It Walks by Night (1930) by John Dickson Carr

This, Carr’s debut novel, was one I read for the first time three years ago and it is a story which I rated highly for its characterisation and narration style. You can click here if you wish to read my thoughts in full. Contemporary reviewers were also positive about this title when it was first published, such as The Saturday Review, who on the 22nd February 1930 wrote:

Mystery story addicts who like their de-tective fiction steeped in blood and horror will get their fill of grewsomeness in Mr. Carr’s ingenious tale. We know few scenes in recent detective literature more complete-ly  calculated to arouse shudders than the discovery of the murdered Duke de Saligny in  the card room of a Paris gambling house, and few books that follow up an initial effectively  contrived situation with others so nearly at the same tension.

Mr. Carr writes well, with an occasional vivid picturesqueness of description that lends color to his narrative, and with the ability to create a taut atmosphere out of background as well as incident. His story is highly melodramatic and wildly improbable, but it […] holds the nerves if not the commonsense, of the reader pliant to its mood and happenings.

Last it seemed to be the year for Richard Hull, as more than one publisher reprinted some of his titles and it seems, at last, that the same is happening for John Dickson Carr, with Polygon, Penzler Publishers and of course the British Library all including his work in their reprints this year. However, the British Library reprint of It Walks by Night also has the additional delight of including a short story by Carr; namely ‘The Shadow of the Goat’ (1926). It features Henry Bencolin for the first time and poses the fiendishly difficult and baffling murder of Jules Fragmeau, with ‘the only man who might have killed’ him having disappeared in a locked room hours before hand. Various other aspects make this a hard case to crack, but Bencolin is more than up for the challenge, though Carr concludes the tale on an unsettling note.

So if you like your mysteries macabre and enjoy a good literary allusion then I recommend getting a copy of It Walks by Night pronto.

Source: Review Copy (British Library)

5 comments

  1. Thanks for the review, and I’m glad Carr is being reprinted. 🤩 I already own a copy of “It Walks by Night”; is this new edition worth getting on the merit of the short story alone?

    Liked by 1 person

      • …is this new edition worth getting on the merit of the short story alone?

        Depends on what you’re expecting from it. “The Shadow of the Goat” is one of the short stories Carr wrote as a student for his college magazine, The Haverfordian. So they’re not as good as his later, more mature, mystery novels and short stories, but they clearly showed what direction he was headed in as a mystery novelist.

        If you’re a huge fan of Carr and haven’t read “The Shadow of the Goat,” this is new edition is a must have.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Not necessary. Here you can read the first four stories:

    https://archive.org/details/haverfordianvols4647have/page/n43 (Shadow of the Goat)

    https://fr-ca.findagrave.com/memorial/8233225/edward-g-taulane (Tomb of the man who found the solution 🙂 )

    https://archive.org/details/haverfordianvols4647have/page/n143 (The Fourth Suspect)

    https://archive.org/details/haverfordianvols4647have/page/n323 (The Ends of Justice)

    https://archive.org/details/haverfordianvol448have/page/n13 (The Murder in Number Four)

    Like

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