Locked-Room: The Double Turn by Carol Carnac (1956)

Adrian Delafield, once a great-in-demand painter of the Victorian era, now lives a secluded life at Firenze at St. John’s Wood, looked after by his devoted maid, Miss Trimming. Trimming who is a religious fanatic keeps him away from ‘the evils of the world’; one of those evils apparently being Delafield’s own daughter, Virgilia Delafield, who is a professor of History at Cambridge. One day, Virgilia, receives an anonymous note that her father is dead and alarmed by this arrives at Firenze, throws out the hell-fire preacher whom Trimming had invited at her father’s place, arranges for a doctor to regularly visit her father and sets up her own dwellings in the out-house studio. However, recognizing Trimming’s nursing and management skills, she allows Trimming to continue running her father’s household.

Meanwhile, in London, young painter Susan Truby wants to have a chance to look at the paintings of Delafield. Through her uncle, Jocelyn Truby, whose regiment had once been painted by Delafield, she gathers information about the Victorian. A chance encounter with Delafield’s grandson, Roy Braithwaite who had been in the same regiment as Susan’s beau, Peter Raven, leads to her and Jocelyn being invited to Firenze.

It seems the visit (as a police officer puts it later) gets things moving for after the visit when the doctor comes to examine Delafield, nobody opens the door. When he gets Virgilia to unlock the main door, they find that the door is bolted from the inside. All the windows and other doors are locked and latched too. When finally they break a window and make their way inside, they find Trimming dead at the bottom of the stairs and Delafield barely alive. A portion of the ceiling, recently plastered, had collapsed and it does seem that Trimming came to inspect, caught her foot in the drugget, fell down and broke her neck. However, the local inspector is not satisfied and the Yard is eventually called in. Inspector Rivers finds that to solve the case, he would have to look back at the confusion of the war-years.

After being disappointed by the first Carnac I read, this was a solid read. I was also surprised at how little the police officers seemed to take into account, the locked-room aspect of the case. Had it been a Carr or Halter, the entire focus of investigation would have been that but Carnac’s attitude is that if once the mystery of the murderer is solved then the modus-operandi too would become clear. Why the police do not simply dismiss it as an accident is not too convincing. And I really wish the police had let it be because the novel ends quite tragically. These issues apart, I enjoyed the novel. The mystery was good and I didn’t guess the murderer, having been successfully side-tracked by a number of red herrings. The characters are well-drawn. The youngsters are engaging and the seniors, admirable. And though I don’t find much difference between Macdonald and Rivers, I find the latter to be more likable. After two engaging reads, I would like to read more of Lorac/ Carnac.

Are there books where you too feel that the investigation should have been just dropped?


Opening Lines: “Dead? Nothing of the kind, my dear. He’s still alive, very much alive,” said Jocelyn Truby.

Publishing Details: 1956. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1956

Series: Inspector Rivers #14

Alternate Title: The Late Miss Trimming

Pages: 192

Other books read of the same author: A Policeman at the Door


12 thoughts on “Locked-Room: The Double Turn by Carol Carnac (1956)

  1. You make an interesting point, Neeru, about the focus of this mystery. As you say, Carr would definitely have focused on the ‘locked room’ aspect of the story. At any rate, I like Rivett’s Carol Carnac work (well, I’ve not read it all, but what I have read I liked). I’ve liked her work as E.C.R. Lorac, too. It’s good to see authors like her being ‘rediscovered’ by the British Library and other presses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Margot, one is very very thankful to all the presses which are bringing back these ‘forgotten’ authors. Lorac is more miss than hit for me but her last two have been really good so I am keen to read more of her.

      Liked by 1 person

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