Carr/Queen: Books that spoil earlier books

The one thing you don’t want to know when you’re beginning a fair-play mystery is the ending. I’m sure John Dickson Carr and Ellery Queen knew this… and yet in each case you’ll find passages in certain books that allude to the solutions to previous books. Sometimes these passages point you at the right person; other times they point you away from one of the wrong people, or give away a surprise that isn’t directly related to the murderer’s identity.

So, as a public service, here is a list of these spoilers and partial spoilers. If anyone reading this can think of any I’ve missed, please let me know.

In each case I’m going to start with the title of the later book, then give the title of the earlier book and the general nature of the spoiler (i.e. I’m not going to name any killers). So if even that is more information than you’re comfortable with, stop reading here!

I’m erring on the side of caution. Not everyone might consider all these passages to be spoilers, but in each case I’m either sorry I read the later book before the earlier, or glad I read the earlier one first.


  • Blogger thegreencapsule points out that you shouldn’t read The Lost Gallows until you’ve read It Walks by Night, as doing so will eliminate a suspect in IWbN from contention. Thanks!
  • The Judas Window: one character makes a remark, alluding to the solutions of The Unicorn Murders and The Punch and Judy Murders, that might point you toward the respective killers.
  • The Reader is Warned: passing references eliminate a couple of suspects in Death in Five Boxes from contention.
  • The Man Who Could Not Shudder: a special case. It spoils Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd!
  • The Case of the Constant Suicides: does not reveal the solution of The Man Who Could Not Shudder but does give away a major twist.
  • Seeing is Believing: really the jaw-dropper of this class. I read this one more than 30 years ago, and I’m still mad at Carr for writing an unnecessary passage that actually names the murderers in The Plague Court Murders and The Reader is Warned, and partly spoils The Peacock Feather Murders. If you take anything away from this post, it’s this: don’t read Seeing is Believing until you’ve read those earlier books. (It’s good but not great, so it’s not as if you’re putting off reading one of the masterpieces.)
  • The Cavalier’s Cup: tells you a bit too much about the solution to The Curse of the Bronze Lamp for my liking.
  • Patrick Butler for the Defence: strongly hints at the ending of Below Suspicion.
  • “All in a Maze” (story in The Men Who Explained Miracles): tells you a bit too much about the ending of Behind the Crimson Blind.
  • Scandal at High Chimneys spoils Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
  • The Witch of the Low Tide spoils Gaston Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room. Thanks again for these last two, thegreencapsule!
  • Panic in Box C: cameo appearance by a suspect from He Who Whispers that will basically have you saying, “well, I can cross this person off my list when I read HWW”.

Carr did this more than Queen, but Queen did it a few times:

  • The New Adventures of Ellery Queen: not really a spoiler, but one story in this collection, “Man Bites Dog”, tells you more about what happens in The Four of Hearts than you might want to know going in.
  • Cat of Many Tails: gives away a twist from Ten Days’ Wonder.
  • Double, Double: has a pointer to the solution of Ten Days’ Wonder. Did the cousins decide in retrospect that they had something against this book?

7 thoughts on “Carr/Queen: Books that spoil earlier books

  1. I don’t see the Seeing is Believing spoilers as that bad, as I believe Merrivale simply lists names. Unless you have an incredible memory, I doubt you’d recall names when you read the later books, although I suppose you might recall genders.

    I’m pretty sure that She Died a Lady has a passage where Merrivale refers to a number of impossibilities from previous books, and the comment on Nine — And Death Makes Ten could be considered to verge on a spoiler, although I doubt any reader would really be able to figure out the solution based on the comment.

    The Witch of the Low Tide spoils The Mystery of the Yellow Room.

    There is enough continuity between It Walks at Night and The Lost Gallows that you can eliminate a legitimate suspect from the the first title based on the second title.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the additions to the list!

      Regarding SiB, It’s true that I’ve always had a better-than-average memory… usually a blessing but sometimes a curse, I guess!

      On reflection, I’ve decided that the brief reference there to Death in Five Boxes doesn’t actually spoil anything, so I’ve removed it that part from the post.


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