The Nine Wrong Answers
First edition (UK)
|Author||John Dickson Carr|
|Cover artist||Cecil Walter Bacon|
|Genre||Mystery, Detective novel|
|Publisher||Hamish Hamilton (UK) & Harper (USA)|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
The Nine Wrong Answers, first published in 1952, is a detective story by John Dickson Carr which does not feature any of Carr's series detectives. This novel is a whodunnit mystery, with an emphasis on the puzzle aspect. The title derives from Carr's atypical use of footnotes to address the reader, remarking on certain interpretations of events, conclusions, or mystery cliches, and telling the reader to discard them, while also urging a very literal interpretation of text. These serve as the "nine wrong answers," while in the denouement, the protagonist reveals the nine correct answers he arrived at in order to solve the mystery.
Bill Dawson is a broke young Brit sitting in the waiting room of a lawyer's office in New York City. He overhears Larry Hurst and his girlfriend Joy Tennant discussing with the lawyer the prospect of Larry becoming sole heir to the large estate of his uncle Gaylord Hurst, providing that Larry returns to England immediately and visits his uncle at least once a week. Larry, however, is convinced that his uncle wants to murder him. Larry and Joy ask Bill to witness Larry's signature, invite him for a drink, and propose that Bill impersonates Larry for six months for the sum of ten thousand dollars. Bill agrees; Larry is almost immediately poisoned. Bill escapes and takes the next flight to England to complete his end of the agreement.
Upon arrival at Gaylord's flat, Bill soon learns that Hurst and his manservant Hatto are both practised sadists whose plans certainly included the psychological torture of Larry; however, Bill is soon found out. Hurst, not to be cheated of prey, offers Bill a bargain; continue to meet once weekly for three months and keep the ten thousand dollars he has already received. Bill agrees, and almost immediately there is an attempt on his life with a clever trap—then another, that lands him in the hospital. Finally, after another death, Bill confronts the villain in a dramatic conclusion that takes place in a reconstruction of the sitting room of Sherlock Holmes and that reveals a very surprising tenth answer to the book's events.
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