John Dickson Carr's mysteries tend to be very atmospheric, most especially his Monsieur Bencolin mysteries that take place in decadent, prewar Europe. "The Four False Weapons" is set in and near Paris, and the famous French detective Bencolin is called out of retirement to solve the mystery of who killed the ageing `fille de joie' Rose Klonec.
It is no ordinary murder that brings the mephistophelean Bencolin back as a consultant to the SÅretÃ© GÃ©nÃ©rale. The scene of the crime is a plush love nest on the outskirts of Paris where Rose Klonec had her midnight rendezvous with Death. Not one but four different murder weapons are found in the room with her corpse. The table is set for a feast. Champagne abounds.
Bencolin must determine which one of her lovers or ex-lovers hated her enough to murder her---or was it a stranger, uninvited to the feast?
John Dickson Carr assembles a dashing, dissolute group of suspects that includes a reformed playboy, a high-stakes gambler, and a beautiful, young woman whose father was hanged for murder. His Bencolin mysteries always include the following:
* A beautiful, neurasthenic young woman who at some point in the plot becomes the main suspect, and/or becomes convinced that she committed murder.
* A square-jawed Englishman who falls in love with the beautiful, but somewhat hysterical young woman. The Englishman also serves as Bencolin's foil and eagerly pursues all of the plot's red herrings.
* A very complex mystery that usually involves a `locked room,' false murder weapons, complicated time-tables, and air-tight alibis (at least for the villains).
* A decadent, hot-house atmosphere, sometimes with a suggestion of the supernatural. Unspeakable horror always lurks just down the dark, crimson-carpeted hall. All of the characters end up hyper-ventilating, not just the beautiful, young heroine.
I read the John Dickson Carr mysteries for their atmosphere. There is no other author who has such a wonderful sense of the lurid. In "The Four False Weapons," he takes us to a 1920s Parisian gambling club where only the very rich are invited to play. It is nicknamed the Corpses' Club and the game that its members play was invented for the noblemen in the court of Louis, the Sun King. Vast sums can be won or lost at the turn of a single card
Let the game begin! It is almost incidental that in the course of play, one of the suspects in the murder of Rose Klonec gives herself/himself away.