Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mystery and More Mystery by Robert Arthur

A mysterious knife that does its fatal work without the aid of human hands... An embezzler who hides his stolen money and then finds getting it back is a life's work... A kooky murderer who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes and solves his own crime... A beautiful woman who enters a house on a snowbound hilltop and impossibly disappears...

Originally published in 1966, Mystery and More Mystery is a collection of Robert Arthur's most loved short stories. Featuring 10 tales of varying length the book merges locked room mysteries, impossible crimes, and classic detective stories. I have reviewed each of the impossible crime stories below, though the more traditional mysteries should also appeal to fans of the genre.

The Blow from Heaven
An old lady sleeps alone beside a ceremonial knife. With no-one else in the room, the knife plunges into her chest and kills her.

A simple but neat impossible crime, The Blow from Heaven introduces us to a world of magic, conjuring and possession. While the solution may be easy to spot, the eerie set-up leads to a perfectly readable short story.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Whistle Up The Devil by Derek Smith

A man seals himself in a room, with both the window and the door under constant guard. Despite the precautions, a mysterious killer stabs him in the back and vanishes without a trace. To compound the confusion a potential suspect is later killed in a prison cell, despite no-one having access to the jail...

First published in 1953, Derek Smith's novel Whistle up the Devil contains two interlinked impossible crimes that pay homage to the likes of John Dickson Carr and Clayton Rawson. The story follows amateur detective Algy Lawrence as he investigates the mysterious death of Roger Querrin. With both the detective and the police standing guard outside Querrin's room at the time of his death, the disappearance of the killer raises suspicions of a supernatural murderer. Like many of the classic impossible crime tales, Lawrence is determined to prove there is nothing at all supernatural about Querrin's death.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tantalizing Locked Room Mysteries Review

"The best puzzle is not merely a mysterious crime but an impossible one - the kind where the murder takes place in a locked room, or in an unapproachable place, or at a non-existent time, or under conditions when there are no possible suspects."

Isaac Asimov headlines the list of editors that also includes Charles G. Waugh and Martin Harry Greenberg. Published in 1982, Tantalizing Locked Room Mysteries features 12 short stories of the genre including Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue, Jacques Futrelle's Problem of Cell 13, and many more established classics. Mixed in are a selection of lesser known works, but mystery fans will recognise many of the author names. A brief review of each story is detailed below, as well as links to those works that are available online for free.

Source: Biblioklept
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
Story and full review available for free here.

A genre defining story that has been emulated countless times by later authors.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle
Story and full review available for free here.

One of the few Sherlock Holmes stories to feature a true locked room mystery, the solution is a bit of a disappointment.

The Problem of Cell 13 by Jacques Futrelle
Story and full review available for free here.

One of the finest examples of locked room mystery fiction.

The Light at Three O'clock by MacKinlay Kantor
A silent phone call is made from a locked room, the occupant of which died the night before...

Gradually building tension as the hotel phone operator and manager go to investigate, Kantor's short story has a simple solution that, while elegant, defies one of the cardinal rules of locked room fiction.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Leopold Locked Room by Edward D. Hoch

Detective Leopold is pulled into an empty room by his ex-wife, then watches in horror as she is shot by the gun in his holster...

Few authors can match the variation and ingenuity of Hoch's story premises, and The Leopold Locked Room is no exception. Following Captain Leopold as he is arrested for the murder of his estranged ex-wife, the story captures his sense of dread as the impossible nature of the crime slowly dawns.

Edward D. Hoch. Source: Ontos

Edward D. Hoch was an American detective writer, responsible for almost 1,000 crime fiction short stories. He had over 450 stories featured in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and was published in every (monthly) issue for 34 years without missing a single edition. It was during this time that The Leopold Locked Room was first published, and has been reprinted in several anthologies since.

The Leopold Locked Room

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Google Books (if page does not load correctly hit refresh).

