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 over the first three months...

It's been a busy few months here at, 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.