After 25 years of banishment to America by his family, John Farnleigh returned to England to claim his inheritance and title. One year later, a stranger the claiming to be the real John Farnleign appears, and he says he has the evidence to prove it. Farnleigh’s childhood tutor, Kennet Murray, is produced to quiz the pair. But more importantly, Murray produces a fingerprint, taken when Farnleigh was a boy, which will ultimately discern which is the true heir. But before Murray can give his opinion, John Farleigh is killed, his throat slit multiple times, in the presence of witnesses, and no one is seen near him. Luckily Dr. Gideon Fell is close at hand to investigate.
Carr’s tells an excellent story filled with tension and atmosphere. An heir banished for his unsavory behavior, stolen identities, the sinking of the Titanic, hints of witchcraft and Satanism, a decaying automaton, and a previous murder with potential ties.
I’m continually amazed at Carr’s plot devices, the number of ways he can come up with to hide the how. Opinions vary regarding the “impossible” nature of the crime in The Crooked Hinge, and there are some malcontents out there that feel it is an improbable cheat. Okay, yes, there is a cheat. One that makes it improbable for the reader to solve the crime. But, regarding how it was done, that the solution is so unlikely is also what makes it so striking and memorable. I know Carr is doing everything in his power to subvert the truth and pull the wool over my eyes. And, as usual for me when reading Carr, I wasn’t bothered by it at all.
There were a couple of standout features for me. The automaton, its history and “movements” throughout the story, added just enough creepiness and diversion. Also, the characterizations of Farnleigh and the claimant, which is a study in contrasts. The one, so changed by his experiences, once an indolent, arrogant child, now rigorously proper and principled. Hesitant and frustrated when asked to pull answers from deep memories that he would rather forget, yet always with the correct response. The other, unrepentant, as haughty as the young man who left England 25 years before, and confident in his responses. He is the charismatic, yet repellent, showman.
You are a little too suggestive of Mestopheles in Kent. You don’t belong here. You disturb things, somehow, and you give me a pain in the neck.”
While by no means perfect, I still think this one is a topper! And could someone please tell me, what dark corner of his brain did Carr have to go to pull one this out?
My Judgment – 4.25/5
Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2020 – Fulfills # 18: A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. (Van Dine #17) Any book that features a death looks like accident or suicide–whether it winds up really being murder or not.
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Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – October #6: Original publication month