Author: Edward D. Hoch
Word Count: 5,000 (about 20 pages)
Date: 1971


The sheer brashness of the crime - committing murder right in front of the detective, then framing him for it - is both astounding and delightful, and must be one of the strongest opening gambits in impossible crime fiction. Hoch's premise is so elegant that even detective begins to doubt his innocence.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Locked Room Mysteries In Real Life: Isodore Fink

The last article on locked room mysteries in real life (available here) detailed a sinister real life crime that closely resembled a fictional story written almost two decades earlier. This post centres around the opposite case - a number of mystery writers attempting to create a rational explanation for a true unsolved crime.

Police Commissioner Mulrooney.
Source: Pinterest
The case in question is the murder of Isodore Fink, a Polish immigrant who ran a laundry in New York in the early 20th century. Fink died on 9th March 1929 in circumstances the NYC Police Commissioner called an “insoluble mystery”. The case inspired both William March and Ben Hecht to write the fictional short stories "The Bird House" and "The Mystery of the Fabulous Laundryman".

Isodore Fink was somewhat of a loner, having no friends or close contacts to speak of. Known as a recluse by the neighbours, he was also extremely security concious and had gone to great lengths to secure his apartment with bars over the windows and bolts across the door. Despite his precautions, he was shot in his home in a murder that has remained unsolved to this day.

Source: StrangeCompany
The details of the crime were as follows: Fink had returned home after running several laundry deliveries (he operated his laundry business from the same apartment), and put a hot iron on the gas stove. Soon thereafter, a neighbour heard screams and possibly the sound of blows (but no gunshots), and alerted a passing policeman. Finding the doors and windows firmly sealed, the officer noticed a transom window above the door and lifted a small child through it, who proceeded to unlock the door from the inside.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mystery News: BBC's Sherlock Wins at the Creative Arts Emmys

The BBC series Sherlock has picked up four Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. His Last Vow, the final episode of Sherlock's third season, won awards for music, cinematography, single-camera picture editing, and sound editing.

Martin Freeman as John Watson, Benedict Cumberbacht as Sherlock Holmes,
and Lars Mikkelsenas villain Charles Augustus Magnussen. Source: DigitalSpy

The ceremony, which takes place one week before the main Primetime Emmys event, honours TV guest stars and behind-the-scenes crew members.

Other winners include Uzo Abuda from Orange is the New Black, and Jimmy Fallon for hosting Saturday Night Live. True Detective, Game of Thrones, and the documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey also picked up a number of trophies.

Based on Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", His Last Vow pits Sherlock against the villainous Charles Augustus Magnussen (played by The Killing's Lars Mikkelsen).

More information can be found on BBC News, and Sherlock Season 3 is available to purchase from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mystery News: HarperCollins to release The Golden Age of Murder

HarperCollins have just acquired the publishing rights to The Golden Age of Murder, a real-life detective story investigating how Agatha Christie and her colleagues in the secretive Detection Club transformed crime fiction.

Crime author Martin Edwards
Written by the award-winning crime writer Martin Edwards, the book will detail how authors of the time produced books that cast new light on unsolved murders whilst hiding clues to their own darkest secrets.

Edwards is the author of 17 crime novels and 8 non-fiction books. He is also Archivist for both the Detection Club and the Crime Writers’ Association, and is a renowned expert on Golden Age detective fiction.

Speaking exclusively to TheLockedRoom.com, Edwards said "Locked rooms, like clue-finders and challenges to the reader, were all part of the fun and games of Golden Age fiction which I've enjoyed researching and writing about in 'The Golden Age of Murder'."

David Brawn, Publisher of Estates at HarperCollins, commented: "This ground-breaking study of detective fiction from between the wars captures how the social and political turbulence of the times impacted on authors and the appetites of their readers. Martin’s revelations about many of these colourful and turbulent writers, whose risky private lives inspired their more daring novels, provide a whole new insight into the generation of authors who created the prototypes for books we all still love today."

The Golden Age of Murder is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.com. It will be published in hardback in May 2015. Martin Edwards' blog is available at DoYouWriteUnderYourOwnName.