Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr by William Brittain

Inspired by the locked room mysteries of John Dickson Carr, a young orphan decides to commit the perfect murder...

Bill Brittain
Source: Goodreads

Bill Brittain's "The Man Who Read" series offers a humorous take on some of the classic mystery tropes. In this short story, an orphan named Edgar Gault resolves to carry out a crime of which the likes of Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale would be proud.

The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Wikispaces.

Author: William Brittain
Date: 1965
Word Count: 1,500 (about 6 pages)


Told from the perspective of the criminal, this brief story offers a rare glimpse into the planning stages of a locked room mystery. Brittain wisely keeps the tone light, and Edgar's naive confidence as he implements his strategy makes him almost likeable.

Other stories that follow the suspect rather than the detective (for instance L. Frank Baum's "The Suicide of Kiaros" - available here) often sacrifice the mystery element of the plot, however the ingenuity of Edgar's plan means the details of the crime only slot into place towards the end of the story. The twist ending also ads an unexpected gag that must be unique within the genre.

At only 6 pages the story is bordering on flash fiction, however Brittain's expert use of minimal set-up and tightly scripted sequences means that is more than enough to form a well-rounded and rewarding story.

8/10 - A clever mystery featuring a nod and a wink to genre staples.

The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr is available as part of the Murderous Schemes Anthology of Classic Detective Stories in paperback and hardcover formats from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

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