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The Mad Hatter Mystery

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 6 months ago

Carr, John Dickson - The Mad Hatter Mystery (1933)



Review by Nick Fuller


"It began, like most of Dr. Fell's adventures, in a bar. It dealt with the reason why a man was found dead on the steps of Traitors' Gate, at the Tower of London, and with the odd headgear of this man in the golf suit. That was the worst part of it. The whole case threatened for a time to become a nightmare of hats."


The second Dr. Fell story is one of the best of the lot, in subject-matter, in conception, and in characterisation. The plot ingredients (stolen hats, crossbow bolts, and Poe manuscripts) are bizarre, but Carr's masterly plotting — as good an example of the 'onion' technique as any—turn these ingredients into the perfect blend of seriousness and farce. Paradoxically, the book is both more serious, but lighter in tone than, Hag's Nook. There is splendid farce in two of Fell's interviews, but, because it is not dwelt on or overdone, it is funnier than, say, The Blind Barber. In direct opposition to the farce is the human side: most noticeably, the genuine and human tragedy of Lester Bitton; and there is also the amazing dramatic irony. Ingenuity is not missing: the revelations concerning the theft of the Poe manuscript, and the identity of the Mad Hatter, are surprising. The murderer is a well-characterised, sympathetic character; and the clues are well-hidden but fair.

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