Reprint Of The Year 2022 – The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

It’s that time of the year again. Santa may well be only in the early stages of his annual one-night-only round the world tour, but us bloggers are busy than an elf with a crushing deadline preparing for the Reprint of the Year awards. As always, Kate over at Cross Examining Crime is collating all of the nominations and will hold the vote in a week or so’s time. She’s so nice that she’ll even ask for you readers to chip in with anything obvious that we’ve not championed.

Now I’m sure UK readers will be already counting down the minutes until they can vote for Death Of Jezebel, but I’d remind anyone in the US that there’s been an edition of that relatively recently, so they really shouldn’t vote for it. Also the explanation of the mechanics of the crime is still very silly… Right, that’s my half-hearted attempt to sabotage the competition out of the way, on to my first nomination, Jumping Jenny. Yeah, as if…

The British Library has long been championing John Dickson Carr, but it took a while to get to the good stuff. After providing us with the early Bencolin mysteries, which are, in my humble opinion, far from his best work, we got a couple of outstanding Gideon Fell titles, namely Till Death Us Do Part and The Seat Of The Scornful. It may well be that one of my fellows champions the latter title, as it was released this year, but the outstanding title from John Dickson Carr this year was released under a different name – namely that of Carter Dickson.

The Carter Dickson name was used for a couple of odd books such as the early title The Bowstring Murders and the later collection The Department Of Queer Complaints, but it was primarily used for the mysteries of Sir Henry Merrivale, the Old Man himself. Merrivale is a more overtly comic creation than Fell and, in my opinion, his books are generally far better on average. There are misses at both ends of the Fell spectrum, but it’s only the last two Merrivale titles – Behind The Crimson Blind and The Cavalier’s Cup – that are not worth your time.

The White Priory Murders is a classic outing for H.M. It features a clear impossible crime – a murder scene surrounded by unbroken snow – coupled with (yes, I’m saying it again) Carr’s under-rated ability to hide a murderer without resorting to the least likely suspect, as the solution to the impossibility – which Carr must have really liked as he used it again in a later book, only replacing “snow” with “sand” – doesn’t signpost the killer.

It’s not Merrivale’s finest outing – She Died A Lady and The Judas Window are at the top of the tree – but it’s a good start, and it’s great to see him back in action for everyone to see. Fingers crossed we see more of his exploits in the months and years to come.

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