It’s time for the final day of the summary of the poll from a few years ago where over 100 of my readers voted for their favourite John Dickson Carr novels, divided first into non-series, Henry Merrivale and Gideon Fell, and then into a rather fun (for some people at least) World Cup style play-off system.
I’ve left the “best” for last – well, personally I prefer Henry Merrivale but a lot of people don’t. I find the Fell books much more variable with the graph of quality against publication date looking, with a couple of exceptions, a bit like a bell-curve. The best are, in my opinion, in the middle with the worst at either end – his debut, Hag’s Nook being one of the aforementioned exceptions.
So let’s take a look at the titles that your fellow readers did and didn’t vote for.
Nobody Loves Me (i.e. 5 or less votes)
- The Blind Barber
- Panic In Box C
- Below Suspicion (no votes)
- The Dead Man’s Knock (also no votes)
- In Spite Of Thunder
- The Sleeping Sphinx
- Dark Of The Moon
- The House At Satan’s Elbow
Vaguely Honourable Mention (i.e. didn’t make it to the quarter-finals but got a few votes)
- To Wake The Dead
- The Eight Of Swords
- The Arabian Nights Murder
- Death Watch
- Death Turns The Tables/The Seat Of The Scornful
- Hag’s Nook
- The Problem Of The Wire Cage
Out In The Quarter-Finals
- The Case Of The Constant Suicides
- The Mad Hatter Mystery
- The Crooked Hinge
- The Man Who Could Not Shudder
Out In The Semi-Finals
Out In The Final
These were the results that were most skewed by the draw – The Man Who Could Not Shudder won one group, for goodness sake, with The Mad Hatter Mystery coming a close second! There were good books knocked out in the first round – Panic In Box C was the book that got me hooked on Carr and Death Turns The Tables has, I guess, lost out to the lack of an impossibility. I was pleased to see the overrated The Hollow Man (it’s good but it’s not his best) not win, but it was interesting to see the acclaimed Till Death Do Us Part get hammered into second place in its group (by The Hollow Man) and well trounced in its semi-final (by the eventual winner).
If I Had To Pick Three?
Definitely The Black Spectacles, that’s an easy one, and ditto for Till Death Do Us Part. For the third… well, I’m very partial to The Case Of The Constant Suicides, another early title that converted me, so let’s go for that one.
Well, that was fun, not least for me as it’s reminded me which JDC books I haven’t read in the last ten years – currently engrossed in The Witch Of The Low-Tide. Hopefully this has given you a little guidance as to where to start if you’re new to Carr and hasn’t given you too much of a coronary by dismissing your favourite if you’re a devotee. After all, every title is someone’s favourite. Apart from Papa La-Bas, obviously…