cover image The Eight of Swords

The Eight of Swords

John Dickson Carr. Penzler, $15.95 trade paper (236p) ISBN 978-1-61316-256-9

In this entertaining golden age mystery from Carr (1906–1977), his Chestertonian sleuth, Gideon Fell, gets involved in a bizarre murder case after Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Hadley, a close friend, is consulted about the odd behavior of the Bishop of Mappleham. The cleric’s sanity is questioned after he’s spotted sliding down a bannister while a guest at the Grange, the country home of Colonel Standish, a partner in the firm publishing Hadley’s memoirs. The bishop also pulls the hair of one of his host’s servants, because he suspects she’s wearing a wig to disguise her true identity of Piccadilly Jane, a notorious thief. Things turn more serious after someone connected to the Grange is fatally shot, with a card with “eight swords painted on it” placed near the victim’s hand. Wry meta elements enhance the fair-play plot. Toward the end, for example, a character advises Fell to minimize talking about the personalities involved because the “public will only glance at this chapter, to make sure it hasn’t been cheated by having evidence withheld.” This is another worthy entry in the American Mystery Classics series. (Dec.)