A recent post on the Facebook Golden Age group asked for information on the best John Dickson Carr books. I posted a bit of info, but then decided that I’d expand on it here.
A few years ago, I ran a poll to find the best John Dickson Carr novel of all. It wasn’t really a fair fight for every title, as I did it as a sort of World Cup of Carr, with some books getting harder draws than others, both in the opening round and in some head to head “matches”. Looking back at it to share these results in the Facebook group, I realised that I hadn’t really summarised the overall results. So for your delectation, here is the definitive (not really) final word on the best Carr titles.
I divided the poll initially into Gideon Fell, Henry Merrivale and non-series (including Bencolin) titles. For this post, I’m going to look at the results for the non-series titles. I do think these suffer a little from being less well read than the Fell and Merrivale titles, but let’s have a look at the results and then I’ll share my thoughts.
Nobody Loves Me (i.e. less than 5 votes)
- The Hungry Goblin (the only one with no votes)
- The Witch Of The Low-Tide
- Scandal At High Chimneys
- Patrick Butler For The Defence
- The Demoniacs
- Captain Cut-Throat
- The Ghosts’ High Noon
- Drop To His Death
- Deadly Hall
- Fear Is The Same
- Most Secret/Devil Kinsmere
- Papa La-Bas
Vaguely Honourable Mention (i.e. didn’t make it to the quarter-finals but got a few votes)
Out In The Quarter-Finals
Out In The Semi-Finals
- The Four False Weapons
- The Nine Wrong Answers
Out In The Final
The unloved books first of all – you can see that the historicals, especially those that don’t involve time-travel, seem to suffer the worst. In my opinion, The Witch Of The Low-Tide and Captain Cut-Throat are very good books, better than any of the Bencolin titles, so it was a shame to see them go so early. Fire, Burn! was a surprise too, although I’m not a massive fan of it.
And as for the winner, well, I was surprised. I was surprised that The Nine Wrong Answers wasn’t there at the end, as that is an outstanding piece of work, but seeing The Burning Court (excellent) being beaten by The Emperor’s Snuff-Box (perfectly fine) was a real surprise. Perhaps that ending is just too annoying for some people… Also, The Four False Weapons really isn’t that good.
If I Had To Pick Three…
The Nine Wrong Answers, The Burning Court and The Witch Of The Low-Tide (which I haven’t read in years, so the memory might be cheating).