Book - The Corpse In The Waxworks
The Corpse In The Waxworks
"The Corpse in the Waxworks (1932)" (alternate English title: "The Waxworks Murder") features the suave, manic-depressive M. Henri Bencolin, 'juge d'instruction' of the Seine, the head of the Parisian police. He is accompanied by his friend, the American Jeff Marle, who narrates and serves as Bencolin's straight man, muscle, and the guy who falls for all of the smouldering, silk-bosomed, possibly murderous mademoiselles. Think of Archie Goodwin knocking off deadly Parisian apaches and rescuing Chanel-clad damsels-in-distress at the instigation of a thin, neurotic, chain-smoking, Mephistophelean Nero Wolfe.
In this case, the body of a pretty young woman is discovered draped across the waxen arms of the Satyr of Seine, in a murky, subterranean museum that very much resembles Madame Tussaud's (which, after all, started out as a waxworks exhibit in the pre-Revolution Palais Royale). Soon it is difficult to tell the real corpses from the glassy-eyed, waxen tableaux such as the aforementioned Satyr, the Spanish Inquisitors and their wracked victims, or Marat lying backwards out of his tin bath, "his jaw fallen, the ribs starting through his bluish skin, a claw hand plucking at the knife in his bloody chest."
The waxworks museum also has a secret passageway that leads M. Bencolin and Jeff to the notorious Silver Key club, whose masked members indulge in midnight orgies of jazz, champagne, and secret assignations.
John Dickson Carr descends from 'atmospheric' to 'lurid' in his Bencolin mysteries, and the midnight streets and night clubs of prewar Paris are a perfect setting for this tawdry, match-lit jewel of a mystery. Let yourself go and prowl with this author through the green-lit grotto of the waxworks, mingle with the masked French aristocrats as they dance to "the fleshy beat of a tango" in the infamous Silver Key club, hide behind the lily-clad coffin of the young murder victim and spy on those who might have killed her. It doesn't get more Jazz-age decadent than "The Corpse in the Waxworks."