The first half of John Dickson Carr’s It Walks By Night deals with the murder and its immediate aftermath. What a grand murder it is! A former athlete (who has only recently become a recluse) is found beheaded in the card room at Fenelli’s restaurant. The room had two entrances, both of which were under constant surveillance by the police. Somehow the murderer entered the room, cut off the man’s head, and slipped out unnoticed.
Of course, no reader would believe that in a million years. The best Carr can do to suspend your disbelief is toe the line between realism and the supernatural, leading you, dear reader, to roam rather hazily into the dark realm of horror and lose all sense of direction. This is where IWbN excels. It’s truly gothic fiction with grisly smiles, hair cropped close to the skull (the skull?), stories of the guillotine, and light that turns faces into devilish masks.
The proposed villain of the piece (Laurent) might be a werewolf or a literature loving madman, but one thing is for certain, he’s in love. In fact, he’s so enamored with his ex-wife, he’s willing to savagely murder any man that dares to touch her. The plans he has for her are far, far worse.
I was led to believe IWbN was Carr in utero, but I’m not so sure. If anything shows an unsteady hand, it would be the very end. It finishes on a theatrical flourish of hyper madness that’s oddly unsatisfying in a novel. (it thrilled me in the short story, The House in Goblin Wood with Fell’s final mad line, so maybe novels require a cool down at the end)
I’d also heard that the solution to the (un)locked-room murder was disappointing. I’m happy to report it isn’t. It’s beautiful. Look at the diagram, map it out for yourself, and then tell me it isn’t gorgeous in its simplicity.
IWbN has all the trappings of Carr’s later novels but with an Edgar-Allen-Poe polish. It’s my kind of book.
Just a quick note. I’m posting less on here because I’m trying to stay away from the internet for a while. October’s been a bad month for writing, and I need less distractions from the page. When I send my manuscript out for beta reading, I hope to read and post ramblings non-stop.
My two books are improving in sales, and I want to thank everyone for the kind words and encouragement you’ve given me. Fun fact: The Opening Night Murders is on Booksirens. Anyone who registers with them can download it for free. Here is the link: https://booksirens.com/book/0VKDW1C/V6OAWH9
Feel free to give it out–perhaps to a mystery lover who’s loathe to take a $2.99 chance on an independent author. I only ask that they leave a review on goodreads or amazon (positive or negative) in exchange for the free download. I think that’s a fair offer.
I hope you all have a lovely, terrifying Halloween.
5 thoughts on “It Walks By Night”
“It finishes on a theatrical flourish of hyper madness”
Yeah, that sums it up pretty neatly 😆
LikeLiked by 1 person
It’s so abrupt. One more paragraph could have fixed it.
Carr has a few books like that. One or two of them could be significantly improved at the end by an extra couple of sentences.
Mind you, the same could be said of Paul Halter. So maybe there’s something about impossible crime authors just being delighted to finally tie everything up and move on, eh? 😉
Like you I came into this one expecting a nascent effort by Carr and was surprised that he was already in standard form. I’ll never forget the solution to this one – first it annoyed me and then I loved it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yeah. Bencolin and Fell act in similar ways. Both try using the narrator to catch the criminal. Both keep their thoughts hidden. Both know the solution early in the story. At one point, Bencolin even makes an incorrect guess which leads to a second murder.