The Witch of the Low Tide

by John Dickson Carr
Published in 1961

930185Lady Betty Calder is a prostitute and a blackmailer – or is it her sister, Glynis, using her name? Dr. David Garth, her fiancé, knows he must find out the truth – especially when he blunders across Glynis’ strangled body on Betty’s property, surrounded by fifty feet of wet sand with no footprints but her own. The police know she did it – but David knows she didn’t and he must outwit a cunning murderer and a hostile detective-inspector to prove it. What he discovers – about his best friend’s wife, his medical assistant, and even his fiancée – make him wish the blackmailing Glynis had never lived.

This was a solid historical puzzler, set in the early 1900’s. The cars had to be started with handles and cranked, the homes had gas lights. Betty Calder wore a wool bathing suit! Can you imagine how heavy that must have been wet! Quite atmospheric. Carr did a nice job of describing the clothes the ladies were wearing and the houses, put you right there.

There were two puzzling crimes to solve. Attempted murder with the classic all doors and windows locked from inside and a murder on the sea shore with no footprints in the wet sand.

   “Oh, yes. It doesn’t matter who made the tea or who drank it or who didn’t drink it. But at any time that woman could possibly have been killed, at any time within any medical limits, the tide was almost as far out as it is at this minute. Now look round you. Look back up the beach. Look out towards the sea. Look down under the piles of the pavilion.”
  ‘The inshore breeze, further ruffling Betty’s hair, smoothed at her skirt as well. She glanced quickly over her shoulder, looking round her, and then just as quickly back again.

  “There are your footprints,” Garth continued, “coming out here from the grass slope where you left the bicycle. There are my footprints,” he moved his arm to point, “coming out here from the back of the cottage. There’s not another mark anywhere. You see that?”

Two old mystery novels were brought into the conversation when speaking of clues. I always love it when they do that! The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux and The Thinking Machine by Jacques Futrelle. I have The Mystery of the Yellow Room and have heard a lot about on blogs, but Jacques Futrelle (not a Frenchmen but an American!) is new to me. He died in the sinking of the Titanic! Of course like all Dickson Carr mysteries it was excellently plotted and well characterized. A good read.

This is my third read for 15 Books of Summer and counts for my seventh book towards Bev’s Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt Silver Era – Curtain.

5 thoughts on “The Witch of the Low Tide

  1. I’ve enjoyed all the Dickson Carr books I’ve read so I must look out for this one. I actually have a few knitting patterns for woollen swimming costumes – dating from the 1930s – dead sexy back then I suppose!!

    Liked by 1 person

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