My Forgotten Book for today is another novel written by John Dickson Carr in his prime, The Crooked Hinge, first published in 1938 and dedicated to Dorothy L. Sayers ‘in friendship and esteem’. It features Dr Gideon Fell, who is pretty much on top form.
The starting point is an impersonation riddle reminiscent of the case of the Tichborne Claimant. Sir John Farnleigh, recently returned to his home to claim his inheritance, has married his childhood sweetheart - but someone else has come forward, claiming that Farnleigh is an impostor and that he, Patrick Gore, is the real Farnleigh.
The cleverness of the mystery is that when murder occurs, the victim is unexpected – he is the ‘original ‘ John Farnleigh. How was he killed, and who was responsible? The claimant seems to be in the clear, but can we be sure? Carr rings the changes on the list of suspects with his usual ingenuity, and the atmosphere darkens as Satanism makes its presence felt in the story.
Dr Fell propounds an apparently brilliant solution – but it emerges that this is simply a device on his part to expose the principal culprit. I thought this use of the ‘alternative solution’ type of plot was very well done, and although the book sagged a bit in the middle, on balance I found it highly enjoyable. Definitely worth reading, a book that should not be forgotten.