The Crooked Hinge by John Dickson Carr was published in 1938.
A panel of seventeen detective story writers and reviewers chose The Crooked Hinge as the fourth best locked room mystery of all time. The Hollow Man by the same author was voted the best.
A man has his throat slashed and dies, in full view of at least three people with no killer in sight. Meanwhile, a mysterious automaton, immobile for centuries, suddenly springs to life and a housemaid almost dies of fright. Accusations of witchcraft and foul play abounds, while Dr. Fell investigates.
I loved the atmosphere of this book! Carr manages to create an environment of palpable fear and suspicion.
Till the very end I didn’t know who the real culprit was. My suspicion rested on various characters until the final revelation.
This is a very engrossing read. I barely managed to put it down after picking it up. If work and life had not interfered, I would have finished it at one go.
I learnt about Maelzel’s Chess Player and early automatons in general from this book. That was an extra added bonus.
Having said all that, I was disappointed by The Crooked Hinge. The entire book was so gripping and exciting! But the ending was far-fetched, overcomplicated and oddly dull. This is the same kind of problem that The Hollow Man had.
I just don’t like Carr’s premier detective Dr. Gideon Fell. He seems dull and tends to over explain things.
The book could easily have done without the narrator like character of Page, just like I thought The Hollow Man could have done without Rampole and his wife. None of the characters really stand out. The character of Patrick Gore is a shade duller than the rest of them.
The Crooked Hinge is the third Carr mystery and the second Dr. Fell mystery I’ve read. Overall, there is something missing from John Dickson Carr’s mysteries. They somehow lack the finishing touch that makes a mystery a worthwhile read.
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