Tom Lockwood is minding his own business outside St Paul’s Cathedral when Jenny Holden runs out in absolute terror. During her first week back in England, prior to an arranged marriage to a son of a French general, someone tries to gas her by opening the valve on her fireplace in the middle of the night with all of the doors locked from the inside and she receives a death threat in the Whispering Gallery when there is no-one there who could make it. Good job that Tom is a friend of Sir Henry Merrivale.
All In A Maze is one of only two short stories written by Carter Dickson aka John Dickson Carr featuring Merrivale – the other being the fabulous The House In Goblin Wood. It was, I think, the last Merrivale story written – I don’t know why Dickson Carr stopped, but as the novels were running out of steam in the last few books, it’s nice to have a decent farewell to the Old Man.
Merrivale has been basically given his old job back, in charge of “The Ministry of Miracles” and doesn’t really need to break a sweat to solve this one. The St Paul’s trick has a simple explanation and the locked room is pretty easy to figure out, but the murderer is less obvious, although there is one aspect that does indicate them pretty clearly. Some of the actual clues are pretty obscure, but the motive is, I think, one of the nicer mysteries in the story.
On the downside, this does have my “favourite” bugbear, the two people who fall in love and are engaged by the end of the story, even to the extent of “canoodling” in Merrivale’s office. Maybe it’s what the readers of the time would expect, but it does stick out a bit as odd.
You can find this story in the collections “The Men Who Explained Miracles” or “Merrivale, March and Murder”, but both of these are out of print. Good luck hunting them down.
Don’t forget you can check out other Carter Dickson reviews in my developing bibliography of the old man here.