10/21/16

The Locked Room Reader VI: The Hit List


"You have a dead body in a locked room, locked from the inside perhaps, and the question is how on earth could they be in that position with no one else available to have committed the crime. That's it, really, in a nutshell."
- Robert Adey (Miles Jupp in a Locked Room, BBC Radio 4, May 21, 2012) 
Only a few day ago, I posted a review of a short story by Herbert Resnicow, "The Christmas Bear," in which I linked to a list of locked room stories and this gave me the idea to compile an inventory of all the locked room lists posted across the internet – a list of lists. I know what you're thinking: this sounds like the blog-post equivalent of a landfill (i.e. filler-post). You'd be absolutely correct!

Well, I guess I'll start filling up this post with the lists that can be found on this very blog, which is a bit self-serving, but it's a convenient starting point.

I compiled two best-of lists, "My Favorite Locked Room Mysteries I: The Novels" and "My Favorite Locked Room Mysteries II: Short Stories and Novellas," which are two of the most popular blog-posts on this blog. They're due for an update, but I’ve been told they're excellent for expanding the wishlist of both the novice reader and full-blown locked room addicts. I also composed a list under the self-explanatory title of "The Reader is Warned: A List of My Least Favorite Locked Room Mysteries."

There's an additional list I put together, "Dutch Impossible Crime Novels," but that one can be found on the Golden Age of Detection Wiki, which has several overviews of non-English detective stories – including "Japanese Impossible Crime Novels." A number of locked room authors are also mentioned in the articles discussing "French Golden Age" and "Portuguese Golden Age." On the page "What Not To Do—A Guide for Murderers," the advice is given to aspiring murderers to "wait in a dark alley with a big stick" instead of going through all of the trouble of creating a risky locked room trick (e.g. John Russell Fearn's The Crimson Rambler, 1946).

The next entry on this list is "A Locked Room Library," strung together by John Pugmire of Locked Room International, which covers three different lists: a top 15 of locked room novels selected by a group of mystery writers and critics in 1981 – a group that included Robert Adey, Douglas G. Greene, Edward D. Hoch, William Link, Bill Pronzini and Donald A. Yates, et al. The second half of the list, "99 Novels for a Locked Room Library," was put together in 2007 by an alliance of English-and French speaking locked room enthusiasts and the project was headed by a French anthologist, Roland Lacourbe. Finally, there are fourteen additional titles added to the bottom of the list, which received four or more votes, but were not available in French. So they did not make the final cut.

On the page that hosts "A Locked Room Library," you can find several supplementary lists, "Locked Rooms and Other Improbable Crimes" and "More Locked Rooms and Improbable Crimes," which were respectively compiled by Steve Lewis and John Pugmire. You can also find an article by Pugmire on the MysteryFile website about "Paul Halter, A Master of Locked Rooms."

The Thrilling Detective Website is the home of aficionados of the hardboiled gumshoe, but one of their pages, "And Throw Away the Key: Locked Room P.I. Mysteries," gives ten examples of seemingly impossible crimes occurring on those mean streets of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Surprisingly, the Thackery Phin novels by John Sladek are mentioned, but they got publications dates for Black Aura (1974) and Invisible Green (1977) completely wrong. I also think the list could be appended with Anthony Boucher's The Case of the Solid Key (1941), Manly Wade Wellman's Find My Killer (1947), Bill S. Ballinger's The Body Beautiful (1949), Mack Reynolds' The Case of the Little Green Men (1951) and Roy Huggins' 77 Sunset Strip (1959).

One of the classics
I found the following list only recently, "IMBb: Locked Room Mysteries + Impossible Crimes," which is an enticing accumulation of movies and TV-series that played around with the locked room ploy. Obviously, this area of impossible crimes I have to take a closer look at. Literally! So I might give a movie like Grief Street (1931) or The Verdict (1946) a shot one of these days.

TV Tropes has a page dedicated to the "Locked Room Mystery" and is notable for some of unusual examples it found from a wide variety of mediums, which include anime, video games and even tabletop games.

I previously mentioned John Pugmire of Locked Room International and on his website, under 'Articles," there's a wealth of engrossing and genre-related material – such as "The Top 50 Locked Room Mysteries" (PDF) by Jonathan Scott and "Ten French Impossible Crime Stories Available in English" (DOC). And much, much more.

Hal White is a modern practitioner of the miracle crime and created a contemporary version of Father Brown, whose cases are chronicled in The Mysteries of Reverend Dean (2008), but you can find a wide selection of "Suggested Reading & Viewing" on his website – alongside a long page of interesting links. Oh, look, my blog is on it!

Back in 2014, an Irish crime writer, named Adrian McKinty, received some press when several websites published his "10 Favorite Locked Room Mysteries," which had some interesting and unusual picks. My fellow blogger, Les Blatt from Classic Mysteries, published his "Favorite Locked Door Mysteries" on Flash Light Worthy Books. Some of the usual suspects make an appearance, but Les also picked Stuart Palmer's The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree (1934) and Glyn Carr's Death on Milestone Buttress (1951). You won't find those two often on any kind of list, but they're great mystery novels (especially Pepper Tree).

