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.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

Two women are brutally murdered in a locked flat. With the door barred from the inside how can the killer have committed such a heinous crime, then escaped without a single witness?

Widely recognised as the first modern detective story, Poe's story developed plot devices (murder in a locked room, the final deduction and revelation) and character traits (the brilliant detective, his friend and narrator) that would later be widely emulated by many authors of the genre.

Edgar Allan Poe. Source: Goodreads

Following the thought process of budding detective C. Auguste Dupin, Murders in the Rue Morgue leads the reader through the set-up of the crime, the depositions of the building's tenants, and finally the deductive reasoning that leads to the solution.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Project Gutenberg, PoeMuseum or ClassicLit. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Date: 1841
Word Count: 14,000 (about 55 pages)


Despite the story beginning with a somewhat indulgent lecture on the power of analytical reasoning, Poe's text has aged well. Introducing us to many of the concepts that are now genre staples, Poe manages to disseminate his ideas clearly (the word "detective" didn't even exist at the time) while keeping the story moving. For the modern reader the text is both accessible and detailed, proving an interesting snippet into the literature of the time.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Adventure Of The Sealed Room by Adrian Conan Doyle & John Dickson Carr

Sherlock Holmes investigates the puzzling death or an army Colonel, and the attempted murder of his wife. With both locked in a sealed room, murder-suicide seems the most obvious explanation...

Continuing the series created by his father, Adrian Conan Doyle wrote a number of Holmes stories alongside impossible crime maestro John Dickson Carr.
Adrian Conan Doyle with his father, Arthur.
Source: Wikipedia

In The Adventure of the Sealed Room, Holmes finds himself swept up in a case centred around a classic locked room mystery. Colonel Warburton is found in a sealed room with his badly wounded wife, gun still in his hand.

The story was first published in "The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes" in 1954, and was inspired by a comment by Dr Watson in "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb":

"Of all the problems which have been submitted to my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, for solution during the years of our intimacy, there were only two which I was the means of introducing to his notice -- that of Mr. Hatherley's thumb, and that of Colonel Warburton's madness."

The Adventure of the Sealed Room

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Narod.ru or UNZ.org.

Author: Adrian Conan Doyle & John Dickson Carr
Word Count: 7,900 (about 32 pages)
Date: 1954


Very few of the original Sherlock Holmes stories involved locked rooms in the classic sense, but thanks to Adrian Conan Doyle's partnership with John Dickson Carr we have a number of stories pairing the infamous detective with the quintessential conundrum.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Death Locked In Review

Compiled by Douglas Greene and Robert Adey, Death Locked in is an anthology of locked-room mysteries. Featuring stories written across the centuries, the book provides some insight as to the origins of the genre, development during the "golden age of detective fiction", and a few more recent examples. Each story is preceded by an introduction to the author, and a brief description of the context in which it was written.

The body was found in a room with the door locked and the windows sealed from within. Only the corpse is there. Clearly murder was done, but where is the murderer? Who could have done it? That's the classic locked-room situation, the impossible crime. 
That too is why the locked-room story never ceases to delight and entertain us. The absolute master of the genre, John Dickson Carr, once wrote that the detective story has three qualities seldom found in the thriller: fair play, sound plot construction, and ingenuity. And in no other form of the detective story is ingenuity as important as in the locked-room crime, for it is here that the author challenges the reader to what Carr called "the grandest game in the world". Not just whodunit, but how?
Since the 19th century, tales of impossible crimes have exerted a fascination upon authors and readers alike. The corpse in a locked room is just a starting point. How about a person entering a house and then completely disappearing? Or the body found strangled in the middle of a beach surrounded by unmarked sand? 
In DEATH LOCKED IN, ingenuity faces the impossible. The gates of the unknown are thrown open, ghosts walk, and witches's curses seem real. Crimes are committed that have no rational, human explanation. Or so it seems ... until the most ingenious of detectives appears on the scene. Sound interesting? Then come on in. One thing is certain: you won't need a key.

At over 550 pages, Death Locked In is fantastic value for any mystery fan. The sheer quantity and variation of the stories is superb, and the small nuggets of insight by the editors before each mystery are both interesting and well-researched.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle

A train leaves the station, but vanishes before reaching the next stop. With no forks in the tracks or possible places to hide, the disappearance seems impossible...

