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.

The story that follows treads familiar mystery ground, but ends with a solution that is both simple and comprehensive. Leopold's confusion is understandable, and Hoch manages to resolve the mystery with a fairly clued series of events.

There's little to criticise in Hoch's work, as the story begins with a bang and accelerates towards a thrilling ending. With Leopold's freedom on the line it would have been nice to see a little more fight in the detective, but Hoch manages his battle with doubts astutely.

8/10 - A superb premise and rational solution combine in an excellent short mystery

The Leopold Locked Room is available as part of the Tantalizing Locked Room Mysteries anthology from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).


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  2. The plot of this story sounds just like an episode of McMillan & Wife. Here's the IMDB link to the episode:

    1. Interesting! Hoch's IMDB page credits him as a writer for a number of McMillan & Wife episodes, so it's likely he/they adapted his story for the episode. Well spotted :)

  3. Never heard of this author but am intrigued by the story. Going to have a look. Thanks.

    1. No worries. Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you agree/disagree with the review.

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