Professor Charles Grimaud was explaining to some friends the natural causes behind an ancient superstition about men leaving their coffins when a stranger entered and challenged Grimaud's skepticism. The stranger asserted that he had risen from his own coffin and that four walls meant nothing to him. He added, 'My brother can do more...he wants your life and will call on you!' The brother came during a snowstorm, walked through the locked front door, shot Grimaud and vanished. The tragedy brought Dr Gideon Fell into the bizarre mystery of a killer who left no footprints.
John Dickson Carr was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1906. It Walks by Night, his first published detective novel, featuring the Frenchman Henri Bencolin, was published in 1930. Apart from Dr Fell, whose first appearance was in Hag's Nook in 1933, Carr's other series detectives (published under the nom de plume of Carter Dickson) were the barrister Sir Henry Merrivale, who debuted in The Plague Court Murders (1934), and Colonel March of the Department of Queer Complaints. Until the end of World War 2 Carr averaged four books a year. He died in 1977.