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The Cavalier's Cup

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 3 months ago

Carr, John Dickson as Carter Dickson - The Cavalier's Cup (1953)


A detective story without a murder? Without even a crime, other than a bump on the head? It would be nice to report that The Master was able to pull it off, but in fact this is an embarrassing potboiler.


Lady Virginia Brace calls on Inspector Masters with a story about a Jacobean house in which a valuable cup has been moved around in -- but not stolen from -- a locked room. They visit HM, who lives nearby, and is taking singing lessons in preparation for a village concert. There is a good deal of pointless chatter, during which the details of the event are at length extracted from Virginia, her husband, and her father, a visiting Congressman. Masters is coerced into spending the night in the locked room; during the vigil he is knocked out and the cup is moved once again.


The solution is clever enough, but far too simple to support more than a short story. Page after page is taken up with Carr's elephantine attempts to extract humour from the details of love and sex without ever using plain language: the result is rather like a lecture from one's father on the birds and the bees. Masters is utterly inept, HM spends far more time on his singing than on the case, and Carr treats us to a series of lyrics which are neither funny nor particularly clever.


Carr can still write when he wants to:


There lay the rapier, its fine cup-hilt and long, thin, wicked blade gleaming darkly under a very light coat of oil used to preserve it from damp, under a pattern of oblong shadows thrown by the sun through leaded panes.


It's a pity that here he gave himself so little to write about.



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