The Demoniacs (John Dickson Carr)

By John Dickson Carr

First published: US, Harper, 1962; UK, Hamish hamilton, 1962

Blurb (US)

In the year 1757 a young man named Jeffrey Wynne, lean of face and form, gallantly rescued his true love, black-eyed Peg Ralston, at her uncle Mortimer’s command, from Paris and, apparently, a house of ill repute.

Peg was beautiful, orphaned, fiery, soon to be an heiress, and, though not entirely virtuous (Jeffrey was involved here), deserved far better than what seemed to be in store for her.

For back in London she was confronted by the lady in her uncle’s life, Lavvy Cresswell, pale of hair, cold of eye.

Thanks to Lavvy, it would seem, Peg was destined for Newgate Prison, sentenced as a wayward minor.

But the prison wasn’t the only problem.  There was the body of an old woman, mysteriously dead, in a house falling apart, on London Bridge—a house in which there was sword play by moonlight and a veiled portrait of a Mrs. Bracegirdle; there was more mystery at Mrs. Salmon’s waxworks; there was a drunken and amorous clergyman named Laurence Sterne; there was the blind Justice, John Fielding, and his Bow Street runners; a print shop called the Magic Pen; Covent Garden’s Green Room; and the bawdy, unruly streets and bedchambers of London.

John Dickson Carr, in one of his most lively, suspenseful journeys into the past, has plunged happily and wholeheartedly into a glamorous, lusty, theatrical period—and produced what is perhaps his most satisfactorily mysterious trip into the past, with his most vivid characters as companions.

My review

Aargh!  It’s Laurence Sterne!  The horror!  The horror ! *********************** *************************** Have you wound the clock?******************* ******************************************************************************
***************************************************************************************Alas, poor Yorick!************************ ***************************** *******************************************************Hobbyhorses!************************ *************************** ************************** ************ **********And for that ejaculation I do not give a groat.********* ************** ********** **************Throws book out of window.

This is the one in which the hero is a would-be murderer, a thief, and a psychopathic thug who throttles his girlfriend.  So much for reader identification!  Pretty standard plot: couple who love each other but are always at each other’s throats (literally in Jeff’s case); heroine accused of murder.  Murder is only the B-plot, the main plot is an unconvincing romantic tangle.  Least likely murderer.