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:

Fearing for his future after coming to terms with his insurmountable debts, Felix Marston decides to rob an acquaintance that he knows has come into a great deal of money (Kiaros). He kills Kiaros then frames the murder as suicide, sealing the door upon exit to give the appearance that the room was locked.

Marston utilises a length of twine to turn the key from outside the room. It's a technique that has been replicated numerous times, including very briefly in Jonathan Creek s04e05 - A Chequered Box. It's perhaps one of my least favourite techniques as the reader can feel somewhat cheated, however this may be unfair criticism for Baum who wrote this prior to the genre beginning in earnest.

As it stands the story is a very brief tale of a man driven to murder, who utilises one of the earliest (and most basic) locked room techniques to cover his tracks.

2/10 - May have benefited from a more traditional viewpoint.

The Suicide of Kiaros 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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