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The Three Coffins (Dr. Gideon Fell #6)

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,146 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Professor Charles Grimaud was explaining to some friends the natural causes behind an ancient superstition about men leaving their coffins when a stranger entered and challenged Grimaud's skepticism. The stranger asserted that he had risen from his own coffin and that four walls meant nothing to him. He added, 'My brother can do more... he wants your life and will call on ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 28th 1986 by Intl Polygonics Ltd (first published 1935)
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And Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha ChristieThe Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston LerouxThe Sign of Four by Arthur Conan DoyleThey Do It with Mirrors by Agatha Christie
Locked Room Mysteries
11th out of 82 books — 65 voters
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonThe Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Detective Fiction
100th out of 709 books — 792 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,103)
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Locked room mysteries are just really magic tricks. This book cleverly and overtly acknowledges this fact. The beauty of the book lies in misdirection; it lies in presenting all the facts but conning the reader into following the wrong ones; it lies in creating a design which produces gasps of amazement and then nods of satisfaction. (All mystery stories do that, obviously, but this is a howdunnit wrapped up with a whodunit and so playing at a higher level than your standard mystery.) Of course, ...more
Clever locked room mystery. Carr's style when writing Dr. Fell is a bit didatic and may turn off some readers but I loved the (somewhat lengthy) exposition Fell gives about the various types of so-called "locked room" mysteries. As he says himself:

" "When the cry of 'This-sort-of-thing-wouldn't-happen!' goes up, when you complain about half-faced fiends and hooded phantoms and blond hypnotic sirens, you are merely saying, 'I don't like this sort of story.' That's fair enough. If you do not like
Jul 19, 2008 Dianna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Poirot fans, mystery readers, and those who love to play Clue!
Recommended to Dianna by: Wikipedia
I picked The Three Coffins (aka Hollow Man) up when, after I started reading the Poirot mysteries, Adam mentioned the term "Locked Room Mysteries". Having not read many classic mysteries before, I was ignorant of the genre. So, what does any internet-savvy person do when they want a superficial introduction to a subject, of course I Wikipedia-ed it (you can burn me later). Anyway, this book was listed as the epitome of the locked-room mystery.

This book is actually a fantastic way to get acquain
Nancy Oakes
You know pretty much immediately that this is not going to be your average mystery story. A group of friends who meet regularly to discuss odd & diverse supernatural topics such as ghosts & ghost stories are interrupted by a strange man by the name of Pierre Fley who addresses himself to one of the group, a Dr. Charles Grimaud. The stranger discusses a story about three coffins and then tells Grimaud that either Fley or his brother would be calling upon him soon. It is not long afterward ...more
If you like traditional whodunnits, you may well love this book. In my case, The Three Coffins served to remind me why I quit reading traditional whodunnits.

The best part of the book is its famous twenty-seventh chapter, "The Locked-Room Lecture." This disquisition could be read with enjoyment apart from the rest of the novel. (Indeed, this is what I wish I had done myself.) Here, John Dickson Carr's detective-hero, Dr. Gideon Fell, gives an entertaining history and theory of locked-room mysteri
Nihal Engin
I tip my hat to anyone who can figure this one out before the explanation part. As far as mysteries go, this one is really ingeniously designed and deserves its fame as the best locked room mystery. Also, the part towards the end where Gideon Fell deconstructs the Locked Room subgenre in detective stories is interesting too.

These being said, the style of writing was too awkward for me to enjoy it. For a series at its 6th book all the characters lacked depth and were totally inaccessible. And alt
Janne Varvára
Staying up past your bedtime because you simply *have* to know... Most likely you're reading John Dickson Carr.

A murder is committed by a man in a mask, who leaves no footprints in the newly fallen snow outside, and who, after having done the deed, disappears into thin air in a locked room.

Just writing that sends a shiver up my spine.

I can remember hearing a radio theater version of this when I was a kid. I couldn't remember any details, just that it really creeped me out. And it still does.

Girish Kohli
'I have committed another crime Hadley' said the detective, 'I have guessed the truth'

This is how the book ends.

