Thu 27 Oct 2011
JOHN DICKSON CARR – The Nine Wrong Answers: A Novel For The Curious. Carroll & Graf, paperback reprint, 1986. Hardcover edition: Harper & Brothers, 1952. Also reprinted in paperback by Bantam: 1955 (shown), 1962.
In this tightly wound tale of impersonation, fortune hunting, heir baiting and generally obnoxious skulduggery, John Dickson Carr intersperses the text with nine answers to questions that might lie in the mind of the justly suspicious reader. Each step in this carefully choreographed cat-and-mouse ballet leads the reader into another intellectual pitfall.
Bill Dawson, down on his luck in New York, falls into a proposition that he can’t say no to. He will, for a fee of $10,000, return to England as Laurence Hurst, heir to a considerable fortune from his doddering uncle Gaylord Hurst. The only catch to this game is that Dawson must call weekly on Uncle Gay and be a proper nephew and heir.
The switch in identities is quickly made and Dawson is on his way to England. He isn’t even across the briny when his ex-flame Marjorie Blair insinuates herself into the adjoining seat and into his plans by unmasking him without a moment’s hesitation.
If she can spot his deception, how long will it take for Uncle Gay to penetrate the disguise and turn his sadistic manservant loose? When this comes true, the cat-and-mouse game starts. Bill “Larry Hurst” Dawson will inherit nothing, unless he outlives Uncle Gay and Uncle Gay swears that Dawson won’t live out the week. THE GAME IS AFOOT!
The Nine Wrong Answers is a Sherlock Holmes buff’s treasure. Not only is the great detective cited as an authority on many of the points raised in the pursuit of truth in this tale but one of the final scenes takes place in and around the Sherlock Holmes sitting room prepared for the 1951 Exhibition in Baker Street.
As ever, Carr’s characters are complex and well developed and the plot is sufficiently convoluted to test the wits of the most sophisticated reader. This book has been too long out of print. We welcome it back as a classic “MUST” on everyone’s list.