The Seat of the Scornful by John Dickson Carr (1941)

Mr. Justice Horace Ireton is known to be just but also slightly sadistic: he condemns a man to death who he later plans to spare and appears lenient to a man who he then recalls twice to the dock for additional sentencing. Definitely not a man to be trifled with.

But Tony Morell does just that and is found shot dead in Ireton’s living room with Ireton holding a gun – an open and shut case it would seem, yet this is GAD fiction and John Dickson Carr in particular.

Dr Fell has been unexpectedly given some information which proves pertinent to the case just before he is called in by the police and he is able to use this, along with other observations, to find a wily killer.

Psychologically everything just about hangs together, but on a practical level not so much, despite what the internet says.

I deliberately haven’t written much about what happens having thought more about spoilers and so my non-Agatha Christie reviews may become very short in future. This is because I had the pleasure of reading Carter Dickson’s “She Died A Lady” without knowing anything about it (although I realised later that I had read someone’s review but fortunately only retained one piece of completely non-pertinent information). Thus  I had no idea who was going to be done in or in what manner that would appear to be impossible, and with this book in particular it is not clear who the victim is to be, and this greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the first chapters. Normally the reader is just waiting for what the blurb tells you is going to happen which can sometimes be considerable – the blurb on the first version of Christie’s “The ABC Murders” gets you almost halfway through the book.

In an ideal world maybe you would just have a few known, trustworthy reviewers who would simply say nothing about a book apart from things like: “Add it to (the top of – delete as applicable) your TBR at once!”, “Better than X, but not as good as Y”, “Wait until it is on sale”, “For completists only” or “Don’t waste your life on this even if offered free on Kindle”.

On those lines I would sum up this book (also known under the better title of “Death Turns the Table”) as “fine as part of a four volume omnibus, I’d pay up to £3 for a standalone copy”.

So that completes my JDC reading for the time being. Only two weeks to conference – get excited!

Vintage Mystery Challenge

Fulfils “Who – Lawyer/barrister/judge”.

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