Source: Waterstones

Originally published in Doyle's Tales of Terror and Mystery, The Lost Special follows the confession of Herbert de Lernac as he recites the details of his masterful plan. The story features an implied cameo by Sherlock Holmes (no name is mentioned, but an "amateur reasoner" writes "It is one of the elementary principles of practical reasoning that when the impossible has been eliminated the residuum, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must contain the truth").

The short story was also recently adapted in the BBC series Sherlock, with the titular character investigating the disappearance of a London tube carriage.

The Lost Special

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Project Gutenberg or East of the Web. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Date: 1898
Word Count: 7,000 (about 28 pages)


The concept of The Lost Special is a strong one - a train vanishes on a straight line with no rational explanation. A similar setup was used by Jacques Futrelle in his 1907 short story The Phantom Motor (available here). Unfortunately for Doyle, Futrelle's solution offers a much more unusual and satisfying resolution.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Hollow Man (The Three Coffins) by John Dickson Carr

A man is killed in a locked study surrounded by undisturbed snow. The killer vanishes, and leaves no footprints. Shortly thereafter another victim is killed, this time in front of witnesses on a snow covered street. Yet again, the murderer is nowhere to be found, and only the victim's footprints lead to the body...

The Hollow Man (published in the U.S. as "The Three Coffins") is one of JDC's most critically acclaimed works, and in 1981 was voted the best locked room mystery of all time by a panel of mystery authors. The plot follows Dr. Gideon Fell as he assists the police in uncovering the truth behind two interconnected impossible crimes:

  1. Professor Charles Grimaud was killed in his study by a mysterious figure. The intruder is seen entering the room, then vanishes in to thin air. Fell and co are quick to inspect the scene, but find no possible route of escape.
  2. The illusionist Pierre Fley is shot from point blank range on a snow covered street a few minutes from the scene of Grimaud's death. Witnesses at either end of the street confirm that there was no-one around Fley at the time of shooting, but the angle of the gunshot wound means it cannot have been self-inflicted.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Curzon Street Conundrum by David Stuart Davies

Shipping magnate Laurence Wilberforce is murdered in his study. With the door locked and bolted from the inside, how can his killer have escaped?

David Stuart Davies is a British writer known for his various additions to the Sherlock Holmes canon. The Darke Chronicles, one of Davies' novels missing the famous detective, follows amateur sleuth Luther Darke as he investigates weird and wonderful cases in Victorian-era London. The Curzon Street Conundrum is the first of seven stories, and is available for free as a preview to the novel.

In the story the wealthy businessman Laurence Wilberforce is found stabbed in a sealed room. With no windows or possible routes of escape, it seems that the killer has vanished from the scene of the crime.

The Curzon Street Conundrum

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Google Books.

Author: David Stuart Davies
Date: 2014
Word Count: 5,000 (about 21 pages)


The Curzon Street Conundrum, despite featuring a very brief prologue from the perspective of the dying victim, takes a little while to reach its core concept. When it does, however, the set-up is a classic one. The victim has been stabbed, the room was most definitely sealed, and suicide looks very unlikely. We follow Darke as he is led through the details of the case, talks to the various suspects, and eventually reaches his conclusions on the method.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In The Morning I'll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty

The early 1980's, Northern Ireland. On the hunt for notorious IRA terrorist Dermot McCann, detective Sean Duffy comes across the bizarre case of a young woman found dead in a locked pub...

The final entry of a trilogy of books starring the battle-worn detective Sean Duffy, Adrian McKinty's In The Morning I'll be gone is the first to feature a locked room mystery. The core of the book focuses on the manhunt of IRA bomber Dermot McCann, but Duffy is pulled off on a tangent as an informer promises the location of McCann in exchange for re-opening the case of her daughter's death.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Locked Room Mysteries In Real Life: The Day The Children Vanished

This series of articles explores the bizarre occurrences in which real events bear close resemblance to fictional locked room mysteries or impossible crimes. In this example, a bus of children disappears in circumstances eerily similar to Hugh Pentecost's short story "The Day the Children Vanished".

Some of the children resting at the Santa Rita prison farm.
Source: Evening Independent.
(Spoilers below)

The Day the Children Vanished

Hugh Pentecost's short story, originally published in 1958, centres around a core mystery - a bus of schoolchildren is seen driving onto a waterside stretch of road flanked by a high wall, but fails to come out at the other end. The road is searched, but no sign of the bus remains. With no possible turns or exits, the disappearance is as puzzling as it is terrifying. Some of the children's clothes are discovered in a nearby quarry, but again the bus is nowhere to be found.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The First Three Months

An easily digestible summary of all activity on TheLockedRoom.com over the first three months...