You can find a fairly standard list of "Locked Room Mysteries" on GoodReads and the official Wikipedia article has a decent list of English, French and Japanese locked room novels, but not particular noteworthy compared to other lists in this blog-post.

Finally, The Locked Room Mystery website has several interesting list of impossible crime stories and novels, which include "A Locked Room Christmas," "Locked Room Anthologies: Recommended Reading" and "Locked Room 101: An Introduction to the Masters."

I think these were all of the noteworthy locked room lists and impossible crime related articles, but let me know in the comments if I missed one.

20 comments:

  1. Prediction: soon to be the third most visited site on your blog.

    Wow! What a "one-stop shopping" resource for devotees of this subgenre. I'll be looking at that imdb.com page very soon and downloading as many of those films as I can find on the web. Thanks for all this, TomCat.

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    1. You're welcome, John. I'll be looking at some of those movies and TV episodes myself. A shamefully overlooked and ignored part of the locked room genre.

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    1. Why? I thought you were going to give up on sleep. I'm just being helpful.

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  3. but you can find a wide selection of "Suggested Reading & Viewing" on his website

    I'm delighted that he mentions Banacek, a truly wonderful impossible crime TV series.

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    1. Would you believe me if I said I've never watched a single episode from that series?

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    2. You've never seen Banacek? You must do something about this. It's a terrific series. Every single episode is an impossible crime story. The plots are great fun and George Peppard is superb. It was done as part of NBC's mystery movie thing (playing in alternation with Columbo) so each episode is movie-length.

      It's my favourite 70s crime series (even ahead of Columbo).

      It's available on DVD. The British DVD releases are much cheaper and easier to find than the US releases (assuming Region 2 DVDs aren't a problem for you).

      I reviewed season 1 on my cult TV blog -

      http://cult-tv-lounge.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/banacek-season-one-1972.html

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    3. You placed this series ahead of even Columbo!? Now, that's quite a claim to make and an enticing one at that. I suppose I'll have to make this series my first stop in my planned excursion through the locked room mysteries of the big and small screen.

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    4. You placed this series ahead of even Columbo!?

      And I'm a devoted Columbo fan.

      I preferred the format of Banacek because I like impossible crime stories slightly more than I like inverted detective stories. It also helps that I like George Peppard a lot. Banacek as a character could have been a cliche. He's rich and handsome and he's a ladies' man and he's an arrogant maverick genius detective but Peppard manages to make him extremely likeable - he's amusing and there's a surprising warmth to the performance.

      The problem withy impossible crime stories is that they're always to some degree far-fetched but most of the Banacek stories are pretty well plotted. It doesn't take itself excessively seriously so you don't mind if the plots are outrageous. And they are clever.

      It's also refreshing that most of the crimes aren't murder. He's an insurance investigator not a cop so he's mostly investigating daring and impossible heists although there are a few murders along the way.

      I think that if you love Columbo you should love Banacek. Both series have a very similar feel. There's no miserable gritty realism, it's just pure entertainment but intelligent and witty entertainment. And in both series you get to see a great actor absolutely perfectly cast and in top form. And both series put heavy emphasis on old-fashioned ingenious plot construction.

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    5. Are there any particular episodes you can recommend or should I just start at the beginning of the series?

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    6. I'd go for season one first.

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  4. "So I might give a movie like [...] The Verdict (1946) a shot one of these days."

    The Verdict is adapted from Zangwill's 'The Big Bow Mystery', so I bet you'll guess whodunit :)

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    1. In that case, figuring out whodunit won't be too much of problem.

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    2. I enjoyed The Verdict. I'd recommend it.

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  5. Ah, Tvtropes. If it weren't for you, I never would have found the page for locked room mysteries, would never have seen Kindaichi and Conan, never looked never them, never found this place, etc.

    Yes, if it wasn't for Kindaichi, I would have never started very infrequently mystery blogging and you would have never heard of me. Another reason to curse Yozaburo's name, eh? :P

    Also, this whole post has made a big project of mine a little easier, thanks!

    --The Dark One

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    1. You're welcome! I assume this big project will actually result in a rare blog-post from your side or perhaps even some increased activity?

      Yozaburo does have a lot to answer for, hasn't he? ;)

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    2. Me? Update in a timely fashion? Bahahahahhah.

      But really, this project will take a bit, so wait patiently. In the mean time, I finally got some reading done, so who knows?

      --The Dark One

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  6. The low-budget British 1961 movie Clue of the New Pin mentioned here is definitely worth a look. I reviewed it a while back. Here's the link to my review - http://tinyurl.com/jlmskev

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, D! It goes on the list of locked room movies and TV episodes.

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  7. Thanks so much for this TC. As I mentioned to you recently your Locked Room lists have been a great guide and this post is equally as great! The IMBD one is a huge help, particularly the Japanese 'Locked Room' (Kagi no kakatta heya) series.

    Although they didn't mention the Japanese TV adaptation of the Galileo series by Higashino. The second series closes with a TV version of Salvation of A Saint, and rest of the series contains many impossible situations involving astral projection and victims appearing to warning others about their murder, while being murdered! I believe the first series is watchable on Viki.

    Thanks! - thereaderiswarned.wordpress.com/

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