Dr. Luke Croxley, the narrator of this novel, gets a visit by one of his son's patients. Rita Wainwright's worries are not of medical nature though. She has an affair with a younger man called Barry Sullivan, a young American actor, while being married to her older husband Alec. The latter however is more interested in radio broadcasts about recent war developments than what his wife does behind his back. Rita is fond of Alec and does not want to hurt him, but at the same time she feels the urge to run away with Barry. One night when Croxley is over at the Wainwrights Rita and Barry vanish, leaving two sets of footprints leading to the end of a cliff and not coming back. Later the dead bodies are found, but they did not die from the fall or from drowning. They were shot at close range.
First of all, the narrative is just as, if not even more compelling than in He Who Whispers, but differs in that it doesn't feature any grotesque elements as Carr is known for otherwise. I could care less, as I seem to prefer this down-to-earth and somewhat sophisticated style after all. The characters have personality and are likable, the plot is a bit quiet yet enthralling and does not let you put the book down after a certain point and probably the best thing: The mystery is still the focus of the story and it's weaved into the narrative in an interesting fashion. While the initial situation seems a bit simple it soon gets more complicated and intriguing and the way it unfolds is less formulaic than in other Carr novels or GAD novels in general. I don't mind a Queen novel being formulaic, but I seem to have problems in that respect when it comes to Carr. Which might be totally irrational and subjective, but anway...
I love classical locked rooms, as in a room locked with a key or bolt or both and a corpse lying inside with no culprit to be seen, but I'm open to anything else as long as the questions at hand are challenging and absorbing. As already mentioned this novel features a murder without footprints of the murderer and while some characters suppose the narrator messed around with the "crime" scene and that it actually was suicide after all, most of the important ones, including of course the narrator but also Merrivale, call it murder and the impossibility has to be proved or otherwise Dr. Croxley has to lie at court just to "simplify" things for everyone.
Funnily enough, this novel does feature a narrative trick that's not necessarily important for solving the impossibility as such, but to deduce the murderer. I won't tell what category of trick it is and which other GAD novel used a similar device, but even though I knew beforehand it did not spoil anything for me. The culprit is hidden in a unique but fair way and you'll slap your head when Merrivale points out the only possible murderer, quite similar to Queen-ish logic for once (?).
The trick behind the impossibility is just as neat. Not overly complex but all the more fair and guessable without being too easy. I came up with about half of the solution, not including the identity of the murderer as the solution of the impossibility does not automatically lead you there if I remember correctly. This is also one of those tricks that only work in their own particular novel, which can turn out rather unguessable or even improbable, but here it actually helped in making the method deducible.
I feel like I've already said too much. Just read this. Especially if you (like me) haven't been particularly crazy about Carr before but felt like you had and wanted to be. I still like the trick in The Judas Window slightly more, but as a novel with a splendid narrative and an impossible crime situation that does not feature any too contrived factors, I highly recommend this one.