Book Reviews

Book Review: The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

A fiendish wintry mystery that’s perfect for reading in the colder weather!

Book: The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr)

Publication date: 10th October 2022 (originally published 1934)

Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by British Library Publishing. All opinions my own.

Content warnings: violence, injury, death and murder.

Time: Present
Place: London and the famous old house, White Priory, nearby.
Main Characters: MARCIA TAIT, glamorous film star who has broken her Hollywood contract to open in a London play, “The Private Life of Charles II”; the eccentric MAURICE BOHUN, author of the play, and master of White Priory; JOHN BOHUN, his brother, in love with Marcia Tait; EMERY (publicity) and RAINGER (production) who have rushed after Marcia Tait from Hollywood – trying to persuade her to return; mouthy old LORD CANIFEST, backer of the play, and his subdued daughter, LOUISE; the lovely niece of the Bohuns, KATHERINE BOHUN; young JAMES BENNETT, American, and nephew of SIR HENRY MERRIVALE – that obese, sleepy old bear whom CHIEF INSPECTOR MASTERS routed out of his lair in whitehall to solve that baffling mystery.

I had so much fun with this book! It’s a classic country house mystery with a locked-room mystery of a very innovative sort: the murder takes place in a building surrounded by unmarked snow, with the only visible footprints those of the man who discovered the body. This sets off a chain of dramatic investigations among the visitors and residents of White Priory, and with many twists and turns and redherrings a-plenty, the plot absolutely bounces along in the most entertaining way.

Though it’s subtitles as “A Mystery for Christmas”, this is more wintry than Christmassy – the main impression I got from it was one of snowy isolation rather than specific festivities, so I think it’s perfect to read in a bleak January cold spell. The snow and ice are of course intergral to the seeming impossibility of the mystery, which is the only thing I’ll say about the plot, other than that it really kept me guessing until the end, when everything comes clear in a very satisfying reveal. I wasn’t fussed about the lacklustre romance subplot, which I’ve found before with Dickson Carr’s work (Carter Dickson being a pseudonym), but it’s only a small thread in an otherwise enthrallingly twisty book. I really enjoyed the very 30s feel to the characters and dialogue – it’s easy to imagine this as a film!

This is definitely one I’d recommend if you’re looking for something to curl up with on a wintry evening – five out of five cats!

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