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.

While the narrative style doesn't allow for curiosity about the locked-room mystery to build (we witness how the crime is committed alongside the victim), it does provide some interesting insight as to the victim's state of mind. The story is a tense affair, exploring Faulkner's somewhat lucky escape from the locked room.

The method of the attempted murder is a novel one, and shares many similarities to the Jonathan Creek Christmas special "Satan's Chimney". Like the episode, A Terribly Strange bed does require a small suspension of disbelief, but not enough to harm the story.

6/10 - Tense and taut, though could have benefited from building more curiosity about the room.

A Terribly Strange Bed 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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