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 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.

The two parts of the stories are tonally very different. The first is a descent into madness, told from the perspective of the "victim" (Fairbanks). The second part shares more with Futrelle's other stories, in that it focuses on the mind and logic of The Thinking Machine to bring Fairbanks back towards sanity.

It is the former that shines brightest. May Futrelle crafts a well paced story that elicits both emotions and questions from the reader. The second, in which the answers are provided, feels somewhat lacking. While they do wrap up the mystery, the solutions are not particularly believable and a little predictable. With a two-part mystery I had been expecting more.

4/10 - The puzzle then solution format works well, but is let down by the answers it provides

The Grinning God is available, along with many other locked room mysteries and impossible crimes, in the paperback anthology Death Locked In from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

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