Those five stars represent my sheer delight over this book. It has one of the most bizarre plots ever, is seriously unputdownable, and is just plain fThose five stars represent my sheer delight over this book. It has one of the most bizarre plots ever, is seriously unputdownable, and is just plain fun.
The word sinister doesn't even begin to approach what happens in this book. Originally published in 1937, The Six Queer Things is definitely not your average Golden Age mystery novel; in fact, I can honestly say that I've never read anything quite like it. It is not only sinister, but it is also one of the most claustrophobic novels I've read from this period, and the author keeps you guessing right up until the last four pages before ending it on a most cruel note. Before getting to that point, however, this story takes some unexpected and bizarre twists and turns, and the answer to who can be trusted here changes on a regular basis. The only times I put this book down once I started was for sleep and a session at the gym, and I had to make myself do both. The best way to describe it is that it's like reading an ongoing nightmare from which there is little chance of escape.
The New York Times review blurb quoted on the back of my book says that it is "Mystery and horror, laid on with a trowel," and that's about right. It is filled with nice Victorian Gothic flourishes as well as contemporary policing, but at the heart of this story lies a most sinister plot with a villain who, even when "the whole web of horror...had been brought to light," still remains the unknown and mysterious "spider who had spun it all" from the beginning.
Hats off to Valancourt yet again for finding and publishing something quite out of the ordinary. When I say that this book is unputdownable, I'm not kidding. This book has it all -- a bit of the occult, a claustrophobic atmosphere that doesn't let up, and a strange mystery at the heart of it all that will keep you turning pages because once things take that turn toward the strange nightmarish story it becomes, you will absolutely want to find out what kind of mind it is that could dream up such sheer evil.
Don't blow it off because it's from the 1930s -- trust me -- no matter how many mystery novels you've read from that time, you haven't read anything quite like this one.
While this book continues the detective-fiction craze of the late Victorian period, Horace Dorrington, of the firm Dorrington anlike a 3.7 rounded up
While this book continues the detective-fiction craze of the late Victorian period, Horace Dorrington, of the firm Dorrington and Hicks, is no run-of-the-mill private enquiry agent. Au contraire -- the back-cover blurb refers to him as a "cheerfully unrepentant sociopath," as well as someone who doesn't shy away from a bit of "blackmail, fraud, or cold-blooded murder to make a dishonest penny," which I think is a pretty accurate description of this guy. The fun here is not so much in the crime solving but in watching Dorrington slowly ensnaring his victims -- he is the proverbial spider inviting the fly into his carefully-constructed web, and leaving it with no choice but to remain stuck.
There are six short stories in this collection which begins with "The Narrative of Mr. James Rigby." In a strange sort of twist, Rigby becomes our guide through five more nefarious adventures of this slimy worm of a detective, which Rigby unearths from documents left behind in the offices of Dorrington and Hicks after his own harrowing experience.
The Dorrington Deed-Box is not only cleverly constructed, but in the character of Dorrington himself, I discovered my first late-Victorian sleazy detective, and I have to applaud Morrison for taking himself off the beaten path with his sinister character.
Definitely fun and recommended for readers who want to explore the darker side of Victorian detective stories. Sherlock Holmes he is not.