Terrifying scenes, observed through a skylight window. Telltale splashes of gilt paint. Something malevolent crawing around on the roof, peering out from behind a chimney. And murder - murder committed with the sharp, pointed hand of a clock.
That's what you'll find in Death-Watch, by John Dickson Carr. Written in 1935, the heart of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, the book pits Carr's detective, Dr. Gideon Fell, against a far-too-clever opponent and a murder that is macabre in its plotting and its resolution. Death-Watch is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Carr, of course, is famous for his locked room and impossible crime mysteries, but there's less of that in Death-Watch than in most Carr books. Instead, what you have might best be described as an impossible atmosphere, nightmarish scenes and sensibilities designed to hook the reader. There's less of Carr's usual sense of humor on display here - he often uses humor to relieve the tension in his books, but there's not much of that going on. As Dr. Fell says, "I give you my word the damned case frightened me, and I seem to recollect that it’s the only one that ever did."
I don't want to tell you much about the plot - I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say that Dr. Fell and his friend, Professor Melson, stumble upon a murder - an unknown man killed with a weapon that turns out to be one of the hands of a clock. And when they find out the identity of the victim - that's when the terror really begins.
Long out of print, Open Road Media has brought “Death-Watch” back as an e-book. It belongs in your collection.
I am submitting Death-Watch as another entry in the Vintage Mystery Bingo reading challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog. This fills the square "one book with a method of murder in the title." You'll certainly find that in Death-Watch.