The Man Who Fell Through the Earth

April 3, 2018

The Man Who Fell Through the Earth might be the cheatiest of Carolyn Wells’ mysteries — even cheatier than the one where everyone insists there’s no secret passage and then there’s a secret passage. But I liked it.

Our murder victim is Amos Gately, and he’s a very typical Carolyn Wells murder victim: an older man, wealthy, well-known, aristocratic, and with a beautiful grown-up niece living with him. The narrator is Tom Brice, and he’s a typical Wells narrator: a young lawyer interested in detection who inserts himself into the investigation on flimsy pretexts. However, if wee were going completely formula, Brice would fall in love at first sight with Gately’s niece, Olive Raynor, and he doesn’t do that because it would be unfair to his delightful stenographer, Norah MacCormack. Norah is really too good for Brice, and probably a better detective, but she doesn’t seem to mind that, so I guess it’s fine.

Brice gets involved with the Gately case because he’s the closest thing there is to a witness. He saw the fatal altercation, but through the ripply glass window in Gately’s door, which distorted his view of the participants. He gets further involved when he becomes Olive Raynor’s legal advisor, and undertakes to solve two mysteries for her: the murder of her uncle, and the disappearance of her friend Amory Manning. Along the way, Brice takes on a third mystery: the identity of the amnesiac that police fished out of the East River on the day of the Gately murder.

The solutions to all of these would be obvious if Wells didn’t keep telling you, “No it’s not that.” And yet, I’m not inclined to complain this time. I don’t know why, but here are some things that could be reasons:

  • A certain secret architectural feature.
  • The descriptions of New York City in a snowstorm circa 1919.
  • The only romance in which Wells has ever exercised a particle of restraint.
  • The amnesiac is charming.
  • No infighting among the Brice-Rayner crowd.

This is another one I listened to on LibriVox, but I can’t recommend the recording. The reader’s cadences are distractingly weird.



  1. You must be a very fast listener. 😋 You’ve done 5 books and I’m still only half way through “Merton of the Movies”.
    I guess I’m pretty lucky that I never met Carolyn wells. She’d have bumped me off in the first chapter,too.(I presume the victim is also very handsome?).
    I think I would like her mysteries. I don’t care about figuring out “who dun it”. I like the atmospherics, the world one gets to visit and the people one meets there. A little humour, a bit of adventure and some romance, wrap oneself up in the cozy safety of a good murder…that’s all i need.

    • Oh, I don’t listen to that many audiobooks–Unless I link to a recording, I read texts. And I think I’ve only gotten halfway through one more since posting this.

      It sounds like you might enjoy Wells. I think this one and The Mark of Cain might be good ones to start with.

  2. But despite the awful narrator, you still enjoyed it!

    • I think I persevered because I was enjoying it. I’ve definitely stopped listening to things because of narrators who were no worse than this one.

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