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, 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 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 or

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.