After a lifetime of denial, I finally gave Carter Dickson a try a little over two and a half years ago. My experience was so pleasant that I picked up another right away. I based my choice on the fact that a trusted friend was posting a spoiler-filled piece on this one, and I wanted to get in on the action. That experience was . . . not so pleasant.
I mention this here because the next two books on my journey to review and rank every Carter Dickson novel are this very same pair of starters! The Judas Window was my first, and for some unfathomable reason I did not review it. I defended it (oh, yes, JJ!!!) a number of times, but I did not review it. And so I plan to re-read it in the nearish future and give its due.
But the next title up happens to be The Ten Teacups (a.k.a. – for no good reason at all – The Peacock Feather Murders), and I did write a review of that one after the fact. You can read that review here because I don’t plan on rehashing the whole thing again.
What I will say is this: taking TTT in context after the delights of The Punch and Judy Murders, we see Dickson returning to the more traditional locked room format and style of before. It’s almost impossible to compare these two books because they are so different, but I can do a blow-by-blow if we size this one up to, say, The White Priory Murders.
Teacups is, to my mind, better than TWPM, particularly at the beginning. Sergeant Bob Pollard is a much more delightful and interesting point of view character than Merrivale’s lovestruck nephew, James Bennett. Pollard is right on the scene of the first crime, and it’s a stumper of a murder of the invisible man/locked room variety.
And while both novels plod along intolerably in the middle, at least Teacups introduces us to new people and a new setting. I can barely remember the characters in White Priory, which I read only a few months ago, but a quick re-read of my own review brought several of the people we find in Teacups back to life. Still, there’s a murder game and a secret society, and I don’t think either is rendered particularly satisfying for my tastes. Murder games are tough! Christie avoided them and stuck to seances, thank you very much. Ngaio Marsh nearly ended her career at the start with one. As for secret societies, give me The Seven Dials any day over these darn teacups.
Finally – and I won’t belabor the point, just read my old review and JJ’s discussion with the Puzzle Doctor – the solution to the first crime is outrageous. Maybe not quite Hake Talbot territory, but it just pisses me off! Still, it was without a doubt more interesting than the mechanics of White Priory, and while I figured out the murderer in the earlier book, I did not solve anything here. (Good lord! How could anyonefigure this one out?)
All this is why I am ranking The Ten Teacups just above The White Priory Murders. A much much better experience awaits us next with The Judas Window.
- The Punch and Judy Murders
- The Red Widow Murders
- The Plague Court Murders
- The Unicorn Murders
- The Ten Teacups
- The White Priory Murders
- The Bowstring Murders