It's been a busy few months here at TheLockedRoom.com, with a plethora of free stories, articles and reviews. Below I have listed links to the most popular posts, and categorised them for easy browsing.

The Locked Room

I posted the initial three chapters of my upcoming novel "The Locked Room". Chapter 1 - Private Eye introduces the reader to Kenneth Rhys as he investigates the mysterious ambush of a U.S. Marine. Chapter 2 - Diagnosis Cancer follows Rhys as he finds himself at the centre of an impossible escape attempt. In Chapter 3 - Window of Opportunity suspicion is raised on an apparent murder-suicide, but the prime suspect was nowhere near either victim.

You may also have noticed the rebranding of the site to match the temporary cover design. Many thanks to all of those who took the time to offer feedback on both the book and its cover.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Agatha Christie's Black Coffee

Sir Claud Amory turns off the lights in a locked room full of suspects. When the lights come back on, he is dead. Who killed the notorious inventor, and why?

Having just completed its run at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin, the classic Agatha Christie play is moving to the UK from August through to November (dates and locations here). In this production, Jason Durr stars as the unflappable Detective Poirot as he investigates the various suspicious characters surrounding Amory's death.

Sporting the infamous upturned moustache, Durr makes for a convincing Poirot. Called in to investigate the crime, he steals every scene with a nod and a wink. Though the majority of the plot stays firmly in mystery territory, the seriousness of the crime is matched by the play's humour - and many of the best lines go to the leading man.

The supporting cast are also strong, particularly Liza Goddard as the rambling Caroline Amory. That being said some of the accents do waver, with the supposedly Italian characters the worst offenders. It's a minor quibble to a lavishly set and performed piece that does well to engage the audience throughout.

Upon release in 1930 the play was warmly received, though it is now showing its age a little. The central plot is very much mystery-by-numbers, which is far from Christie's best. Given the wealth of ingenious stories from the genre-defining author, it is a little disappointing that this is the one chosen for a modern theatre run. The final reveal of the culprit falls very much into "oh, is that it?" territory, and may disappoint the modern audience expecting a more inventive twist.

The tone is set light, and the self awareness of the script definitely helps to elevate it above the standard mystery fare. It's a shame the plot isn't particularly groundbreaking, as the convincing production values and cast deserve better.

An (almost) impeccably performed interpretation of a conventional mystery story.

Wash Her Guilt Away by Michael Wallace

A young woman is found strangled in a locked cabin, with no footprints in the surrounding snow...

Michael Wallace's Wash Her Guilt Away combines a traditional locked room mystery - a collection of eclectic characters are stuck in a remote location after one of them falls victim to an impossible crime - with the sedate world of fly fishing. The book follows Quill Gordon and his friend Peter Delaney as they head to a waterside cabin for a fishing break, then assist a befuddled detective as their retreat turns murderous.

The first half of the book is almost entirely dedicated to the pursuit of fly fishing, which offers a detailed and slow-burning insight into the techniques and experience of the sport. For fishing enthusiasts, this rather unique prelude to a murder mystery could prove for an insightful, if serene, read.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr by William Brittain

Inspired by the locked room mysteries of John Dickson Carr, a young orphan decides to commit the perfect murder...

Bill Brittain
Source: Goodreads

Bill Brittain's "The Man Who Read" series offers a humorous take on some of the classic mystery tropes. In this short story, an orphan named Edgar Gault resolves to carry out a crime of which the likes of Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale would be proud.

The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Wikispaces.

Author: William Brittain
Date: 1965
Word Count: 1,500 (about 6 pages)


Told from the perspective of the criminal, this brief story offers a rare glimpse into the planning stages of a locked room mystery. Brittain wisely keeps the tone light, and Edgar's naive confidence as he implements his strategy makes him almost likeable.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Locked Room Lecture

If the body was found alone in a locked room, how can the murderer have escaped? The question at the centre of the classic locked room mystery conundrum has fascinated and inspired authors for generations.

John Dickson Carr, in his widely acclaimed novel The Hollow Man (published in the US as "The Three Coffins") attempted to provide a comprehensive list of possible methods (while, ingeniously, challenging the reader with his own locked room mystery that seems to fit none of his prescribed solutions).

