Monday, December 9, 2013

The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

Marcia Tait wished to be an actress and got her first acting job in London. She was a flop, and the critics were cruel. So she went to America where a director named Rainger got hold of her, trained her and groomed her. Rainger and a press agent named Emery made Marcia a movie star. Now she has returned to London to appear on the stage again. She will appear in "The Private Life of Charles II" with Jervis Willard. The play was written by history scholar Maurice Bohun and will be produced by his brother John Bohun. That is it will be presented if they can get financial backing from Lord Canifest.

Marcia has been invited to the White Priory which is the home of Maurice Bohun. Also coming are Rainger, Emery, Jervis Willard, and John Bohun and his daughter Katherine. In addition James Bennett has been invited. Bennett is the nephew of the famous detective Sir Henry Merrivale.

The White Priory is a stately home whose most outstanding feature is the pavilion in the lake. The pavilion was built to provide a private spot for meetings of Charles II, and Lady Castelmaine, his mistress. It is surrounded by water, and the only access is by a bridge. In the house itself, there is a secret stairway by which Charles could leave the house without going through the hallways.

The house party takes places in December, and there is snow on the ground when John Bohun discovers  Macia Tait dead in the pavilion where she had insisted on staying. It is early morning, and the only footprints in the snow are those of John going into the pavilion. This is confirmed by Bennett who comes upon the scene slightly later.

The police are called to investigate, and Inspector Humphrey Masters arrives. Then, of course, Sir Henry Merrivale is called in to solve this impossible crime. The members of the party accuse each other of the murder, and try to come up with solutions of how the murder was committed. There are people wandering the halls at night, and the dog, Tempest, which barks or doesn't bark at strategic moments. There are other successful and unsuccessful murder attempts. H. M., of course, clears everything up at the end.

This book was published in 1934, and currently seems to be out of print. Carter Dickson is the pen name of John Dickson Carr.

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