The Waxworks Murder aka The Corpse In The Waxworks (1932) by John Dickson Carr

Paris and the bodies of two dead girls are troubling Henri Bencolin. One is found floating in the Seine, the second in the Wax Museum, lying in the arms of “The Satyr Of The Seine”. All indications point to “The Club Of The Silver Key”, an exclusive… well, brothel where all of the customers wear masks.

As Bencolin crosses swords with the owner of the club, Jeff Marle finds himself going undercover at the club. But are the sleuths looking in the right place for the murderer or is Marle heading into deeper danger?

To quote the mighty Russ Abbot, “Oh, what an atmosphere”. Early Carr – Fell’s first appearance was still a year away – always had a touch of the Grand Guignol and while he has refined it from his debut, It Walks By Night, it still dominates this book. Bencolin has a dark air of unreality about him – the idea that criminals can tell if he is after them based on what he is wearing is an effective image, while being unbelievable at the same time.

This is only a quick review – I’ve other things to do at the moment – but it’s definitely worth mentioning that this is still early Carr, showing the potential of what is to come while still being far short of his great works. The early scenes with Bencolin and his latest nemesis are great and the sequence with Marle going undercover in the club… sorry, brothel – Carr never uses that word – are exciting. But it does drag in the middle section, and as a mystery, the murderer – and the clue that points to them – seemed to me to come out of nowhere. Yes, they had appeared in the book already, but it didn’t satisfy me.

Worth a look to see an author honing their craft, but not the place to start with Carr.

Availability: There’s a Green Penguin edition, with affordable copies out there.

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHERE – Set In A Capital City

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