Sunday, 7 September 2014

Hag's Nook

At last I've finished my first book for Carl's R.I.P. IX challenge. It's Hag's Nook by John Dickson Carr. The book also qualifies for Bev's Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge and covers the category of, 'A book with a spooky title'.


American college graduate, Tad Rampole, is on his way to stay with lexicologist, Dr. Gideon Fell, in Lincolnshire, when he meets a girl, Dorothy Starberth, on the station platform. She's searching for her brother, Martin, but Rampole has to board his train and isn't able to help her find him. He does discover, however, that the girl is headed for the same village as him and is positive he will be seeing her again.

Settling in with Dr. Fell, Rampole hears the story of the nearby prison at Chatterham where the Starberth family were traditionally head wardens. It was built on the site of Hag's Nook where witches were put to death centuries before and is thought to be haunted. It's abandoned now but Dorothy and her brother, Martin, are here because their father died a couple of years ago and Martin now has to undergo an ordeal by which he has to spend a night in the governer's office, open a safe, and discover a secret. Fell thinks the death of the father, Timothy Starberth, was suspicious and feels Martin may also be in some danger because of an old curse on the family.

Rampole is very drawn to Dorothy and pledges whatever help he can to Dr. Fell to try and keep Dorothy's brother alive. But will their combined efforts be enough?

This is the first book in John Dickson Carr's 'Dr. Gideon Fell' series. I actually read book two, The Mad Hatter Mystery, a few months ago and wasn't that struck to be honest. It was 'OK' but nothing wonderful. 'This' however was a much more enjoyable read. Perfect for R.I.P. in that it was really rather creepy in places. Lots of spooky goings on with the background of the centuries old curse on the family. Scenes with people wandering around the dark, abandoned prison, a deep well with many secrets, unexplained deaths and of course, the threat of The Curse.

Some of the characters are very well drawn, Dr. Fell, his strange, bird-like wife, the Chief Constable with his horsey face. Others not so much... Rampole never really came alive for me and Dorothy felt a bit sparsely drawn too. Their romance didn't really convince me either to be honest, but I wasn't reading the story as a 'romance' per se: I was reading it as a crime yarn.

There's also a very rich vein of humour running through the book:

Mr. Budge, the butler, was making his customary rounds at the Hall to see that all the windows were fastened before he retired to his respectable bachelor bed. Mr. Budge was aware that all the windows were fastened, had been fastened every night during the fifteen years of his officiation, and would continue so until the great red-brick house should fall or Get Took By Americans - which latter fate Mrs. Bundle, the housekeeper, always uttered in a direful voice, as though she were telling a terrible ghost story. None the less, Mr. Budge was darkly suspicious of housemaids. He felt that. when his back was turned, every housemaid had an overpowering desire to sneak about, opening windows, so that tramps could get in. His imagination never got as far as burglars, which was just as well.

The whole book is gently amusing like this, never taking itself too seriously, poking gentle fun at the supernatural mystery genre I suspect, while still being hugely entertaining and great fun. I have more of these Gideon Fell mysteries as ebooks and will definitely read more now that I've enjoyed this one so much.

~~~oOo~~~

13 comments:

DesLily said...

hmmm, well one thing for sure... the Title caught my attention right away! lol

Cath said...

Pat: Well I hope you weren't expecting a book about a witch and her eReader... lol

BookPlease said...

Oh, it does sound creepy! I still haven't started any of my RIP books yet - maybe next week.

DesLily said...

LOL no, but the thought did cross my mind! LOL..(yup we are related somehow LOL)

Cath said...

Margaret: It's creepy in a sort of fun way. Not to be taken too seriously.

Pat: I thought it probably had. Yep, definitely related. LOL!

Vintage Reading said...

Hag's Nook indeed! Love the title and cover. Good review, Cath.

TracyK said...

I have yet to convince myself I am going to like this author's books, but I want to try some of them. This one sounds like one I should look for. Very nice review, Cath.

samantha.1020 said...

I have been wanting to try this author for some time now. I really want to read this one thanks to your review! Adding it to my TBR list :)

Cath said...

Nicola: It's a great title isn't it? :-)

Tracy: I hadn't even heard of this author until I started the Vintage crime challenge. I suspect his books are going to be a bit hit and miss but this one was not bad at all.

Samantha: Of the two I've read by this author this was by far the best. I'm now assuming I will like some and not others.

jenclair said...

Great title! I tried one of the Gideon Fell books, but didn't finish it. Maybe I should look at it again!

Cath said...

Jenclair: I have a feeling that John Dickson Carr could be an author whose books are a bit hit and miss - some good, some not so good.

Bev Hankins said...

I do like the gentle, subtle humor in some of Carr's books. It's been a while since I read this one.

Cath said...

Bev: The humour took me by surprise as there wasn't much in The Mad Hatter Mystery, or maybe I didn't notice it. Hag's Nook definitely had it though.