The whole problem with this detective story is that the detective 'guesses' the truth and does not deduce it.

This is a closed room murder mystery. The mystery in itself is hardly compelling. The resolution of the mystery is over complicated and totally uninteresting.
The murder may well have happened in a circus and not in a house because too many tricks and illusions and gimmi
Very interesting tale, it was interesting the way the story was integrated with the atmosphere of magic and illusions. I also liked very much Dr Gideon Fell and the fact that contrary to detectives of this era he is not infallible and he confesses it. I also liked the lecture about the locked room mysteries even though it contained spoilers. Fortunatelly I have already read the yellow room by Leroux that is considered the best one.
John Yeoman
This is the classic Locked Room mystery, followed by a second Impossible Crime, in which John Dickson Carr confirms his laureate as the master of complex conundrums. His style is packed with craft techniques - creative body language, inventive dialogue beats, seamless scene transitions - and just about everything else to delight the connoisseur of tropes.

Alas, it didn't work. It failed to engage me. In a word, it was boring. I abandoned the story two-thirds of the way through. Why? Too much vapo
Pratik Chakravorty
Regarded as the best locked room mystery ever and I couldn't agree more. From the start you will be drawn into a murder which will seem impossible to perform and will make you guessing till the end and I must say the reasoning was spot on. Another thing to note in this novel is the Locked Room lecture, it's a chapter in which the great Dr. Gideon Fell discusses the means by which you can perform such an impossible murder. That chapter alone showcased how brilliant and ingenious John Dickson Carr ...more
Most famous for Chapter 17: The Locked Room Lecture--go ahead and read this chapter (warning: contains spoilers for other 80 to 100 year old books) & skip the rest.
Bob Mackey
Strangely enough, I got into reading mystery novels by playing video games that focus on the same kind of locked-room murders, so I'm not surprised that I found The Hollow Man pretty enjoyable. It takes a bit of a different approach than the mysteries I've read lately, though: Carr's writing puts the mechanics of the mystery front-and-center, and characters aren't nearly as much of a priority. In fact, the "whodunnit" is essentially presented as a game for the reader, and I even found myself tak ...more
Short and stimulating. The meta fiction part about the locked room discussion is brilliant. There is no such thing as 'improbable', indeed.
Absofreakinlutely brilliant. Seriously marvelous. The unravelling part literally had me on the edge of my seat as if I'd been watching the last chapter of a nerve wracking thriller slowly unfold. What makes this book especially brilliant is you get told directly from the get go that there won't be any silly gimmicks, that specific characters who claim to be telling the truth are indeed telling the truth so no need to bother second guessing them, you just read along and get fascinated. Figures it ...more
Craig Herbertson
First Carr novel and already addicted.

Professor Charles Grimaud and his circle meet at a tavern. They are interrupted by a mysterious stranger who says that men can rise from their graves. The stranger, an illusionist called Pierre Fley, claims to have this rather natty ability, and couples this with the news that he has an even more dangerous brother who wants to kill Grimaud. He tells Grimaud to choose which of the two brothers he wants to pop round (him or the naughtier one), and Grimaud tel
Li'l Vishnu
“But she’s not guilty. That’s been proved. Besides I like her.” — Dorothy, p. 187

I think my enjoyment of this book suffered because, during a long monologue, the principal sleuth reveals the endings to numerous other mystery novels — among which is The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux. This was supposed to be my very next read. Ah, well. Now I’ve read both.

This guy is a plot guy. The characters weren’t bad or anything. The three brothers were particularly interesting—I really liked ho
Harrumph! "The Hollow Man" is a locked room crime mystery which at times feels quite dated in terms of the...Harrumph!..prose style, but other than that is sufficiently intriging and well plotted to keep this reader's attention. Without giving too much away, a murder is committed in a locked room and shortly afterwards another murder is committed on an empty street, with no indication of how these could have occured. I always get the feeling with these plots that the reader is left to unravel a ...more
Tim Foley
I saw this book (UK: The Hollow Man) had been voted Number One Locked Room Mystery by a panel of experts back in the 80s. Locked Room Mysteries were a genre of crime that had started to intrigue me, so I gave it a whirl.

