Last Read of 2020: The Man Who Could Not Shudder by John Dickson Carr (1940)

But most of all you were conscious of the atmosphere you breathed: an odor peculiar to such houses.

The story begins, as they often do, in a bar. The story is about a haunted house, up for sale. More than a decade back, an octogenarian butler had leapt up at a chandelier, which fell off the roof, and crushed him. There is also talk of chairs suddenly jumping at you. Drunken revelry? The narrator, Bob Morrison, a journalist is there along with his guest, Martin Chase, who has lately arrived from Italy. Chase does not take part in the conversation but is interested in the house. So he buys it and gets it renovated by the architect Andy Hunter, a friend of Morrison. At the house-warming party, Chase wants to conduct an experiment. He invites what he calls ‘types’ to his ghost party.

So on the appointed day, we have Morrison and his beloved, Tess; their friend, Andy Hunter; and a wholesale dealer, Bentley Logan with his wife Gwenyth. The last remaining guest, a lawyer, Julian Enderby, is delayed. As soon as Tess enters the house, she lets out a terrifying scream. A small hand, it seemed, had groped her ankle. Chase tells them the story of one of the owners of the house who died suddenly and whose ghost later came back, scarred face and all. A grandfather clock stopped working on the very day of his death.

That was in the past, Chase assures them. However, the very next day, death occurs again. Logan goes to work on his typewriter and somebody shoots him in the forehead. Gwenyth, who was in the room with him, claims that a revolver suddenly left its peg in the wall and suspended in mid-air shot her husband dead. “The room did it,” she claims. Cue for Dr. Fell to make an entry.

This was an interesting book. I love reading about guests meeting at some country estate/ house and the resultant tension and undercurrents as their personalities clash with each other. And I must say, I rather liked the villain winning the round against Dr. Fell. Did you feel the same way too?

*

First Line: “A haunted house?” said the art critic.

Publication Details: NY: Zebra, 1968

First Published: 1940

Series: Dr. Fell #12

Other opinions: Bedford Bookshelf; In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel; Mystery File; Mysteries Ahoy; Pretty Sinister Books; The Grandest Game in the World; The Green Capsule;

Other books read of the same author (among others): Eight of Swords

4 thoughts on “Last Read of 2020: The Man Who Could Not Shudder by John Dickson Carr (1940)

  1. That house seems to have its own eerie personality, Neeru! And there is something about those ‘howdunit’ ‘impossible’ mysteries that can really keep a reader’s attention. It sounds as though this one was one of Carr’s solid efforts.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The title is not that appealing but I like mysteries set in a country estate and a house party is a bonus. I will have to seek this one out. I read my first book by Carr in 2017 and haven’t read another since then, although I have a lot of them on my TBR shelves / boxes.

    Liked by 2 people

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