet, a man she has known since childhood. Richard’s father, Sir George, died after he fell off the roof of Fleet House, their family home. It was ruled an accident, but a series of mysterious events have now resulted in the case being re-opened. Sir Henry Merrivale is also at the auction, duelling with his old rival, Sophia, Dowager Countess of Brale, who is Jenny’s grandmother.

Arthur Puckston, who runs the pub near Fleet House, was an eyewitness to Sir George’s death – now his daughter, Enid, is found murdered in a gruesome cell. Sir Henry must return to this old case and unravel a very odd motive that is essential to identifying the murderer.

Not the best Sir Henry by a long shot, but still a good mystery read.

More on ‘The Skeleton in the Clock


graveyard letA Graveyard To Let (1949) 
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: Miracles in America!

Sir Henry Merrivale, explainer of the impossible, takes a trip to the United States, to visit millionaire Frederick Manning and “witness a miracle” at his country estate.

The morning after Sir Henry’s arrival, the house party hear police sirens approaching, just as Frederick Manning dives into the swimming pool, fully clothed – and simply vanishes! The clothes and hat float to the surface, but the body is nowhere to be found. Sir Henry must delve into all of Manning’s personal and business dealings, until he discovers the identity of a very cunning killer.

Like all the later Sir Henry novels, not at the top of Carr’s form, but even a second rate Carr locked room puzzle is better than most other author’s best.

More on ‘A Graveyard To Let


mocking widowNight at the Mocking Widow (1950)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
****

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: A sharp tongued poison pen turns to impossible crimes

The English village of Stoke Druid has been plagued by a poison-pen, known as the “Mocking Widow”, named after a rocky pinnacle on the outskirts of the village. A middle-aged spinster who has been tormented by these hateful letters finally commits suicide.

Sir Henry Merrivale is offered a rare volume of memoirs by the village bookseller, if he will expose the poison-pen, and gladly takes up the challenge, but not soon enough to prevent a young woman from being nearly frightened to death. The Widow had threatened to visit her bedroom – then turned up just as promised, in circumstances that were quite impossible. Finally, the village blackmailer, perhaps the Widow’s assistant, is murdered before Sir Henry finally provides the solution.

Not often reviewed, but when it is, it is often under-rated.

More on ‘Night at the Mocking Widow


crimson blindBehind the Crimson Blind (1952)
Sir Henry Merrivale

 

Best Review
***

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: Another Merrivale ‘identity’ case

On vacation in Tangier, Sir Henry cannot resist a promising chance to reveal the identity of a mysterious criminal known as the “Iron Chest” – after an item he always carries during his heists.

Sir Henry works with the local police, and befriends two young English couples resident in Tangier, as he struggles to reveal the identity of this elusive thief who appears to vanish into thin air.

The second last and not one of the best according to reader reviews. Not recently reviewed – may be a generous rating.

More on ‘Behind the Crimson Blind


cavaliers cupThe Cavalier’s Cup (1953)
Historical mystery

 

Best Review
***

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: The last Sir Henry, and probably just as well!

Byng Rawdon has lately been making his ghostly presence known. Rawson once etched a poem into a window with a famous diamond that is the pride of the house, along with the heavily bejewelled Cavalier’s Cup.

Sir Henry Merrivale and Chief Inspector Masters are on a mission to demystify the cavalier, and this means Masters must spend a night sealed in the ancient Oak Room. He finally dozes off, only to awake with the Cavalier’s sword at his feet, and the Cup sitting on a nearby table, rather than in the locked vault where it normally resides.

This  has been called the worst Carr novel, and without a murder, they have a point! Only a few reviewers have tried to defend it – all with little success. The best one can say is that it is an entertaining and amusing farce.

More on ‘The Cavalier’s Cup


fear sameFear Is The Same (1956)
Historical mystery 

 

Best Review
**

Out of print: Available only as a used book.

Book only

Note: No Merrivale! Few reviews, all bad!

Another time traveller tale! Two young lovers are suddenly transported back to 1795, in similar, but not identical bodies. After many adventures, and a technically valid locked room murder, the reader is cheated out of his solution when they are transported mid fight back to the 20th century. A bit like Carr’s ‘Devil in Velvet’, but the characters are not so well developed, the solution is not very plausible, and the heroine’s hysterics are annoying!


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