Tywkiwdbi ( tai-wiki-widbee ) fatal descent, the emperor’s snuff box, and the nine wrong answers 4 gases in the atmosphere


"The murderer fastens a revolver to the concrete roof of the shaft–" "How?" asked Hornbeam practically. " Don’t be so blasted footling," said Glass. "I’m an artist; not an artisan. I leave you to work out the vulgar details." Footling = "foolish, trivial, irritating" rel to footy = poor, worthless.

damage to the coccyx." I found other uses of this term, including " Triple-dyed and quadruple-dyed idiot, to have allowed yourself to be caught…" " Do you, O triple-dyed scoundrel, dare to speak disrespectfully to me?" but haven’t found how it applies to an insult. My best guess is that it means "total," as a fabric gets stronger color when it is double-dyed or triple-dyed etc. Anyone know?

Begins with an uncharacteristic bit of melodrama. It has been suggested that this was done to counter the criticism that his other novels are pure logic puzzles. The amateur detective is Dr. Dermot Kinross. Not a locked-room mystery and not an "impossible crime." Instead, the victim has his head bashed in with a fireplace poker in his unlocked study (while examining a snuff box said to have belonged to the emperor Napoleon). The murderer was – and this is the maddening and endearing aspect of JDC’s novels – totally unexpected. As always, I defer discussing the plot to avoid spoilers and focus instead on language curiosities and things-you-wouldn’t-know:

"For one horrible second she thought he was going to laugh in her face. But even Ned Atwood was not ironist enough for this." If a person using satire is a satirist, then a person using irony is logically an ironist – but I have to say I’ve never seen this word before.

"But, by the Lord Harry! – for a gal of your age and presumed experience, you’ve got more dewy-eyed illusions about the sweet simplicity of the world than anybody I ever did see!" "Old Harry" has been euphemism for the Devil since the 18th century. "the phrase was popular with 19th century writers, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Fenimore Cooper, Stevenson, etc." Wikisource has an extensive review of English expletives.

"Janice at twenty-three was small and round, trim and trig, bouncing and assertive…" The phrase refers to something " neat and tidy, in good order, immaculate." Convoluted origins dating back prior to 1600, explained at the World Wide Words link.

"Fifteen years on the island: that is most probable. Ten years perhaps, or even five, if she has a clever lawyer… Of course, you understand, even five years on the island is not a bag of shells." In context the "on the island" refers to someone being in prison; this novel is set in France, so Alcatraz not the reference – perhaps Elba or Devil’s island being referenced figuratively. "Bag of shells" I presume is a humorous corruption of "bagatelle."

"Dear doctor, I am not a detective. No, no, no! But as for zizipompom, that is different. Any form of zizipompom I can detect at a distance of three kilometres and in the dark." I wasn’t able to track down any precise definition, though I did find the word used in a book about French people.

"The effect of his swinging the carriage round was like one of those newsreel effects by which the film is speeded up, and a whole street suddenly becomes galvanized." In this instance I think the author is using the term to mean "covered with zinc, as a protection against rust." It can also mean to startle or to stimulate, as a muscle of a dead frog with electricity.

"What would you do, if you’d been handed the mitten in that suave and gracious way? I was properly jilted, wasn’t I?" A curious phrase which essentially means "given marching orders." Discussed at considerable length at World Wide Words. Used frequently by P.G. Wodehouse. "probable that it derives from a French tradition by which a young lady

"The person who planned it deserves no mercy, and is going to get none. I shall see you tonight. And then, heaven willing, we are going to settle somebody’s hash." The dictionary definition is "to get rid of; to subdue." Origin of the phrase is discussed here.

"As to what she may have told you, that’s another pair of sleeves. I can’t say." Obviously equivalent to "a different kettle of fish," but the origin is interesting: "… a colorful expression that we use in Italian to describe something that

"These last couple of days," she continued, "everything hasn’t been exactly gas and gaiters." Wiktionary defines it simply as "a pleasant situation," quoting Charles Dickens (Nicholas Nickleby): "’Aha!’ cried the old gentleman, folding his hands, and squeezing them

Carr described this work as a novel of "character" and "fast action" without "police investigation." There is no detective; the protagonist has to solve the problem of why an old man is trying to murder him. I was so pleased with myself for having deduced the plot twist near the beginning of the story – only to find myself (as usual) totally wrong.

"He might greet you with the cry of the old clo’man, or Sir Laurence Olivier playing Richard the Third." I found nothing – anywhere – until this YouTube video, where the word is written the same way, with an apostrophe. In the video it may refer to a banjo player. ??? And a Google-listed book has this sentence: "Othello became a Christy Minstrel, Shylock an old clo’man from Hounsditch…" I’m guessing (and it’s only that) that the apostrophe shortens "clothing man," maybe referring to a rag-and-bone man. Maybe the nature of Hounsditch offers a clue. Some reader may know…

This was my second or third – and at my age final – read of these books, so I’ve combined them with the other four non-series detective novels ( The Bowstring Murders, Below Suspicion, Patrick Butler for the Defense, and Poison in Jest) and have listed all seven on eBay (as a lot of three and a lot of four books), starting at nominal opening bids. Domestic shipping only at Media Mail rate.