Unlocked: "The Poet Who Locked Himself In" (2017) by Anne van Doorn in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (Sept/Oct)

Two years ago, I reviewed "De dichter die zichzelf opsloot" ("The Poet Who Locked Himself In," 2017) by "Anne van Doorn," at the time the secret penname of Dutch crime writer M.P.O. Books, which is the first story about two particuliere onderzoekers (private investigators), Robbie Corbijn and Lowina de Jong – specialized in dead-end murder cases, missing persons and impossible crimes! Over a ten year period, Books has become the all-time most prolific writer of locked room mysteries in the Netherlands!

Between 2004 and 2014, Books wrote a grossly underrated series of police procedurals and first toyed with this time-honored trope in De Blikvanger (The Eye-Catcher, 2010), which introduces a minor locked room sub-plot towards the end of the story. Een afgesloten huis (A Sealed House, 2013) is a full-blown locked room mystery with a seemingly impossible murder in a tightly secured, fortress-like house, but these miraculous crimes figure most prominently in the Corbijn and De Jong series – most notably in "Het huis dat ongeluk bracht" ("The House That Brought Bad Luck," 2018) and "De bus die de mist inging" ("The Bus That Went Into the Fog," 2018). And, of course, "The Poet Who Locked Himself In."

So the impossible crime stories from this series would make a nice addition to the translations of the locked room stories regularly published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and collected by LRI (e.g. Realm of the Impossible, 2017). Well, my rambling reviews of those stories got around.

Back in June, I announced in a blog-post (scroll to the bottom) that "The Poet Who Locked Himself In" was translated and scheduled to be published in EQMM either later this year or early 2020. The translator, Josh Pachter, revealed on his website that the story will appear in the September/October, 2019, issue of EQMM. I'm both excited and extremely curious to learn what my fellow locked room enthusiasts will make of the first Dutch impossible crime story to cross the language barrier since Robert van Gulik. Don't let us down, JJ. We're the only ones in Europe who actually like you guys. And that includes the rest of the British Isles.

Hopefully, this will open the door to more translations in the future, not just of the Corbijn and De Jong series, but also some titles from Books' previous District Heuvelrug series. De laatste kans (The Last Chance, 2011) lacks an impossible crime, but, purely as a detective novel, it's one of the finest my country has ever produced and has one of those all-time brilliant clues – one that makes you want to kick yourself for having missed. The previously mentioned A Sealed House is great example of the modern-day impossible crime story with an up-to-date premise and solution. There are some other notable Dutch locked room mysteries, like Cor Docter's Koude vrouw in Kralingen (Cold Woman in Kralingen, 1970), which deserve consideration. You can find an (incomplete) list of Dutch impossible crime novels and short stories here.

So, having shilled practically every known impossible crime story my county has to offer, I'll close by saying that I look forward to what everyone has to say about Books' "The Poet Who Locked Himself In." My next regular review will be posted on Friday. 

Update 16-08-19: a preview of the story is now available on the EQMM website.  


  1. Anyone who wants to read "The Poet Who Locked Himself In" in English can order a copy of the September/October EQMM at this link: https://www.magzter.com/US/Penny_Publications,_LLC/Ellery_Queen_Mystery_Magazine/Fiction/ (As of this moment, it's still showing the July/August issue, but S/O should be coming soon.)

    Meanwhile, I'd love to see US publishers interested in putting out English editions of Dutch crime novels — there are so many people doing really stunning work: René Appel, Michael Berg, Esther Verhoef, many more (including, of course, "Anne van Doorn") — en ik sta paraat om ze te vertalen!

    1. Sorry for the late response, but I have now updated the post with a link to the preview of the story. Looks good! Hope my fellow, non-Dutch speaking locked room enthusiasts like it. *fingers crossed*

      I'm afraid Appel, Berg and Verhoef are a little too modern for my taste, but, if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend Books' De laatste kans. It deserves to be translated!