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View Full Version : The Man Who Could Not Shudder (1940)


jdcarrcom
January 17th, 2001, 08:55 PM
Rate this book.

View synopsis of this book at:

www.jdcarr.com/Zoomview/p...hudder.htm (http://www.jdcarr.com/Zoomview/pb_the_man_who_could_not_shudder.htm)

vegetableduck
March 23rd, 2010, 10:37 PM
Just reread this and enjoyed a great deal, though I know this is not one of his most highly regarded. I posted a review over at GAdetection on yahoo:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GAdetection/message/23273

LastCenturyDetective
March 24th, 2010, 12:17 AM
I've been lurking in the shadows of that place for a long time now, but never had the courage to join them. I mean, if you look at who are posting there and their impressive knowledge, I feel there's nothing left for me to add.

Even after having read a 1000+ detective stories, I only have scratched the surface (barely) of the genre.

vegetableduck
March 24th, 2010, 12:32 AM
I've been lurking in the shadows of that place for a long time now, but never had the courage to join them. I mean, if you look at who are posting there and their impressive knowledge, I feel there's nothing left for me to add.

Even after having read a 1000+ detective stories, I only have scratched the surface (barely) of the genre.

Oh, I wish you and other lurkers would post over there. It's great to hear opinions from the real fans, the people who love this stuff.

And if you've read 1000+ detective stories, I'd put you in the upper brackets! I've never tried to add up what I've read. I read all the Christie in the 1980s, then found out there actually were other detective novelists back then, so have been reading them for about twenty years. I imagine it adds up to a bit!

LastCenturyDetective
March 24th, 2010, 07:01 AM
Well, I would, but like I said in my last post, I'm not sure if I have anything to contribute to that group.

patrick_o
July 10th, 2010, 04:04 AM
I made this my next read, and reached Chapter 4 yesterday. It's very enjoyable so far, with some good suggestions of the sinister.

patrick_o
July 13th, 2010, 10:10 AM
Egad! When I came to post here, all the threads had disappeared! I do believe the site held a day of mourning in memory of my beloved computer, which until further notice, is resting in peace. Well, we also have visitors from Poland for the majority of the summer, so my forum activity will suddenly dramatically decrease. But fear not- once this period of trials is over, I will triumphantly return.

Anyhow, my forum activity might be on its way down, but that by no means affects my reading activity. I've been reading The Man Who Could Not Shudder, particularly since I realized my computer was beyond any help I could give it. I just reached Chapter 7, at about the 45-page mark, and there's been a murder. Ghastly, isn't it?

The victim is one Bentley Logan, husband to Gwyneth, who last night insisted on making a scene with our hero (Bob Morrison), practically accusing him of being her lover. Tess overheard at least part of the scene, but the narrator has already said that she has become his wife since, so I think it's safe to assume that that part will turn out O.K.

Back to the murder, I have two prime suspects at the moment. The first is Julian Enderby, the delayed guest, whom I suspsect precisely because he was delayed and had only just arrived. Martin Clarke is the other, because of his passion for museums (mentioned somewhere in the second chapter) and because Logan was rambling on about some museums or other the night before. Obviously, since the crime has just occured, my suspicions are quite vague and have yet to be substantiated.

Speaking of which, what the deuce happened? Mrs. Logan witnessed the murder and her testimony boils down to this: the gun jumped off the wall and shot her husband. Not even a convenient disembodied hand guided it. She could, of course, be lying, but I don't think Carr would be satisfied with such a simple solution.

The title's meaning, incidentally, has been somewhat explained when everyone met Logan for the first time, who declared himself "the man who could not shudder". Well, this self-declared fearless man is now dead... whodunit, or more appropriately, how was it done?

Jojo Lapin X
July 13th, 2010, 11:00 AM
This is one of the more preposterous ones. I like it.

richmcd
July 14th, 2010, 02:06 AM
I've never been able to find this one but I've read a one paragraph review which says it's about swinging chandeliers, ticking clocks and falling guns. So now all I can think of is

some sort of giant magnet (or a buried lodestone - that seems a more Carrian choice)

But surely that's too preposterous, even for Carr?

LastCenturyDetective
July 14th, 2010, 02:54 AM
I think that would've been a more interesting solution to the mystery of the floating gun.

The problem that I have with the solution is that it's lazy plotting on Carr's part. It's really easy to present the reader with an original and baffling impossible crime, when the...

...entire house turns out to be one big booby trap.

patrick_o
July 17th, 2010, 01:39 PM
At last, I've finished The Man Who Could Not Shudder, and I'm pleased to report that, overall, it was a very enjoyable read, and very good (generally speaking).

Carr's crafty misdirection is at it again, in full swing. He expertly made me associate the story of the hand with the story of the swinging chandelier. Thus, I associated a bunch of misstatements (and Tess' great big lie) together as truth, and that put me off quite a bit.

The solution is unusual for Carr, involving a mechanical gimmick which John Rhode might have come up with. Not that this degrades the book in any way- the solution is still quite clever and decently hinted at, with (for instance) the names of the three scientists.

My biggest issue with the book was Carr's lack of courage when it came to the architect, Andy, having the chandelier crash down on his head. Why not just kill him off? It may sound gruesome, but really, I think the book may have been better off by just killing him off instead of leaving him alive while Gwyneth holds his hand. (Well, not literally, but still...) It's one of Carr's transformations, I think: at the start of his writing career, he could've easily thrown in three murders per book, but closer to the end, he seemed to avoid actually having someone killed altogether. (Such as in The House at Satan's Elbow, where the victim really should've died).

I was absolutely convinced that the killer was Martin Clarke until the very end, where Dr. Fell revealed the true culprit. And then, in an ironic double twist that I didn't see coming, he reveals that the literal killer was someone quite different, referencing The Murder of Roger Ackroyd while he was at it. His explanation of the loose ends was quite satisfactory.

Up next: The Emperor's Snuff Box... I look forward to it!

richmcd
August 24th, 2010, 04:17 AM
Well I finally got around to reading this and I don't quite know what to say. About the only part I enjoyed was the very first line, which I found utterly hilarious. It's the sort of thing you see in "how not to do it" guides for writers.

Still, I'm a bit confused.

Firstly, because of some earlier posts:

some sort of giant magnet (or a buried lodestone - that seems a more Carrian choice)

I think that would've been a more interesting solution to the mystery of the floating gun.

I don't see how it's any different. Were you just trying to mislead me? It worked!

Because I thought magnetism was definitely out I could only envisage some weird method for tilting entire rooms!

Secondly, I don't really understand how it was supposed to work. But I admit I wasn't reading very carefully by the end.

1. Why did the gun move away from the wall? Wasn't the electromagnet behind it? Since the gun wasn't itself magnetic at the time it ought to have been attracted, not repelled.

2. Isn't the electromagnet going to interfere with the trigger mechanism, which is also ferromagnetic? Would the gun still have gone off?

3. Why was the electromagnet in the study there in the first place? What effect did the original owner want to produce?

4. Why do they so readily accept that Clarke couldn't have "operated it by remote control"? He could have set a timer or something. Sure it's not a great plan, but it is at least possible, since quite a lot is made of Logan's regularity. Consequently, Clarke's plan isn't as 'risk free' as he'd like.

5. The original owner doesn't seem to have been very sensible. He built an entire wing just so he could see into the study? Why not put the electromagnetic switch in the seat in the study so it's triggered when someone sits in it? You can always have a second switch so it doesn't go off every time. Seems easier than building an extension. And putting all the switches in the floor seems totally stupid. Not only are they going to be going off at random, but they're also surely going to break all the time? And what if an unwitting servant puts some furniture on one?



Some stylistic points:

I'm not sure that I agree with Patrick that the names of the scientists constitutes a good hint. Carr does this sort sort of thing occasionally (there's a much more obscure one in The Red Widow Murders) and it can surely only go one of three ways:

1. The reader knows the reference and so instantly makes the connection and solves that part of the mystery.

2. The reader doesn't know the reference and so, when the explanation comes, thinks "how the hell was I supposed to know that?"

3. Patrick's reaction.

Groups 1 and 2 are surely going to be irritated by the clue, albeit for different reasons. The relative sizes of the groups depends on the obscurity of the reference but group 3 is always going to be smaller than groups 1 and 2 combined. So it seems like a type of clue that's always guaranteed to annoy the majority of your readership.

A final point. I'd actually suspected the narrator of being the culprit (and Gwyneth's lover), not just an 'accidental' murderer. I thought the early mention of him visiting museums with Clarke was a clue.

Anyway, I'm not quite sure what him being an accidental murderer adds to the plot. The emotional consequences of this aren't analysed, it doesn't really shift the practical guilt away from Clarke, it makes things even more implausible, and it makes the murder an accident, which tends to disappoint readers. That seems an awful lot of negative points with only a feeble 'surprise' to counterbalance them.

richmcd
August 24th, 2010, 04:47 AM
Oh and the

"she must have known him because she knew how he takes his tea!" ploy?

I really thought Carr was better than that. That's barely even worthy of Murder, She Wrote.

PatienceKiller
September 10th, 2010, 05:40 AM
I reread this, as I am trying to read through all of Carr in chronological order.

When I first read this, I found this to be one of the worst Carr stories ever, with confusing, uninteresting, implausible gimmick, dull plot movement and forgettable characters. At the time it made me want to give up on Carr, with a "sure, the puzzle is complicated, but nobody in their right mind should or would want to figure it out".

I have reread this now, about ten years later. Most of my initial objections are withdrawn. The gimmick is not too complicated, the characters are ok, the plot moves forward. In fact, this period marks the time for Carr when all of his plots advance through means other than just "continued investigation with more developments". Characters get involved, get hurt, get acquainted better, are in jeopardy, etc. "The Problem of the Wire Cage," "The Reader is Warned," "The Problem of the Green Capsule." All these books however also suffer from another characteristic of this period of Carr: lack of suspects. There are usually about six characters. One dies. One nearly dies. One is the narrator. One is the narrator's girlfriend. One is too obvious. One too obscure. One too goofy. You are left with one or two characters and spend considerable portion of the book, figuring out not "whodunit" but "what's he going to pick for the motive and the how for X"? No solution other than X seems acceptable.

The gimmick is in fact, not too complex. If anything, it's too primitive, since it can be essentially simplified to:

There is a button in another room that makes the gun go off when pressed.

I think this is a rather fair description and when stated as such it makes the solution very uncreative and unworthy of somebody of Carr's imagination.

The biggest problem with the solution to me is this:

As I understand it, all that is necessary for the gun to go off is for somebody to step on a particular board in the billiard room.

The panel is not even very well concealed in a corner somewhere, where it's unlikely to be pressed, the narrator steps on it accidentally. Hunter is an idiot to lead Morrison down there in the morning, as the latter is quite likely to step on the panel before Logan sits down and both of them would have to avoid that

Or what if the maid steps in to clean the house before the gentlemen wake up? (I am giving credit to Hunter that the panel had to be activated and he only made the panel activateable at some point during the night and didn't for example rely on nobody walking into that spot for days beforehand) "Puff!" goes the gun, "Poof!" goes the crime. A very likely scenario, for the murderer to consider.

The book is not awful and is actually at times very well-written. But the solution makes it one of the worst "not late" Carrs.

This, overall, is a rather preposterous period, gimmick-wise. See "The Reader Is Warned" and "The Problem of the Wire Cage", for gimmicks technical and psychological soundness of which leaves much to be questioned.