I'm glad I did. The book made me a John Dickson Carr convert. I love the gothic backstory of the three coffins, it really helps embed the crime in a more believable, if still fantastic, world. It was my first encounter with Dr Gideon Fell. I'm a big fan. He's a rather generic de
Carr, John Dickson. THE THREE COFFINS. (1935). ***. Enter, again, the brilliant Dr. Gideon Fell, master criminologist and the world’s maven of the locked room mystery. This time he is after one of the most clever sleuths of his career. The police called him the “invisible murderer” He killed his first victim and literally disappeared – from a locked room, of course. He killed his second victim in the middle of an empty street, but with watchers at either end – yet not a soul saw him commit the c ...more
Vignesh Holmes
Two impossible murders.Killer who vanishes from a locked room and leaves no foot prints.Intriguing plot. Supernatural Explanations come up when Murders seem so improbable. Then comes logical mind Dr.Fell to do his thing Carr has kept it real crisp.There's no straying at all.
Lecture on Locked Room murders is quite interesting.
Carr had come up with a brilliant solution for the murder.
Easily one of the best locked room mysteries of all time.
Rachael Stein
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why, I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.
--Thomas Brown

Sam gave this to me as an example of the kind of mystery he likes. I posit that this is not so much a mystery as a 200 page word problem: if a dude wearing a yellow overcoat leaves Cagliostro street at 9:00, and his fairly unpleasant daughter leaves the drawing room at 9:15, etc.

There are also a couple of cheerful endorsements of punching women in the f
The Crime Scene Scene
The Three Coffins/The Hollow Man is the sixth novel in the Gideon Fell series by John Dickson Carr. Pierre Grimaud receives a visitor in his study who is seen by witnesses. A few minutes later gunshots are also heard and after members of the household breakdown the door they find Pierre dying and both the visitor and the weapon missing. Dr Fell soon discovers that the murder links to the past of the man who is not quite what he seems.

This novel is considered one of the best locked room mysteries
Nickolas the Kid
Το βιβλίο κυκλοφορεί στην Ελλάδα με τον τίτλο " ο ασώματος άνθρωπος".
Η πλοκή είναι εξαιρετική. Θα θυμίσει σε πολλούς τον Poe. O λεξικογράφος Δρ. Φείλ καλείται να λύσει ένα έγκλημα που εκ πρώτης όψεως φαίνεται ότι είναι πέρα από κάθε λογική. Η συνέχεια είναι πέρα από κάθε αναγνωστική προσδοκία. Κι ωστόσο είναι ταυτόχρονα απόλυτα πειστική, απόλυτα σατανική στη σύλληψή της, καθώς τα επάλληλα γεγονότα εξηγούν αλυσιδωτά το ένα το άλλο μετατρέποντας με πανούργο τρόπο τον αναγνώστη σε αθέατο "συνένοχο
There's a reason this is considered the best locked room mystery to be written. As Carr explains in chapter 17, one cannot help being disappointed when the trick is revealed - we expect too much. I have a similar feeling now, because I know how it transpired - magic tricks lose their appeal when revealed. Having said that, the trick here is pure genius! Dr. Fell outdoes himself, as he does so often.

