All In A Maze aka The Man Who Explained Miracles by Carter Dickson

Tom Lockwood is minding his own business outside St Paul’s Cathedral when Jenny Holden runs out in absolute terror. During her first week back in England, prior to an arranged marriage to a son of a French general, someone tries to gas her by opening the valve on her fireplace in the middle of the night with all of the doors locked from the inside and she receives a death threat in the Whispering Gallery when there is no-one there who could make it. Good job that Tom is a friend of Sir Henry Merrivale.

All In A Maze is one of only two short stories written by Carter Dickson aka John Dickson Carr featuring Merrivale – the other being the fabulous The House In Goblin Wood. It was, I think, the last Merrivale story written – I don’t know why Dickson Carr stopped, but as the novels were running out of steam in the last few books, it’s nice to have a decent farewell to the Old Man.

Merrivale has been basically given his old job back, in charge of “The Ministry of Miracles” and doesn’t really need to break a sweat to solve this one. The St Paul’s trick has a simple explanation and the locked room is pretty easy to figure out, but the murderer is less obvious, although there is one aspect that does indicate them pretty clearly. Some of the actual clues are pretty obscure, but the motive is, I think, one of the nicer mysteries in the story.

On the downside, this does have my “favourite” bugbear, the two people who fall in love and are engaged by the end of the story, even to the extent of “canoodling” in Merrivale’s office. Maybe it’s what the readers of the time would expect, but it does stick out a bit as odd.

You can find this story in the collections “The Men Who Explained Miracles” or “Merrivale, March and Murder”, but both of these are out of print. Good luck hunting them down.

Don’t forget you can check out other Carter Dickson reviews in my developing bibliography of the old man here.


  1. Like the way you have redecorated your site PuzzleDoctor! It’s a nice novella and definitely a decent send off for the Old Man – as you say, the canoodling dates it but then it was originally published as a serial in ‘The Housewife’ magazine in 1956 so I dare say Carr was making concessions to what, rightly or wrongly, was perceived to be the preferences of the target readership.


  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence in the decor. I was trying to jazz it up a bit but really didn’t like the other themes.

    I did not know this was from the Housewife of all places, but it’s hardly the first case of love/engagement/marriage at first sight from Carr. At least these two aren’t cousins!


  3. This is the final H.M. tale, although Carr tried reviving the Old Man with a novel called “The Six Black Reasons” which he ended up scrapping.

    Anyhow, this is one of my favourites. The comedy is excellent, the impossible situation with the voices is simple but suitably eerie, and H. M. is in full form, delivering a grand final performance with which to lower the curtains…


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