An entire chapter is dedicated to a discussion between Dr. Gideon Fell and his friends on the possible solutions to locked room mysteries.

"...if you're going to analyze impossible situations,' interrupted Pettis, 'why discuss detective fiction?'

'Because,' said the doctor, frankly, 'we're in a detective story, and we don't fool the reader by pretending we're not. Let's not invent elaborate excuses to drag in a discussion of detective stories. Let's candidly glory in the noblest pursuits possible to characters in a book."

The Locked Room Lecture

The following excerpts from the book details Fell's various explanations to the locked room conundrum:

"1. It is not murder, but a series of coincidences ending in an accident which looks like murder. At an earlier time, before the room was locked, there has been a robbery, an attack, a wound, or a breaking of furniture which suggests a murder struggle. Later the victim is either accidentally killed or stunned in a locked room, and all these incidents are assumed to have taken place at the same time. In this case the means of death is usually a crack on the head–presumably by a bludgeon, but really from some piece of furniture. It may be from the corner of a table or the sharp edge of a chair, but the most popular object is an iron fender The murderous fender, by the way, has been killing people in a way that looks like murder ever since Sherlock Holmes' adventure with the Crooked Man. The most thoroughly satisfying solution of this type of plot, which includes a murderer, is in Gaston Leroux's The Mystery of the Yellow Room–the best detective tale ever written.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Adventure Of The Sealed Room by Andy Weir

Professor Moriarty sits in a jail cell, accused of a murder he didn't commit. The killer somehow managed to reach the victim through a reinforced door, before removing all trace except an incriminating note...

Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty in BBC's Sherlock

Professor James Moriarty is one of the most intriguing and memorable of Arthur Conan Doyle's creations, inspiring a wide variety of story-lines in Sherlock Holmes books, movies and TV shows. In Andy Weir's fan fiction adventure "The Adventure of the Sealed Room" the notorious schemer has finally been apprehended, with the curious caveat that he is (on this occasion) innocent.

Andy Weir is an American novelist primarily known for his debut hit "The Martian". A software engineer by trade, Weir uploads many of his works for free (including the flash fiction gem "The Egg").

The Adventure of the Sealed Room

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Galactanet.

Author: Andy Weir
Word Count: 5,600 (about 22 pages)
Author Site


There have been numerous works of fan fiction centred around Sherlock Holmes' arch enemy. In this short story by Andy Weir the infamous villain is tasked with proving his innocence, accompanied by the narrator, Sebastian Moran.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Mysteries of Reverend Dean by Hal White

Featuring six short stories, The Mysteries of Reverend Dean follows the exploits of the titular Reverend as he encounters and solves seemingly impossible crimes.

Set in the fictional town of Dark Pine, the book very much follows the "Miss Marple" format - the retired pastor filling his time with the various transgressions of his army of contacts. Similar to the Christie books, the main character's primary motivation is an unquenchable curiosity. The Reverend is a likeable pensioner who seems to have built quite the following during his working life. Hal White masterfully balances his leading man on just the right side of doddery, with an earnest and kind demeanour that turns to stern when the situation necessitates.

The Reverend's profession plays into the plot, with many of the mysteries originating from members of his church. It also allows White to include a few short sections on Christian philosophy, though he wisely opts not to over-do these interludes. They provide a little depth to the Reverend's belief structure, but are not overly intrusive for readers of a different persuasion.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Locked Room - Window of Opportunity by P.J. Bergman

Suspicion is raised on an apparent murder suicide, but the primary suspect has a cast-iron alibi...

This exclusive short story is the third chapter of my upcoming novel, The Locked Room. The first chapter, "Private Eye" is available to read online for free here.

For more information and further chapters of the upcoming book The Locked Room, check out The Locked Room (Book).

The Locked Room - Chapter 3 - Window of Opportunity

The short story is available in its entirety below. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here). The first chapter, "Private Eye" is available here.

Author: P.J. Bergman
Date: 2014
Word Count: 7,100 (about 28 pages)

© 2014, P.J. Bergman. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author. Extracts may be used, provided that full reference to the source is available to the reader.


Case Log #003 - January 2005

Window Of Opportunity

‘There must be hundreds of these types of cases. People with unexplained mysteries, impossible crimes.’ Anthony’s enthusiasm was reminiscent of myself in the early years of my career. He had been pacing across the living room rug for the best part of half an hour. ‘We could make a difference. Provide answers the police never could.’

