The Deep Lake Mystery

March 26, 2018

Today is the 66th anniversary of Carolyn Wells’ death. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading a lot of Wells’ books lately. And taking notes.


Carolyn Wells’ mystery novels are best appreciated when you set your standards low. Expect uncomfortable family relationships, people falling in love at first sight, and a solution to the mystery that makes you feel like Wells might be cheating. That way you can appreciate Wells’ moments of charm, and good-naturedly roll your eyes through the rest of the book, instead of throwing it at a wall. The Deep Lake Mystery has all those expected elements, and enough charm to resign me to the more than averagely crazy ending.

Gray Norris has just arrived in Wisconsin to visit his friends Keeley and Laura Moore when their neighbor, millionaire Sampson Tracy, is found murdered in his bed. Kee Moore is a detective, so it’s not strange that the police are happy to have his help in their investigation. It is strange, however, that they also allow Gray to sit in on their conferences, and, like, sneak into houses with them while the owners are away. But that’s Carolyn Wells for you.

Tracy’s murder is notable first because his corpse is bedecked with scarves and garlands of flowers, second because he had a nail driven into his head, and third because his bedroom door was locked from the inside. All of this is, again, extremely typical for Wells. So is the fact that Gray falls in love with Tracy’s niece Alma Remsen before  he’s ever even spoken to her. I find love at first sight irritating, but Gray’s friends’ kind, condescending tolerance kind of saves it here. In fact, Gray’s friends kind of save the entire book. One of my favorite things about Wells is how well she conveys people enjoying each others’ company, but she doesn’t usually exercise that talent in her mysteries. In The Deep Lake Mystery, Gray’s conversations about the investigation with Kee, Laura, and their friend Maud double as scenes of friends hanging out, and their humor and affection make a lot of the book’s sillinesses more palatable.

I don’t want to talk about the solution to the mystery, but: it’s dumb. I guessed it early on, but became convinced that I was wrong, which is, again, fairly typical of my experience of Wells’ mysteries. I mostly enjoyed The Deep Lake Mystery, anyway, and I grade on a curve, so let’s call it a solid B.

The link above goes to Project Gutenberg, but I actually listened to this one as a Librivox recording. It’s read by Roger Melin, who is listenable without being actively good, and that’s all I really ask from Librivox.


  1. Oh yay, she’s on LibriVox!

    • Yes! So far I’ve listened to two — this and The Man Who Fell Through the Earth — and have started The Clue. This guy also reads The Clue, but the reader for The Man Who Fell Through the Earth is pretty bad.

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