The Plague Court Murders

by John Dickson Carr; introduction by Michael Dirda

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When a spiritual medium is murdered in a locked hut on a haunted estate, Sir Henry Merrivale seeks a logical solution to a ghostly crime

Plague Court is old and crumbling, long neglected after its lord, hangman’s assistant Louis Playge, fell victim to the black death hundreds of years before. Famously haunted by Playge’s ghost, the property finally has a new owner and banishing the spirit is the first order of business. And when the medium employed with this task is found stabbed to death in a locked stone hut on the grounds, surrounded by an untouched circle of mud, the other guests at Plague Court have every reason to fear an act of supernatural violence―for who among them would be diabolical and calculating enough to orchestrate such an impossible execution?

Enter Sir Henry Merrivale, an amateur sleuth of many talents with deductive powers strong enough to unspool even the most baffling crimes. But in the creepy, atmospheric setting of Plague Court, where every indication suggests intervention from the afterlife, he encounters a seemingly-illogical murder scene unlike anything he’s ever encountered before…

Reissued for the first time in thirty years, The Plague Court Murders is the first novel in the Sir Henry Merrivale series. Originally published under the name Carter Dickson, it is a masterful example of the “impossible crime” novel for which John Dickson Carr is known.

A genuine baffler, placed in an eerie, ghostly setting.

The New York Times

John Dickson Carr (1906-1977) was one of the greatest writers of the American Golden Age mystery, and one of the only American authors to be included in England’s legendary Detection Club. Though he was born and died in the United States, Carr began his writing career while living in England, where he remained for nearly twenty years. Under his own name and various pseudonyms, he wrote more than seventy novels and numerous short stories, and is best known today for his locked-room mysteries. His beloved series character, Dr. Gideon Fell, was based on author G. K. Chesterton and appeared in twenty-four novels.

Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and longtime book columnist for TheWashington Post. He was once chosen by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the twenty-five smartest people in our nation’s capital (but, as Michael says, you have to consider the competition). He also writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement;the New York Review of Books and other literary journals. His previous publications include the memoir An Open Book, four collections of essays―Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book, and Classics for Pleasure―and On Conan Doyle, for which he won an Edgar Award. A lifelong Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle fan, he was inducted into The Baker Street Irregulars in 2002. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.