CARTER DICKSON – The Judas Window. Sir Henry Merrivale #8, William Morrow, hardcover, 1938. Reprinted as The Crossbow Murder, Berkley, paperback, 1964. Many other reprint editions exist, both in hardcover and paperback.

   John Dickson Carr, the old maestro of the mystery story has left us forever, but his books go on and on. The Judas Window features Sir Henry Merrivale, another old maestro, as the detective, and what a glorious locked room puzzle it is, with a brilliant solution.

   In this one, James Caplon Answell is being tried for the murder of his fiancee’s father, Avery Hume. The two were talking in Mr. Hume’s study, with steel shutters over the windows and the door’ bolted. When Answell responded to the cries of the butler and secretary, he was found with Hume dead on the floor, an arrow through his  heart. The victim, an expert archer, had three arrows over the mantel as trophies.

   Answell cla1ms to have been drugged, and to have no recollection or what happened thereafter. The police arrest him, his solicitor quits, and Sir Henry is left to defend him all alone. Well, not quite. He has his secretary Lollypop and two old friends to run errands and keep an eye on proceedings.

   Sir Henry establishes that there was  a case of mistaken identity., that Mr. Hume had mistaken Answell for his cousin of a similar name who had been blackmailing Miss Hume. Hume and his brother, a doctor, had cooked up a plan to remove the blackmailer and get his documents.

   But the plan misfires in more than one way. In a tour de force of reasoning, Sir Henry recovers the missing crossbow, complete with piece of feather from the arrow-weapon, and shows how a crossbow could be shot so as to kill a man in a looked and bolted room.

   Readers are challenged to realize where the “Judas Window” in every room is; this one reader was stunned to find that she should have known it all the time!

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 2, Number 5 (Sept-Oct 1979).