The war has ended and for the first time in years, The Murder Club reconvenes in London. Miles Hammond is invited along by none other than Dr Gideon Fell, but when he arrives, he finds that no-one from the Club has arrived. Only he and a mysterious woman, Barbara Morrell, are there to hear the tale of Professor Rigaud. He tells of the death of Howard Brookes, stabbed with his own sword-stick, while along on top of a tower. The only suspect is Fay Seton – but the only reason that she is a suspect is because of the stories about her. For only a vampire could float on air to the top of the tower…
Hammond finds the story intriguing and sets out to find out more, by hiring Fay as a librarian for his collection. But strange events seem to follow her about – not least when his sister is almost literally scared to death while alone in her first floor room…
Another novel from the Golden Age and after the disappointing Castle Skull, I figured it was worth giving John Dickson Carr another shot. And what better book to try than the highly rated He Who Whispers? Can it possibly live up to its reputation?
That’s not a completely stupid question. There are plenty of “classic” mystery novels that I don’t think live up to their reputations. There are a number of highly regarded Poirot novels, such as Cards On The Table or Murder On The Orient Express that I don’t particularly rate and I feel similarly about Carr’s own The Crooked Hinge. Often “highly rated” is interchangeable with “memorable” – it’s rare to see “Til Death Do Us Part” on many “best of” lists (it’s on mine!), as it’s an extremely well done locked room mystery but without any bizarre events, if you know what I mean. He Who Whispers is “the one with the vampire”, but is that the only reason that it’s rated?
Of course not – it’s a brilliant read.
I’m reluctant to go into any real detail about this one, as I’d really hate to get anywhere close to a spoiler for this one. The characters are very well done, especially as Carr is dealing with a certain psychological issue, which he does in a surprisingly sensitive way. The plot is outstanding – extremely well-plotted with so many clues hidden in plain sight. This really is Carr at the height of his powers. There is one massive coincidence, but every good mystery should be allowed one of those.
So, to summarise, if you are a fan of classic mysteries, you simply MUST read this book. It’s right up there with Carr’s very best – Til Death Do Us Part, The Problem Of The Green Capsule, She Died A Lady, The Judas Window, etc. If you’ve read and enjoyed any of those, then you will love this book.
WHERE CAN I GET IT?
It’s available as an ebook (although not cheaply) or a paperback (even less cheaply). I’d suggest a trawl around second-hand shops – as you can see it’s available as a Green Penguin, although I wouldn’t pay the £18.50 that someone is asking on eBay for such an edition. Abebooks has some reasonably priced copies that can be imported from the US for about £6-7. Happy hunting!