Tue 27 Mar 2007
EDGAR WALLACE – The Clue of the Twisted Candle
George Newnes, London, hc, 1917. Small Maynard & Co.,Boston, hc, 1916. Numerous reprints in both hardcover and paperback. TV Film: An episode of The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, 15 August 1960, with Bernard Lee as “Superintendent Meredith.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police T. X. Meredith, a man of unorthodox though successful methods of detection and best friend of mystery writer John Lexman, has been investigating Remington Kara, an extremely rich Greek with something of a turbulent history and a former suitor for the hand of Lexman’s wife.
Kara was almost murdered years ago, and such is his fear of another attempt being made his bedroom is “practically a safe.” It features burglar-proof walls, reinforced concrete roof and floor, an unreachable window, and its sole door has in addition to a lock “a sort of steel latch which he lets down when he retires for the night and which he opens himself personally in the morning”.
Of course Kara is eventually found dead, locked in this safe-like room. How was Kara’s murder accomplished, why did his secretary disappear and his manservant run away, and for that matter who killed the dog in the basement of his house? Was Kara killed by the men he has feared for years or someone else, and if so, who was it and why?
Answers to these conundrums are revealed at a gathering at the end of the book in which All Is Explained, including how the challenge presented by the locked room was overcome.
My verdict: On the negative side I felt there were perhaps one too many coincidences and the identity of the murderer was not as well hidden as it might have been. On the other hand, the locked room explanation is ingenious, clues to how it was accomplished are revealed in a fair fashion in the narrative, and I confess I did not foresee one of the final twists. I would sum it up as a diverting, light read.