Sunday, September 1, 2013

{weekend words} "a mummified world of books"

I haven't done a weekend words for ages, but I've just read this passage about a gorgeous library in John Dickson Carr's He Who Whispers (1946):
And in a long room at the rear of the house – a room after his own heart – stood Miles Hammond, holding a lamp above his head.

'It's all right,' he was saying to himself. 'I didn't make a mistake in bringing her here. It's all right.'

But he knew in his heart that it wasn't all right.

The flame of the little lamp, in its tiny cylindrical glass shade, partly drew the shadows from a mummified world of books. It was wrong, of course, to call this place a library. It was a stack-room, a repository, an immensely long dust-heap for the two or three thousand volumes accumulated like dust by his late uncle. Books old and broken, books newish and shiny, books in quarto and octavo and folio, books in fine bindings and books withered black: breathing their exhilarating mustiness, a treasure-house hardly yet touched.

Their shelves reached to the ceiling, built even round the door to the dining-room and enclosing the row of little-paned windows that faced east. Books piled the floor in ranks, mounds, and top-heavy towers of unequal height, a maze of which the lanes between were so narrow that you could hardly move without knocking books over in a fluttering puff of dust.

Standing in the middle of this, Miles held the lamp high and slowly looked round him. 'It’s all right!' he fiercely said aloud.

And the door opened, and Fay Seton came in.
*

I do feel a little sorry for the mysterious Miss Seton, who will be doing the dusting in here! 



12 comments:

  1. A lovey description of a library I agree, Vicki.

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    Replies
    1. It's a good crime read too, Sarah - really enjoying its crazy melodrama.

      Delete
  2. I'd rather like to visit that library! It's a while since I read any John Dickson Carr but this rather whets my appetite!

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    Replies
    1. This one wouldn't let me go to bed last night until I finished it, so I think I'm going to have to read some more really soon!

      Delete
  3. Love the vintage covers you featured! I wonder how many of those are on his ceiling-high bookshelves :)

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    Replies
    1. Those 'pulp' style ones are always so completely off topic, aren't they - very funny. It's like they said 'There's a woman with red hair in the book' and left it at that!

      Delete
  4. Sounds like an exciting library to rummage through, minus the dust!

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    Replies
    1. Poor Miss Seton's job is to catalogue them, which as they are lying all over floor in dusty piles, and there are so many that no one can actually find the catalogue box...! ;-)

      Delete
  5. I don't think I've ever read any of Carr's books, but I'm always tempted by books about libraries - even (or especially) the dusty disorganized kind.

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    Replies
    1. This was my first Carr. I was sad that the library did not become the actual scene of a locked room crime though! It had so much spooky potential.

      Delete
  6. Wonderful library! I am a fan of Carr's spooky settings and complex puzzles. I haven't read this one, but I need to do so as soon as I can.

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    Replies
    1. I think this one was a good one to start me off on Carr, but then I read And So To Murder, which had a big cheat in the plot, so now I'm not so sure about Carr/Dickson. However, I'm enjoying The Hollow Man at the moment, which I gather is the 'classic' of locked room mysteries.

      Delete

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