Tuesday 31 January 2012

Carol Carnac - Death in the Diving Pool (1940)

"How could you make a man drown without a struggle, without a bruise to tell the tale?...A blow, a shot, poison, gaseous or otherwise, a net or sheet thrown over the pool--nothing would work in the light of the evidence."

Walter Landon and Anthony Baird, two friends in their fifties, both veterans of the Forces and each having worked in the East, are now proprietors of Clerewater House, a small hotel in the Cotswolds which they have endeavoured to turn into a first-rate country house complete with well-tended grounds, a tennis court and a diving-pool for the guests, the current crop of whom includes "bright young things", city dwellers on vacation, a spinster author and, of course, suspicious characters who are either having vague ominous conversations or snooping around the house. In addition to the tennis, the swimming and the fine food, the residents enjoy discussing the current news sensation, a daring and unsolved jewel robbery and Landon hints that he has an idea about the business. No surprise then, when the next morning, during an early diving session, he is found drowned in the pool. Although he had previously complained of cramp, the investigating Superintendent can't allay his suspicion that there was some "hokey pokey" about the drowning, especially when other residents are targeted for accidents of their own.

Unsurprisingly, the best part of Death in the Diving-Pool is the mystery of how Landon's death was contrived and Carnac (aka Edith Caroline Rivett aka E.C.R. Lorac) presents a straightforward solution of how the crime was carried out. However, there isn't much in the way of humour and Carnac's series detective, Inspector Ryvet, is bland. Readers looking for sparkling conversation will be disappointed but those seeking a competent puzzle (like myself) will enjoy the book.

Good luck trying to find a copy of the book for sale. Like the other early Carnac titles it is absurdly hard to find. I guess not enough readers  responded to the encouragement to buy their own copies as the lending library stamp urged them to do.

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