Friday, 16 December 2011

Forgotten Book - Careless Corpse

My forgotten book today is an obscure but extraordinary novel written by a fascinating, idiosyncratic and sometimes maddening American Golden Age storyteller. The book is Careless Corpse, first published in 1937, and the author C. Daly King. And it included that odd paragraph on economics that I teased you with yesterday.

I’ve mentioned King before in this blog. He was a psychologist who wrote books on the subject, and he drew from his professional expertise for his novels. But this did not take him down the road of “psychological suspense” – his fiction bears no resemblance to that of Francis Iles, say, or C.S. Forester. On the contrary, he specialised in elaborate puzzles, often weighed down by strange digressions into academic debates. An example is the passage I quoted in my quiz question.

In this novel, a series of deaths occur among members of a party of celebrities – including a concert pianist, a violinist, a dancer, a composer, and a musical critic. The party is organised by a wealthy scientist, and the setting is an island amid the ice-floes of the Hudson River.

As so often, King provides helpful diagrams – no fewer than five – and arranges the text in a series of “movements” to underline the musical aspects of the story. The plot is elaborate and wildly ingenious (and, of course, improbable) and there is some entertaining writing mixed in with a bit of padding here and there. I don’t claim this book is great literature, but I really did enjoy it as a light, escapist read.

5 comments:

The Passing Tramp said...

Good puzzles need not concern themselves with being great literature, in my opinion.

I've never seen a copy of this book to this day. Congratulations on finding it.

John said...

OK, where on earth did you ever find a copy of that book? I'm very jealous, Martin. You know none of us will ever be able to read this book because as Curt implies in his comment it is one of the most elusive of all detective novels in the entire genre. I've never seen a copy either. Not even in a library! But I did at one time own a copy of ARROGANT ALIBI which was quite a coup for me in my early days.

Martin Edwards said...

Curt, you and I certainly agree on that.
Alas, I don't own the book, but it was lent to me by a generous friend. And it still has the dust wrapper!

Martin Edwards said...

Hi John - your comment crossed with my reply to Curt. All I can say is that, whatever may be wrong with the world, I find time after time that the kindness and generosity of others, towards authors and fellow enthusiasts is something to celebrate. The same friend has also loaned me two other books I've never seen, which will feature here in coming weeks.
As for Arrogant Alibi, I hope to cover that here as well next year.

aguja said...

Love the title! It makes me laugh ... and it sounds as if the book will be a good light read ... if one can locate it!
Thank you, as always, for your research in order to share books of which we would otherwise be unaware.