John Dickson Carr's deliciously florid 1932 novel, The Corpse in the Waxworks, begins with the discovery of a young woman, stabbed to death and left floating in the Seine. She was last seen entering a local wax museum but never seen leaving. Henri Bencolin, examining magistrate of the Paris police, and his American assistant, Jeff Marle (who narrates the novel), explore the spooky Grand Guignol-flavored wax museum for clues and discover a second murdered young woman. She's been stabbed in the back and draped over the arms of the wax figure of the Satyr of the Seine. The two murdered young women, both daughters of former Cabinet ministers, had been best friends. Another clue leads Marle to investigating undercover at a very secretive sex club where its affluent members all wear masks.
Carr (1906-1977) is best known for his impossible crime/locked room mysteries, but Waxworks is an atmospheric whodunit bordering on improbable melodrama. Yet what atmosphere! Opening with two Edgar Allan Poe quotes, the rest of the novel is steeped in the same foreboding doom and deliriously overripe descriptions of musty halls of horror and a decadent, creepy sex club. Even with Carr playing fair with clues, few readers will guess the murderer's identity before the exciting reveal.
Poisoned Pen Press's reprint includes two excellent bonuses: an insightful introduction by Martin Edwards (The Golden Age of Murder) and the rare 1928 Inspector Bencolin short story "The Murder in Number Four"--a humorous locked-room murder mystery set on a moving train. A Golden Age mystery treat! --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant