The Man Who Knew How by Dorothy Sayers, 1932
The magic trick:
Clue after clue, reveal after reveal, gradually building suspense
I’m really loving this week of Dorothy Sayers mysteries. Freed from the constrictions of the detective genre, she seems to have stretched out and had a blast writing these mini-suspense thrillers. At least that’s how they read.
“The Man Who Knew How” recalls – or foretells – Strangers On A Train, with its odd and sinister opening conversation in a train car. Then, much like the Sayers story “Suspicion,” which we looked at earlier this week, clue begets clue, suspicion mounts, and tensions rise, all leading to the perfect reveal in the final paragraph.
And that’s quite a trick on Sayers’s part.
The thing pursued him at every turn. Always the same sequence of events: the hot bath, the discovery of the corpse, the inquest; always the same medical opinion: heart failure following immersion in too-hot water. It began to seem to Pender that it was scarcely safe to enter a hot bath at all. He took to making his own bath cooler and cooler every day, until it almost ceased to be enjoyable.
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