Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr Poisoned Pen Press

When the acclaimed detective Bencolin and his young assistant Jeff Marles are invited by financier D'Aunay to investigate the mysterious murder of the malovolent magician Maleger and his beneficiary Allison, they find themselves in a strange and creepy situation, surrounded by odd characters who are all suspects. One of the murders took place in a house above the Rhine called Castle Skull, a huge castle-like place built in the shape of a skull with its own moat and battlements. Bencolin and Marles have to find out whether the magician staged his own death, and who threw the actor Allison off the building.

John Dickson Carr really ramps up the Gothic horrors in this novel with its mysterious events, old legends, gruesome murders and nasty characters. At one stage, Bencolin and Marles travel across the Rhine in a terrific storm to explore the atmospheric house in the middle of the night. Poor Marles has to cope with a lot, and it doesn't help that he is attracted to young 'flapper' type Sally who is engaged, and seemingly telling lies. 

I prefer cosy mysteries and the plot became rather elaborate in the end, although very clever and difficult to guess. John Dickson Carr's writing is probably too creepy and gruesome for me, and I didn't like one of the characters hiding her Australian origins (although I realise that it was often done in those days).

I received this ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.


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