To describe Judge Ireton as arrogant would be something of an understatement. His daughter, Constance, introduces her fiancé Tony Morrell to him, and the Judge immediately (well, once Constance is out of the room) offer £3,000 for the undesirable Morrell to clear off and never bother her again. Morrell agrees and they resolve to meet again the next night to conclude their business.
The next night, a phone message is received from Judge Ireton’s study – a cry for help and then the sound of a bullet being fired. When reaching the house, the body of Morrell is found on the floor with the Judge sitting next to it holding a gun.
Could the Judge really be so confident that he can shoot a man in his own house and get away with it? Or is there someone out there determined to frame him? Only Gideon Fell himself can get to the bottom of things.
Why this one? Well, that’s one of the temptations of having your entire book collection laid out on the floor of your study. I fancied a Carr and picked this one because you don’t often see much said about it. It’s not considered a classic – possibly due to the lack of an impossible crime – but it’s not mentioned as one of the worst – The Problem Of The Wire Cage, The House At Satan’s Elbow, etc. So what can we say about it?
It actually seems at times that we’re reading a pre-cursor of Columbo as we seem to be presented with the murderer who seems to be challenging Fell to prove their guilt. As the story progresses, there becomes more and more doubt that the Judge is the killer and more viable suspects are presented.
We’ve got some of the Carr staples here, notably the lovebirds who suddenly realise that they are perfect for each other, but Fell is in rather restrained form – we get a couple of “Archons of Athens!” but that’s about it.
The puzzle is rather a clever one, and I’d be impressed if anyone could work the whole thing out. It’s fairly clued and a really enjoyable read. Highly Recommended…
… but, without spoiling anything, there is some very bizarre behaviour on the last few pages from Fell. It’s not the only time he does something similar, but in this case, it seems completely motiveless. Very odd, but don’t let it spoil the rest of the book for you.