‘You heard the FBI woman, we have no standing with law enforcement,’ I replied.

‘People hire private investigators all the time. There’s money in it too.’

‘$70,000 worth?’

‘Over time, maybe. Think of all the people we could help.’

I was thinking of my treatment.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Eight Strokes of the Clock by Maurice Leblanc

This collection of short stories is one of a number featuring famed detective Arsene Lupin, though in this case acting under the pseudonym of "Serge Renine".

Maurice Leblanc
Source: The 1709 Blog
Often described as France's answer to Arthur Conan Doyle, Leblanc spent much of his career writing Lupin mysteries. The adventures were hugely popular, and The Eight Strokes of the Clock was nominated by Ellery Queen as one of the top 125 detective fiction novels ever.

The plot follows Renine as he meets Hortense Daniel, and quickly develops an affinity for her. After freeing her from a controlling uncle in the first story, Renine exposes her to a life of adventure and mystery in an attempt to win her heart.

The Eight Strokes of the Clock

The collection of short stories is available in its entirety for free at Project Gutenberg. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Maurice Leblanc
Date: 1922
Word Count: 63,000 (about 250 pages)

Serge Renine is an absorbing character who deciphers mysteries with his powers of observation and his skill for compelling argument. His quest to seduce Hortense Daniel propels the two of them through a eclectic mix of mysteries, each of which offers a unique puzzle for the reader.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Problem of the Vanishing Man by Jacques Futrelle

A wealthy businessman enters his high-rise office and vanishes, seemingly able to disappear at will. When his staff discover his absence, they recruit The Thinking Machine to try and determine how he accomplishes such a feat, and why...

Jacques Futrelle's Professor Van Dusen ("The Thinking Machine") has investigated murders, unexplained horrors, and all sorts of bizarre occurrences. In The Problem of the Vanishing Man, Van Dusen turns his attention to the corporate world.

Douglas Wilmer as Professor Van Dusen. Source: Double O Section
Charles Carroll, head of a prospering brokerage firm, enters his corner office on the fourth floor of the building. When a member of staff follows him in, he is nowhere to be found. How can he have escaped the building without being seen, and what possible motivation could he have for doing so?

The Problem of the Vanishing Man

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Futrelle.com or The University of Adelaide. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Jacques Futrelle
Word Count: 5,400 (about 21 pages)
The interesting setting (high stakes corporate stockbroking) and cast of shady characters gives The Problem of the Vanishing Man an air of mystery right from the off. Carroll seems to disappear and reappear at will, leaving the reader questioning whether he is actually accomplishing the impossible or simply being framed by a jealous colleague.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Footprints in the Snow by Maurice Leblanc

One set of footprints leads to the scene of a disturbance, and a different set leads away. With the victim missing, where is the body? And how did the assailant traverse over fields of snow without leaving any footprints?

The penultimate story of Leblanc's "Eight Strikes of the Clock" collection, Footprints in the Snow is an intriguing mystery featuring a number of unexplained events. The crux of the case relies on the tracks (or lack thereof) left in the snow surrounding the isolated scene.

Le Clos Lupin - Leblanc's home is now a museum dedicated
to his most famous character. Source: Cultural Etretat

The local police are quick to form an explanation for the events, but when witness testimony contradicts their theory it is up to Prince Renine to once again uncover the truth.

Footprints in the Snow

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Project Gutenberg or WikiSource. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Maurice Leblanc
Date: 1922
Word Count: 9,000 (about 36 pages)


Footprints have long been a favourite trope of impossible crime authors. Leblanc's story fits within the classic mould - the prints in the snow surrounding the scene do not match the perceived series of events. While Leblanc does create a logical and (mostly) believable solution, the method used to deceive the investigators is a little tired.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins

Staying the night after an infatuating winning spree, an amateur gambler locks himself and his winnings in for the night. With the door barred and the window locked, he assumes himself to be safe. He assumes wrong...

Wilkie Collins. Source: Wikipedia
Wilkie Collins was a prolific writer and personal friend of Charles Dickens. The two collaborated on a number of projects, with Collins once proposing "We saw each other every day, and were as fond of each other as men could be."

A Terribly Strange Bed was first published in an 1852 edition of Dickens' magazine "Household Words". The story follows an amateur gambler named Faulkner who, after an incredible run of luck, finds himself celebrating a significant win with a new acquaintance.

