First published: US, Harper, 1961; UK, Hamish Hamilton, 1961
Quite possibly the best of the late John Dickson Carr novels, this historical (England, June 1907) vividly evokes the Edwardian seaside resort at which a devil-worshipping and blackmailing prostitute is strangled on a beach (no footprints, of course), presumably by her sister, with whom the neurologist hero, Dr. David Garth, is in love. The romance is sensibly handled, without adolescent fits of jealousy, and Dr. Garth’s duel of wits with the obnoxious Inspector Twigg is well done. The identity of the murderer is particularly well hidden, the motive hinging upon sexual psychology and SPOILER a reversal of the situation in The Sleeping Sphinx. The solution to the impossible crime recycles ideas from Gaston Leroux’s Mystère de la chambre jaune (a ludicrous and badly-written book about which Carr waxes lyrical) and the earlier The White Priory Murders (1934), but it is cleverly done.
Buffalo Evening News:
It’s one of the quirks of whodunit writing that the master of the English historical mystery is an American—John Dickson Carr.
Carr is a master of the historical mystery and most of the critics here and in England call him faultless in his striking ability to bring charm and interest to his formal puzzles in detection.
San Francisco Chronicle:
John Dickson Carr is having a lovely time of late with his period detective novels, and so are his readers.
As full of surprises and suspense as can be desired.
New Orleans Times–Picayune:
It’s all a lot of fun with Carr, the mystery writer, and Carr, the social historian, engagingly combined.