The Seat of The Scornful by John Dickson Carr

No doubt about it, John Dickson Carr (1906-1977) was a master of the mystery genre. Poisoned Pen Press has brought back another one of his forgotten classics, The Seat Of The Scornful.

While this tale is not a fast-paced scary thriller, it’s an intricately woven tale of cold-blooded murder — a feast for armchair detectives. It’s filled with clues, twists, turns and red herrings. The beginning of the story opens with Judge Justice Ireton. Cold, haughty and tough as nails, the Judge rules his court with an iron fist.

But while the Judge is taking a summer holiday at his beach bungalow, a baffling murder takes place – and it’s right in the Judge’s living room! When Inspector Graham and his men arrive, they find the Judge sitting sedately on a chair near the body with the murder weapon in his hand. Anyone would assume this is clearly an open and shut case.

But the judge calmly tells the inspector that he didn’t do it. And frankly, the inspector is inclined to agree with him – at first. After all, this is a well renowned older judge with not even a hint of corruption or wrong doing – a force to be reckoned with – always completely above board.

But things start to quietly change as they further investigate and bring in Dr. Gideon Fell, a colleague, who, just the day before, had been playing a game of chess with the Judge at his bungalow. As you follow along, you’ll start to believe the Judge really did do it – that is, until the other suspects and convoluted theories come into play.

Under scrutiny: The judge’s young daughter, Constance, and her beau Tony. Frederick Barlow, a family friend and a Council for the defense in many of the Judge’s court cases. Tony’s lawyer, Mr. Applebee, reeks of shady overtones. Jane Tennant, a nosy society maven and a close friend of Constance. Cynthia Lee, a scorned woman who was blackmailed in the past. As each of these characters seep into the mystery, you’ll realize that the judge probably didn’t do it – but “who did?”

It’s a tough case. The judge seems to be playing a shrewd game of cat and mouse. The suspects seem to be covering up and possibly lying. The victim who was labeled as a rogue with dishonorable intentions, now appears to actually be a good guy. Who’s in love with who? Would they kill for love?

Dr. Gideon Fell and Inspector Graham have their work cut out for them – and as an armchair detective, so do you! When connecting these dots to ferret out the killer, use a pencil – you’ll need the eraser!

Are you a fan of the British Library Crime Classics? Then check out more reviews of other British Crime Classics as well as other mysteries and thrillers under the “books/mystery” category.

A copy of this book and cover photo were provided by Poisoned Pen Publishing/Sourcebooks.

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