A Terribly Strange Bed

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Nagoya University or Project Gutenberg. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Wikie Collins
Date: 1852
Word Count: 6,500 (about 25 pages)


Told from the perspective of the intended victim, A Terribly Strange bed is more psychological horror than impossible crime. Faulkner's increasing level of intoxication, and apparent naivety to the intentions of his new found friend, creates a palpable sense of foreboding that serves well to set up the night in the titular bed.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Locked Room Book Cover

I've just received the latest cover design for The Locked Room, so thought I'd share it below.

Designed by Cameron Gibson, the cover integrates a number of motifs from the locked room genre - the victim is seemingly alone in a room but attacked by an unknown assailant, the use of mirrors or illusions, and the keyhole symbol that has been utilised in a number of previous works.

The style was inspired by the illustrations of Matt Taylor, an English artist who creates colourful pieces based on popular culture and has worked for companies such as Adidas, Google, GQ, Wired, and many more. You can view some of Matt's work on his website, www.MattTaylor.co.uk.

Previous Iterations

The initial design.
Version 2 introduced a new font,
adjusted the colours, and improved
the features of the character.
Version 3 altered colours again, aged
the character, and tweaked the layout.

I'd love to hear some opinions so feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Therese and Germaine by Maurice Leblanc

A man is found alone in a locked cabin, stabbed in the back. When the murder weapon is later found in his wife's bag, all fingers point to her...

This locked room mystery is one of a selection of short stories available in The Eight Strokes of the Clock by Maurice Leblanc. The book follows the exploits of adventurer Serge Renine and his companion Hortense Daniel as they investigate bizarre and intriguing mysteries. Leblanc introduces the book by saying the stories were told to him by Arsene Lupin, a fictional character from Leblanc's other works. Given the similarities Leblanc suggests that the resourceful adventurer may in fact be Lupin himself.

The book was selected by Ellery Queen as one of the top 125 most important detective/crime/mystery fiction works, and features eight stories which I will cover in more detail in a separate post. Therese and Germaine is one of only a couple of locked room mysteries within the collection, however the other stories are well worth a read for mystery enthusiasts.

Therese and Germaine

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Project Gutenberg or WikiSource. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Maurice Leblanc
Date: 1922
Word Count: 8,000 (about 32 pages)


Therese and Germain takes a little time getting to its core mystery, choosing instead to focus on the characters involved and the impending nature of the crime. The set-up is a little contrived (Renine overhears the would-be-murderers plotting their crime on a train), especially considering Renine hears just enough to confirm that a crime will be committed without learning who the victim or attacker will be.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Locked Room - Diagnosis Cancer by P.J. Bergman

A hospital patient escapes from a locked room. Under armed guard. While sedated...

This exclusive short story is the second chapter of my upcoming novel, The Locked Room. The first chapter, "Private Eye" is available to read online for free here.

For more information and further chapters of the upcoming book The Locked Room, check out The Locked Room (Book).

The Locked Room - Chapter 2 - Diagnosis Cancer

The short story is available in its entirety below. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here). The previous chapter, "Private Eye" is available here.

Author: P.J. Bergman
Date: 2014
Word Count: 7,500 (about 30 pages)

© 2014, P.J. Bergman. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author. Extracts may be used, provided that full reference to the source is available to the reader.


Case Log #002 - January 2005

Diagnosis Cancer

Three months after Allsop’s death I was once again standing on the shining gloss tiles of the LAX arrivals lounge. Coming home was always a strange feeling. Locations were familiar yet enough time had passed for them to inherit a certain alien quality. My mind associated civilian airports with temporary solitude - mandatory downtime spent in a series of sterile apartments before an assignment came in and I was shipped off to my new station in another corner of the globe. The permanence of my arrival on this occasion was a little bewildering.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Locked Room Mysteries In Real Life - Sherlock S03E02 The Sign of Three

There's been a bit of criticism levelled at the central mystery of Sherlock - The Sign of Three. The crime has been called both unrealistic and impractical.

In an unlikely case of truth proving stranger than fiction, the events in Sherlock - The Sign of Three are actually based on a real-life crime.

Sherlock's best man speech. What could go wrong?

(Spoilers below)

Sherlock S03E02 - The Sign of Three

Alfie Enoch as Private Bainbridge
The primary case(s) at the heart of The Sign of Three is the death of Private Bainbridge of Her Majesty's Household Guard. Killed in a locked shower with no sign of the murderer, Sherlock begins to suspect the murderer could strike again at John's wedding. Sherlock identifies the potential second victim as Major James Sholto, and manages to determine the method of the crime before Sholto is killed.

