"As usual, Carter Dickson's plot is extremely complicated and it depends on a variety of gimmicks, most of which are barely plausible. One good one is the method of poisoning the White Lady cocktails without anybody's going near the shaker or the glasses. For the rest, the dialogue is in the worst style of false excitement and byplay, particularly the part allotted to the egregious Sir Henry Merrivale, who calls everybody "son" and yells "shut up" whenever he is stumped. The early portion is dull, the middle chaotic, and the end interminable."
Directly after Death in Five Boxes I picked up the other mapback, Rinehart's The Window at the White Cat and wow, immediately drawn in by engaging writing and characters - NO COMPARISON. I was actually so offended by how much more enjoyable these two women writers were compared to the one man that I put the book away thinking I'd postpone reading it until I could write a detailed, exhaustive, comparative analysis of the three books in manner of highly intelligent well-read academic person. Since this obviously isn't going to happen, unfortunately, we'll settle for just writing about them, shall we. And I'll just finish the damn book this week.
While I read The Singing Sands I made mental notes of about twenty places I'd have liked to quote, and now sadly it's been a while and I've forgotten. But it's just gorgeous. There are so many period details which make it so interesting if you're the slightest bit into retro, and Alan Grant is just fantastic. The books starts with him being on sick leave for panic attacks connnected with claustrophobia. He heads up to Scotland to his cousin and her husband. Just as he's getting off the train after a sleepless, tortured night, the carriage attendant discovers a dead body in one of the sleeping compartments. Grant can't let this mystery go, and thinking about it distracts him enough to help cure his, well, mental illness we'd say now. The mental illness is treated with respect and delicacy, all things considered. I see on Wikipedia that this was found among her papers after she died and published posthumously. How I wish, selfishly, that she'd lived and written more. I don't know how much this was edited before publishing, but it's pretty perfect and doesn't feel unfinished.