The Problem of the Wire Cage by John Dickson Carr (1939)

Hugh Rowland found Brenda White outside of the wire cage. Inside is a wet clay tennis court, in the center of which lies the body of Frank Dorrance, strangled by his own scarf. The footprints of Frank and Brenda can be seen going out to the body, but only one set coming back, Brenda’s. She swears he was already dead when she found him, but how could anyone else have done it and the be no other footprints? All of the evidence points in her direction. As a lawyer Hugh is well aware that evidence can be manipulated.  But will the story they tell be convincing enough to fool a man who can explain miracles?

Opinions regarding TPotWC differ quite a bit (check out previous reviews from my fellow bloggers below). But for me this is a great read with an ingenious plot; a story that is fast-paced and terribly fun. 

While there are many who believe the culprit to be fairly obvious, I was fooled for the majority of the tale. And then when I was presented with the truth thought to myself “how obvious!” But Carr hide the suspect so well amongst numerous others, all of who have a motive, including hatred, jealousy, love, rivalry, and financial gain. Carr muddies the waters further with a string of lies told by key characters, several false solutions, and an acrobatic photographer. This is another one where Dr. Gideon Fell’s presence is more peripheral. But his role is definitely more than that of the armchair detective which he played in The Blind Barber and The Arabian Nights Murder. Much of his time is spent presenting possible solutions to Inspector Hadley

The comic element and characters are often the highlights of a Carr mystery and here he combines them with great effect. Tex Lannigan, the amorous Texan, who tries to impress Brenda with his abilities with a whip; Sheppey, confidential chief clerk to the firm of Rowland and Greensleeves and their odd jobs man Angus MacWhirter sent by Rowland Senior to experiment with walking across the top of a tennis-court much to the detriment of MacWhirtier’s “lower spine”. And Rowland Senior are worth the price of the book himself! Upon hearing Hugh’s story his first proposal is:

‘But most of all,’ said Roland Senior, ‘I anticipate ructions from your mother.’

‘But why? Why? What has mother got to do with this?’

‘Much. I have a feeling that before this is finished the whole thing will be my fault. If it is possible to hold me responsible for the defeat of King James at the Battle of the Boyne, I fear your mother would do it.’”

However, it is the set-up of the murder that makes the book, well worth reading, despite those flaws. An impossible murder with, yes, an improbable solution. But with Carr it’s never about the probability, it’s the possibility. His ideas of how it’s achieved may at times be outlandish, but you have to admire his chutzpah.

My Judgment – 4.5/5

Prior Rulings – Nick @ The Grandest Game in the WorldMartin @ Do You Write Under Your Own Name?JJ @ The Invisible EventBen @ The Green CapsuleAidan @ Mysteries Ahoy!Brad @ Ah Sweet Mystery BlogKate @ Cross Examining Crime

 Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – Vintage Mystery Challenge 2016: Scavenger Hunt – Dead bodyCalendar of Crime Reading Challenge – August # 3: Primary action takes place in this month

2 thoughts on “The Problem of the Wire Cage by John Dickson Carr (1939)

  1. One of my first encounters with JDC and I still think very fondly of it. The only thing I really didn’t care for is an attempt to add excitement with a second incident which feels very unnecessary. The solution though is pretty ingenious, even if it hinges on someone doing something utterly bizarre!

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