The concept of the case is a classic locked room mystery (Sherlock even refers to it as such upon finding Bainbridge's body). The method - the victim was stabbed by a very sharp blade that penetrated his uniform imperceptibly - fits neatly within the "fatal wound was inflicted prior to the victim entering the locked room" category. The Sign of Three offers a slight twist on this format by making the victim(s) unaware of their wounds (their tight fitting uniforms act as a tourniquet and prevent blood-loss while worn).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Now You See Me Review

Magic and impossible crimes share many of the same characteristics - both bending our perception of reality to accomplish the seemingly impossible feats. Now You See me happens to share staples more than most, following a group of magicians (The Four Horsemen) as they steal millions of dollars, outwit the authorities, and entertain the public with outlandish shows.

Starting in Las Vegas and ending in New York (by way of New Orleans), the plot centres around three heists committed during the Horsemen's live stage performances.

In the first, they mysteriously teleport an unsuspecting witness to his bank in France before showering their audience with the vault's content. In the second, they hack the bank account of a millionaire and wire his money to the individual accounts of their audience members. Finally, they steal a reinforced vault from within a warehouse and use the cash within to frame an unfortunate pleb for their crimes.

Each of the robberies require a significant suspension of disbelief, however the first and third both use techniques familiar to locked room fans. The film glosses over them quite quickly in its rush to display the glamour of the magic shows, though does feature some satisfying twists. The car chase in the final third of the movie in particular features a clever mechanic (the plot kind, not the automotive kind) that adds a "whodunit" element to the concluding heist.

Speaking of whodunits, the film teases the possibility of a mastermind behind the magicians' antics, a "fifth Horseman". A few characters are highlighted as potential candidates before the culprit is revealed at the end of the film. Unfortunately this fits very much into the "least likely suspect" that doesn't bother itself with believability or logic. The movie may have benefitted from avoiding this aspect altogether as it is both unnecessary and groan-inducing.

On a more positive note, the cast seem to be having a ball. The star power has to be seen to be believed - Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine all feature, with up-and-comers Melanie Laurent and Dave Franco also contributing. Production values match the talent on show, though reducing the amount of CGI during some of the magic tricks may have improved their believability.

A sequel is reported to be in the works, with filming beginning in September this year. Many of the original cast are rumoured to be returning, and it will be interesting to see how the creators up the stakes from the first outing.

8/10 - Flashy, inventive and entertaining, but slightly let down by a face-palmingly implausible twist ending.

Now You See Me is available on DVD from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Phantom Motor by Jacques Futrelle

A car speeds onto a road with high walls either side, but never comes out the other end...

Taken from the collection of Jacques Futrelle's Thinking Machine stories, The Phantom Motor only briefly features the renown detective. Primarily focusing on the two policemen that reside either side of a thin stretch of road, the plot follows the confusion and frustration of the first policeman as he tries to convince his colleague of the seemingly impossible.

A modern day invisible car. Source: The Telegraph

Almost ever night, a mysterious car rushes past the officer (Baker) and into the inescapable stretch of road. When Baker calls his colleague (Bowman) at the other end to catch the speeding vehicle, it is nowhere to be seen. Even after walking the entire length of the road, neither policeman can determine how the vehicle could have accomplished such a feat. Only The Thinking Machine can piece together the story...

The Phantom Motor

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Futrelle.com or Adelaide.edu. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Jacques Futrelle
Date: 1907
Word Count: 5,500 (about 22 pages)


The concept is really strong - a car is seen going onto a road that is surrounded by high walls on both sides, but disappears without a trace before coming out the other end. I'm not sure the solution can quite live up to the high expectations the concept generates.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Locked Room Mysteries In Real Life - The Duel Of Shadows

The reveal - explaining of how the events occurred - is often the most rewarding part of a locked room mystery or impossible crimes story. The key to an edifying ending is ensuring the method is both ingenious and feasible. While there have been a huge variety of solutions proposed by the multitude of authors operating within the genre, very few have been replicated in reality.

As with any fiction, the methodologies don't have to have happened to be creditable. The audience just have to believe that they could happen. Maintaining realism is key to keeping the reader engaged with the story - if the world of the story operates within the same laws as our world we have a fair chance of figuring out the solution prior to the reveal.

