I hadn't quite forgotten how hard it is to be on your feet all day, but I'm out of practice at it and currently, all I want to do when I get home is sleep, but when I get home I've got a ton of other things to do (mostly domestic and dull). Carving out time to read before I fall asleep is proving a challenge at the moment - this won't last, I'll soon adjust to my new routine - but meanwhile I'm favouring classic crime as the perfect thing to relax with.
I'd heard lots of good things about the latest John Dickson Carr from the British Library Crime Classics series so as a break from my Edward Marston binge I picked it up. It didn't disappoint. It opens on a dark and stormy afternoon at the village fete. Dick Markham (successful writer of crime drama) has arrived with his new fiance - Lesley Grant. They're excited for each other but a little bit worried about how another girl, Cynthia, will react to their news. Dick doesn't think he led her on, but Cynthia might not agree.
From this point onwards Carr goes for it. Lesley shoots a fortune-teller - was it an accident? The fortune-teller claims not and suggests that instead of being the sweet young girl she looks to be she's actually a much married, husband poisoning 40 something. And then the fortune-teller is found dead in a locked room, killed in the way he described Lesley as using for her supposed victims. But was the fortune-teller all he claimed to be and is any of his story true?
Gideon Fell is called in to investigate a situation that's becoming more complicated and outlandish by the moment as Carr liberally applies red herrings, unlikely twists, and gothic atmosphere. This is exactly why I enjoy his books so much. None of it is very likely, and if you stop to think about it too much half it probably isn't possible either - but it doesn't matter. I'm so carried away by the atmosphere that he could introduce just about any unlikely element (and if you've read Castle Skull he can really rise to the challenge) and I'd swallow it. Not every writer could make that work, but Carr does, I think this is because he underpins his wilder flights of fancy with clever details.
In this case, it's the character of Cynthia who ties everything together. She's hard to work out in a believable way and keeps the tension high. How does she really feel about Dick throwing her over for Lesley - is she as okay with it as she says, or does she want some vengeance for being publically rejected in front of the whole village? Altogether it's vintage Carr and an absolute treat, and now before I fall asleep over my keyboard I'm off to bed with the new Claudia Roden cookbook.