There is no question that the book that Monica Stanton wrote was scandalous. For a minister's daughter to write a book named Desire was certainly something her relatives wished had never happened. For a British movie company to buy the film rights turned her world upside down - particularly when she discovered that the studio was not hiring her to rewrite her own book. Instead, she would rewrite a detective novel...and the man who wrote that book would rewrite Monica's book for the movie version. And all that was before the deadly attacks began...
That's the situation we find in And So To Murder, by John Dickson Carr, writing as Carter Dickson. The 1941 mystery, featuring Sir Henry Merrivale, is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.
The attacks on Monica really began in earnest when somebody lured her to the set of another movie and tried to pour vitriol - sulfuric acid - down a speaking tube and onto her face. The unsuccessful attack was followed by frightening anonymous letters. And there were more attacks. Fortunately for Monica, Bill Cartwright, the writer of that detective story which she had been assigned to rewrite, was nearby - and a friend of Sir Henry Merrivale. And it turns out that Sir Henry was very interested in some other mysterious goings-on at the movie studio, which might have been the work of enemy spies.
I have always been fond of Carr's Sir Henry Merrivale mysteries. The Old Man, as "H.M." is known, is a brilliant but irascible man, apparently qualified as both a lawyer and a doctor. He spends much of his time working for the British government - particularly in wartime books, such as And So to Murder, where he is heading up British secret service. In many of Carr's books, Sir Henry provides a great deal of comic relief - not nearly as much so, however, in And So to Murder. There is a lot of humor in the goings-on at the film studio, where it is considered only normal to have two writers working to adapt each other's books rather than adapting their own work. But Sir Henry is remarkably restrained. He doesn't even appear in the book until well past the halfway point, and, aside for a few bursts of bad temper, he is mostly serious. Perhaps that was only to be expected in 1941 Britain, deep into the war years.
It is also worth noting that, by the time of And So to Murder, Carr had had very bad experiences with film studios; Carr's wife is quoted as saying that her husband hated "with complete loathing" his time at the studio. He certainly gets his revenge in his biting and often hilarious picture of the industry.
And So to Murder isn't my favorite Carr book - for one thing, without drifting into spoiler territory, I think Carr violated one of his own fair-play rules to mislead the reader. Still, for the characters, for the film industry byplay, and for the plot, you will most likely enjoy And So to Murder. Contrary to what I said when I recorded the podcast version of this review, the book is available in a trade paperback edition from the Langtail Press, and it's certainly worth your purchase!
This is another entry in the continuing Vintage Mystery Bingo reading challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog. On my bingo card, it fulfills the requirement for "one book set in the entertainment world."