Perhaps it is the somewhat contrived nature of the genre that means crimes are rarely attempted outside of fiction. Stories tend to overcomplicate what could more easily be accomplished in an attempt to provide the reader with a fulfilling story.

That being said, there are a few impossible crime stories that have striking similarities to real life events.

"Truth is always strange; stranger than fiction." - Lord Byron

(Spoilers below)

The Duel of Shadows by Vincent Cornier

The Duel of Shadows is a short story, originally published in Pearson's Magazine in 1934. Written by Vincent Cornier, it covers the inexplicable shooting of Henry Leonard Westmacott who was seemingly attacked by an invisible assailant while dozing in an armchair.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Holiday Puzzle: A Locked Room Mystery by Mosomoso

An elderly woman is found dead in a locked apartment, with little to indicate the possibility of foul play...

I wasn't able to find too much information about this story or its author, however enjoyed the tale and thought I'd include it here. The narrative is told from the perspective of Gavin, an investigator for an insurance company. While on holiday Gavin challenges his friends to solve the case behind an insurance claim that he had previously worked on.

Holiday Puzzle: A Locked Room Mystery

The short story is available in its entirety for free at With A Twist.

Author: Mosomoso
Date: 2012
Word Count: 4,300 (about 17 pages)
With A Twist Homepage


Holiday Puzzle... is a well written short story that works its way through the events leading up to a life insurance claim. Told in retrospect by the insurance claim assessor (Gavin), it provides a unique viewpoint from which to analyse the crime.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Inside Man Review

There aren't too many examples of locked room mysteries in modern movies, but Inside Man gives us a great one.

The film follows Clive Owen's Dalton Russell as he pulls off "the perfect bank robbery". Russell is pitted against Detective Keith Frazer, a likeable and world-weary negotiator played by Denzel Washington.

Wasting no time getting to the crime itself, Inside Man shows us the action from both inside and outside the bank. Russell and his team of thieves manage the hostages and execute their plan as Frazer and co. set up perimeters on the surrounding streets.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Death In Paradise Season 1 Review

Death In Paradise offers a nice twist on the detective story by relocating to the fictional island of Saint Marie. Ben Miller stars as Inspector Richard Poole, the fish-out-of-water Englishman who is charged with leading the local police force (a grand total of three people) and solving the various mysteries that frequently occur on the island.

Ben Miller as Inspector Richard Poole

Right from the off, mysteries include locked rooms and other impossible crimes. It's great to see the genre still going strong (Season 1 averaged about 6 million viewers per episode on BBC) on the small screen.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Suicide of Kiaros by L. Frank Baum

This story, while not being a mystery in the strictest sense, does feature a locked room. Explaining how it fits into the genre requires quite significant spoilers so I'll leave it to the review below.

L. Frank Baum is best known for writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was later adapted into the 1939 film starring Judy Garland and the sort-of-prequel Oz the Great and Powerful in 2013. The Suicide of Kiaros was one of a number of unrelated short stories written over the course of his career, and follows Felix Marston as he attempts to rid himself of money troubles.

Sam Raimi's interpretation of Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful

The Suicide of Kiaros

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Archive.Today.

Author: Lyman Frank Baum
Date: 1897
Word Count: 4,500 (about 18 pages)

Review (contains spoilers)

The Suicide of Kiaros offers an interesting take on the impossible crime format as it tells the story from the perspective of the killer. This rather unique approach does differentiate it from later entries in the genre, however also means that the reader is left with little sense of mystery as we are simply following along with the narrators actions:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Grinning God by May & Jacques Futrelle

May Futrelle.
Source: Atlanta History Center
This collaboration between Jacques Futrelle and his wife is split into two parts - "The Grinning God", and "The House That Was".

May Futrelle wrote the first part, in which a lonely traveller named Fairbanks takes a wrong turn and ends up in a mysterious house. Seemingly followed by a shrieking ghost, the traveller finds that the inhabitant of the house can neither see nor hear him.

The second part, written by Jacques Futrelle, introduces his ingenious detective The Thinking Machine to the problem, who attempts to rationalise the bizarre events.

The Grinning God

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Futrelle.com. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: May Futrelle and Jacques Futrelle
Word Count: 12,000 (about 50 pages)


The Grinning God isn't a locked room or impossible crime as such, since there is neither a locked room or a crime involved. It is simply a series of bizarre and somewhat eerie events that seem to defy logic.