Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Book Note: Panic in Box C

Carr, John Dickson. Panic in Box C. New York: Berkley Publishing Company, 1968.

While we're on the subject of classic detective fiction involving Shakespeare in one way or another, let me take you to Panic in Box C.

Carr's novel, written quite late in his career, doesn't have as much Shakespeare as some other murder mysteries Bardfilm has written about. And its plot becomes increasingly unbelievable (and perhaps even a bit incoherent) as it goes along. 

The plot involves a production of Romeo and Juliet, a crossbow or two, a man with a papier-mâché head, and a woman sitting all alone in Box C during a rehearsal. It also has long-estranged spouses, a drunken man who snuck in the theatre, an automatic stage trap, and a college fight song competition.

It's a jumble of irrelevancies (mostly) that just manage to come to a bumpy conclusion. As always, I'd like more Shakespeare—especially if you're bringing Romeo and Juliet along for the ride. Can't that estranged couple have some interesting connection to the plot of the play? It seems like it wouldn't be hard to work something in pretty organically. But we don't get it.

Let me give you a representative scene. Chapter 15 describes what was going on on stage while the murder was committed:

It the Shakespeare hadn't been there (even in its limited way), I would have given up on the novel long before this. As it is, it just kept me reading . . . but with disappointing results.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest