cover image The Problem of the Wire Cage: A Gideon Fell Mystery

The Problem of the Wire Cage: A Gideon Fell Mystery

John Dickson Carr. American Mystery Classics, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61316-487-7

How could someone be strangled to death in the middle of a sodden clay tennis court without the killer leaving any footprints? That riddle animates this excellent entry in the Gideon Fell series from Carr (1906–1977; The Hollow Man), originally published in 1939 and now appearing with an introduction by Knives Out filmmaker Rian Johnson. The story opens with four characters playing mixed doubles on Dr. Nicholas Young’s estate, near London. Frank Dorrance is engaged to Brenda White, with their union primed to net them a considerable fortune from Brenda’s guardian. Hugh Rowland, a criminal defense attorney known for getting guilty clients acquitted, harbors his own feelings for Brenda. The members of the love triangle are joined by Young's high-society neighbor, Kitty Bancroft. After the quartet’s game is disrupted by heavy rain, one of them is found choked to death on the court, with only their own footsteps visible in the mud, and Fell is called in to investigate. Carr’s tricks and puzzles are as thrilling as ever, and Johnson’s introduction offers sharp insight into the story’s enduring appeal (“The beating heart of any John Dickson Carr tale is the delicious terror of the unsolvable... and the implication that the monster is just outside your window”). This is an ideal introduction to a master of mystery fiction’s golden age. (Jan.)