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The Emperor's Snuffbox

Page history last edited by Jon 8 years, 11 months ago

Carr, John Dickson - The Emperor's Snuffbox (1942)


La Bandalette is a French seaside resort, with a Casino and its own small population of English expatriates; among them are Eve Neill and the Lawes family, who live opposite her in the Rue des Anges. Eve is divorced from her charming, sadistic husband Ned Atwood, and she catches the eye of respectable, slightly stuffy, Toby Lawes. Everything seems to be going well until Ned reappears on the scene, and Toby's father is brutally murdered in his study, directly opposite from Eve's bedroom. Luckily another expatriate, Dermot Kinross, is there to spring to her defence...


The Emperor's Snuffbox is relatively brief, and the plot turrns on a single pivot, not easily forgotten: so it is to the book's credit that a second reading is just as enjoyable as the first. Carr is brief (at 213 pages) and to the point: his later habit of describing things in conversation is not in evidence here. The characters have enough depth to be convincing, and -- although relatively little happens after the murder -- the plot moves fast enough to keep the reader's interest. There are a couple of coincidences which seem a little strained on reflection, but Carr puts them through with gusto at the time, which is what counts -- and the red herring is first-rate.


Highly recommended.




From Carr's mid-period when he turned out four of his best books in a three year period.  This is one of them.  Very modern feel to this story – would make a great suspense movie.  Murder witnessed across a courtyard by two people.  Well, not the actual murder but what appears to be the murderer leaving the scene of the crime.  All the two of them really see is someone wearing a glove closing a door.  But one of the witnesses convinces the other that she saw what he saw.  This is the crux of a devilish plot.  The denouement was not too surprising but I have to confess I missed the obvious clue that would've tipped me off to the real murderer way back in Chapter 2.  One of the best uses of misdirection and one of the most fairly clued of Carr's detective novels.  A truly astute reader will catch on easily.  The use of the wrongly accused motif was very Hitchcockian.  Very cinematic in how the murder is accomplished, the witnessing of the gloved intruder, the accident of Ned falling down the stairs, Ellen being locked out.  Reminded me of "Rear Window" and all those other suspense movies that use the voyeur/witness motif.  (March 2010)


J.F. Norris 


See also: http://moonlight-detective.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/sniff-of-crime.html


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