Henry Morgan and his friends have just completed the strangest sea voyage. A compromising film has been stolen and in an attempt to bring the culprit to justice, Henry and Co. mistakenly assault the ship’s Captain, inadvertently steal a valuable jeweled elephant, and discover that a woman may have been murdered. Unfortunately, they lose the elephant, there is no body nor is anyone missing, and their attempts to uncover the culprit only lead them into deeper trouble. What starts out as a numbingly dull cruise becomes a tangle of comedic mayhem and murder that only Dr. Gideon Fell can unravel.
In trolling the internet, I found that many of the reviews out there are divided over this one. Readers are either disappointed, thinking this is a comedic farce where the mystery element is cursory, or they love it, seeing it as an intricate puzzle with a huge dollop of humor. I happen to fall into the latter camp. I’m currently reading the Fell series in order, so I believe I can safely say that with The Blind Barber Carr has written a mystery unlike the previous three in the series. To my delight, in addition to Carr delivering the his usual humor, he succeeded in giving us a great puzzle. We are presented with multiple mysteries (a stolen film, the missing jade elephant, a disappearing body) to sort out. And with the scene being a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (and rampant seasickness), a limited number of suspects to choose from.
I found myself hopping from suspect to suspect, only to find that I knew the culprit and the solution all along. Carr, that genius of distraction, had subverted my thinking! Every ludicrous incident, every comedic error, was subtle camouflage to what was right in front of me. As Ben @ The Green Capsule states “This is one of those fine examples of misdirection where an entirely different story is playing out in front of the readers eyes than what is being observed by the mind”. It is this ability to hide the clues in plain sight that, I believe, is a major factor in making Carr such a master at detective fiction.
With a plot that is extremely intricate, but in no way unintelligible; clever, witty dialogue and fast paced action, this was great fun to read. Recommend it highly.
My Judgement – 4.25/5