This one's a must read.
Dr. Fell solves two impossible murders. I read this because Wikipedia told me it was the classic locked-room mystery... and I have officially learned not to use Wikipedia for book suggestions. To give credit where it's due, the actual solving of the mystery is impressive, if not interesting. The rest of it was crazy boring. I mainly read the dialogue in a book, and this book had a lot of dialogue, but it was all just description encased in quotes, to signify that the characters are terrifically ...more
Sacramento Public Library
I'm thrilled to have discovered a new classic mystery author to explore. Carr's writing style calls to mind other authors of the early 20th century and is a good fit for fans of Agatha Christie and similar writers. While Carr's characters are arguably not as vivid as Christie or Rex Stout, his locked room mysteries are legendary, and this is a great one. Like the best stories, it hints at many contradictory possibilities, and gives the reader room to develop theories, and then is still a surpris ...more
Jacob / Julie
When I was young, I was in a bookstore and I picked up a book of top-10 lists, I and started browsing. And one of the lists was either "best detective stories" or "best sealed-room mystery stories" and this book (by Carr) was on the list. So I bought the detective book :) And I remember enjoying it. I also remember that there is a point in the story where the detective gives an entire speech listing all the possible ways that a sealed-room murder can happen. (That's where you find a dead body, b ...more
I'm thrilled to have discovered a new classic mystery author to explore. Carr's writing style calls to mind other authors of the early 20th century and is a good fit for fans of Agatha Christie and similar writers. While Carr's characters are arguably not as vivid as Christie or Rex Stout, his locked room mysteries are legendary, and this is a great one. Like the best stories, it hints at many contradictory possibilities, and gives the reader room to develop theories, and then is still a surpris ...more
Frank O'connor
This is a book about the locked room mystery - a genre that it itself apparently began. It forms a kind of clever meta-narrative, with the fictional detective giving a disquisition on locked-room mysteries while attempting to solve the book's own. Plot is everything here, and character takes second place, but with a plotting like this, it doesn't matter. The story is both a highly specific logical puzzle and an acute insight into human psychology. Carr's works are clearly an influence on the BBC ...more
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The best "locked room" mystery? 10 57 Jul 12, 2013 08:24AM  
  • The Poisoned Chocolates Case
  • The Beast Must Die (Nigel Strangeways, #4)
  • The Judas Window (Sir Henry Merrivale, #8)
  • Malice Aforethought
  • The Egyptian Cross Mystery (Ellery Queen #5)
  • Trent's Last Case (Phillip Trent, #1)
  • The Madman of Bergerac
  • Beast In View
  • Smallbone Deceased (Inspector Hazelrigg, #4)
  • Hamlet, Revenge! (Sir John Appleby, #2)
  • The Moving Toyshop (Gervase Fen, #3)
  • The Four Just Men  (The Four Just Men #1)
  • The Labyrinth Makers
  • Poetic Justice (A Kate Fansler Mystery #3)
  • Green for Danger
  • The Mammoth Book of Locked Room Mysteries and Impossible Crimes (Mammoth)
  • Last Seen Wearing
  • Bertie And The Tinman (Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, #1)
AKA Carter Dickson.
John Dickson Carr was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1906. It Walks by Night, his first published detective novel, featuring the Frenchman Henri Bencolin, was published in 1930. Apart from Dr Fell, whose first appearance was in Hag's Nook in 1933, Carr's other series detectives (published under the nom de plume of Carter Dickson) were the barrister Sir Henry Merrivale, who
More about John Dickson Carr...

Other Books in the Series

Dr. Gideon Fell (1 - 10 of 23 books)
  • Hag's Nook (Dr. Gideon Fell, #1)
  • The Mad Hatter Mystery (Dr. Gideon Fell, #2)
  • The Eight of Swords (Dr. Gideon Fell, #3)
  • The Blind Barber (Dr. Gideon Fell, #4)
  • Death-Watch (Dr. Gideon Fell, #5)
  • The Arabian Nights Murder (Dr. Gideon Fell, #7)
  • The Crooked Hinge (Dr. Gideon Fell, #8)
  • To Wake the Dead (Dr. Gideon Fell, #9)
  • The Problem of the Green Capsule (Dr. Gideon Fell, #10)
  • The Problem of the Wire Cage (Dr. Gideon Fell, #11)
Hag's Nook (Dr. Gideon Fell, #1) The Burning Court The Crooked Hinge (Dr. Gideon Fell, #8) He Who Whispers (Dr. Gideon Fell, #16) The Mad Hatter Mystery (Dr. Gideon Fell, #2)

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“I am a mathematician, sir. I never permit myself to think.” 8 likes
“I have committed another crime, Hadley,' he said. 'I have guessed the truth again.” 3 likes
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