The Best Novel by John Dickson Carr- The Semi-Finals

So the results of the quarter-finals are in, but before we get there, a question – are there more iconic Henry Merrivale tales than there are Gideon Fell ones? There aren’t any/many great Fell tales that didn’t make it into the quarter-finals – personally, Death Turns The Tables is the one I’d have hoped would have done better, but it was never going to beat The Black Spectacles and The Case Of The Constant Suicides.

On the other hand, there are a good number of Merrivales that didn’t make it – My Late Wives, The White Priory Murders, The Skeleton In The Clock, The Ten Teacups – that have a good reputation but didn’t make the cut. So, are the Merrivale titles on average better than the Fell ones…

Anyway, the results.

There aren’t many massive surprises. In the Fell category, the biggest shock was The Hollow Man trouncing The Case Of The Constant Suicides nearly 3:1. I expected the inferior book to win, but not by that much. Chapter 17 isn’t that good… Still, at least sense prevailed in another match and the over-rated The Crooked Hinge was soundly beaten by The Black Spectacles. He Who Whispers, as expected, smashed The Mad Hatter Mystery nearly 5:1, and Till Death Do Us Part did similar business against The Man Who Could Not Shudder.

Over to Merrivale – The Judas Window beat The Plague Court Murders, She Died A Lady beat The Red Widow Murders, The Reader Is Warned beat And So To Murder/Death In Five Boxes and in the first bit-of-a-surprise, Murder In The Submarine Zone edged it against He Wouldn’t Kill Patience.

The other surprise is in the miscellaneous category. The Burning Court unsurprisingly beat The Waxworks Murder, The Four False Weapons beat The Bowstring Murders, and The Emperor’s Snuff-Box absolutely smashed The Devil In Velvet. But a result that really pleased me was It Walks By Night was just beaten by my favourite non-series title, The Nine Wrong Answers. Hurrah!

So, on to the semi-finals – now things get very interesting…

Gideon Fell

Sir Henry Merrivale

Miscellaneous Carr Titles

Not so easy this time, is it? You’ve got until midnight on Friday (give or take) so vote, vote, vote!


  1. To each his own, I guess. The Crooked Hinge is my favourite Fell novel (admittedly of only a few I have read) and I’d have loved to see it emerge the winner (what can beat the terror of that life-sized doll?). Black Spectacles and He Who Whispers are definitely not my cup of tea. Also I would have been very happy to see Nine Wrong Answers out of the race:)


      • Same way I feel about Crooked Hinge. The ride is great, the destination disappointing (well, just insufficiently clues for my tastes).


      • Puzzle Doctor, that’s the way I feel about Crooked Hinge too. The ride is wonderful, but the destination is a bit disappointing.


  2. I think you are being way too mean on HOLLOW MAN!!! Bloody hell though, this is brutal. I’m not sure I can really make any of these choices – can’t we just have this as the top 11 and be done with it (FALSE WEAPONS is clearly a massive statistical anomaly)? Have a great half term chum …


    • Regarding The Hollow Man… in my opinion, the best mysteries are the ones that are baffling but have simple explanations. While there is a beautifully simple misdirection regarding the two crimes in that book, the hoops Carr has to jump through to explain the vanishing man from the study undermine the whole enterprise.

      As for Four False Weapons punching above its weight, well, what else should be there? Maybe Fire, Burn!, maybe… well, I like Witch Of The Low-Tide but it’s not that popular, is it? But there’s always a skew away from historical novels…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you are being a bit too prescriptive there. lots of ways to lock a room after all 🙂 it is complex but I think Carr handles it just fine and the atmosphere is just superb. The locked room is wonderfully clever and to me incredibly memorable. Cagliostro Street bit more of a reach but it is a terrific book either way. But inevitably, this is the difference between the way the polls are handled compared with our joint one all that time ago – and that is fair. FIRE, BURN is one I thought more people would know – I’ve always liked it a lot and it had a big print run in its day. And I think Carr fans all agree with you that LOW TIDE is very good, but yeah, much less well-known.


      • Well, one would want to be cautious with one’s phraseology here 🙂 For me “”lesser Carr” means his weaker books from the 1960s, which he wrote when he was unwell. he also wrote less memorable works int he 30s, 40s and 50s that are a bit less ingenious (some don’t even have impossible crimes to solve after all) but “lesser@ seems too harsh to me. HOLLOW MAN / THREE COFFINS is absolutely top tier, whether you think ti comes first or tenth is of course another matter :).


  3. Fell SF1 – The Problem of the Green Capsule
    Fell SF2 – He Who Whispers
    Merrivale SF1 – She Died a Lady (not a fan of The Judas Window)
    Merrivale SF2 – The Reader is Warned
    Misc Carr SF1 – um… an overrated one versus an insanely complex piece – alright, The Four False Weapons
    Misc Carr SF2 – The Nine Wrong Answers


  4. … and this is the time and place I stopped voting for THM. TPotGC is superb.
    HWW is the other Fell masterpiece and it gets my vote as well.

    Merrivale 1 is just too close a match. Today, SDaL is the winner.
    TRiW is my other pick.

    For misc, I went with TFFW and TNWA.


  5. If my memory serves me well I ‘ve read The Curse of the Bronze Lamp and The Case of the Constant Suicides, and I’m looking forward to reading soon more Gideon Fell Stories, mainly Hag’s Nook, The Blind Barber, Death-Watch, The Hollow Man, To Wake the Dead ,The Man Who Could Not Shudder and He Who Whispers.


  6. This was by far the easiest round because of the way you paired them up. The only one I had to think about a little was the very last one.


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