cover image Castle Skull

Castle Skull

John Dickson Carr. Poisoned Pen, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1281-9

First published in 1931, this excellent whodunit from Carr (1906–1977) makes the most of its creepy setting. French investigating magistrate Henri Bencolin and his Watson, Jeff Marle, travel to the Rhine at the request of Jérôme D’Aunay, a Belgian financier, following the murder of English actor Myron Alison, who was shot and set on fire at Castle Skull, D’Aunay’s home on the Rhine. Witnesses saw Alison running around the battlements before he collapsed. Alison’s own home was across the river from the castle, which once belonged to a legendary magician, Maleger, who was in business with Alison and D’Aunay. Seventeen years earlier, Maleger’s body was recovered from the Rhine shortly after he disappeared from a train car that was under constant observation. Carr’s gift for evoking atmosphere is very much in evidence: the castle’s facade “resembles a giant death’s head, with eyes, nose, and ragged jaw. But there are two towers, one on each side of the skull, which are rather like huge ears; so that the devilish thing, while it smiles, seems also to be listening.” Golden age fans will hope that the British Library Crime Classics series continues to make more from Carr available. (May)