Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nine - And Death Makes Ten, by Carter Dickson

Nine - And Death Makes Ten
By Carter Dickson

John Dickson Carr is known for many things, but one of the things I like best about the dozen or so of his books that I've read is the sense of atmosphere he's able to create. He does this to great effect - at least at first - in the unfortunately titled Nine - And Death Makes Ten.

It's early in World War II and a group of nine passengers are making their way across the Atlantic on an ocean liner designed to carry many more people. It's a dicey time to be making such a voyage, given the likelihood of being picked off by enemy submarines. A chance that's only enhanced by the fact that the ship is carrying a cargo of military equipment.

You might not be surprised to find out that before long a murder takes place. Not long after, and fairly well into the book, the ninth of the ship's passengers is revealed - it's none other than Sir Henry Merrivale. Whose buffoonish mannerisms pretty much shoot that whole oppressive atmosphere thing in the foot. Before it's all said and done there are more murders and the explanation of the rather complex crimes takes up a considerable chunk of the book.

As I noted recently in a review of the movie version of The Dragon Murder Case, featuring Philo Vance, it's a whole lot of fuss and bother to go to just to bump someone off, especially on an ocean liner where you could probably just push them over the rail, with no one being the wiser. But if you're reading these intricate GAD puzzle mysteries you're probably not a real stickler for realism. I'm sure not.

For some additional perspective, see what Puzzle Doctor had to say about this one.


  1. Thanks for the link.

    I think this is one of my "guilty pleasure" Merrivale books. I know the plot is amazingly over the top, but I think it gets away with it, partly with a well-hidden but well-clued murderer. It was only afterwards when I thought back to it that I noticed how daft the scheme was...

  2. This was the third Carr book I ever read, and I loved it from start to finish. The subdued comedy is even funnier when we get to it, and the plot hinges on a diabolical piece of trickery. Some clues didn't age well, because they were wartime clues, but overall, 'tis a triumph. At least I think so.