Monday, August 13, 2007

The Skeleton in the Clock - Carter Dickson

First published 1948; cover shown is the 1973 Belmont Tower (USA) paperback edition. Cover artist unknown. 223 pages.

Set in England towards the end of the Second World War, this Sir Henry Merrivale mystery features all the usual themes of the time: rations, clothing vouchers, service uniforms. It was a time when your status in life meant everything, and relationships developed at accelerated rates because no one knew what tomorrow would bring.

Featuring a 20 year old murder - and a more recent one - this mystery is a typical story of family secrets. It was my first Carter Dickson, and I found my attention wandering almost from the start. I didn't make it past page 100 before I started flipping ahead, trying to find the "good" bits (of which there were few).

The idea of a skeleton in a clock sounded interesting, but the novel itself did not hold enough tension to make reading on worthwhile. The language is quite dated, and Sir Henry Merrivale must be one of the most frustrating and annoying detectives in literary history. His "lordly pigeon-toed walk", ever-present cigars and constant dropping of his g's in general conversation (i.e. "I'm a forgivin' man. You lemme alone, son.") grated on my nerves until it became impossible to read further.

No more Carter Dickson's for me!

No comments: