I thought it would be appropriate to begin this year's Vintage Mystery Challenge by reading the book I won by completing last year's challenge. Bev sent a lovely long list of mysteries to choose from and it was the title of this one that caught my eye. Published in 1933 it was the first in John Dickson Carr's series featuring the stout lexicographer, Dr Gideon Fell.
A young American, Tad Rampole travels to the village of Chatterham to stay with Dr Fell. Near to Dr. Fell's home are the abandoned ruins of the old Chatterham prison built out over a gully called Hag's Nook where once a gallows stood.
The local Starbeth family have long associations with the prison which is built on their land. An ancestor was the first governor, a cruel man who eventually met a violent death. He also left a will stating that at the age of twenty-five each Starbeth heir must spend an hour in what was the Governor's Office , open a safe and do what ever is required with what he finds. Not a pleasant prospect for Martin Starbeth as he approaches his birthday.
Dark, rainy nights, sinister rat-ridden ruins, a family curse , hints of buried treasure and, of course, murder. Hag's Nook has a wonderfully creepy, Gothic atmosphere which heightens the suspense as Dr Fell, Rampole and a local clergyman work to unravel a mysterious cryptogram which is the only clue they have for finding the murderer. It's a great little mystery, with lots of twists and turns and the identity of the villain I never suspected for a moment.
I also enjoyed the lovely descriptions of the English countryside which is seen through the eyes of Rampole - all new to him and very different from his American home.
Vintage Mystery Challenge - Scattergorie 5 - Jolly Old England: one mystery set in Britain.