like this didn't happen in the twentieth century, except perhaps in unexplored
parts of Tibet and India."
- Haila Troy (Kelley Roos' Ghost
of a Chance, 1947)
And We Missed
It, Lost Forever is the fourth column in Otto Penzler's one-seventh of a ton
looking anthology, The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries
(2014), but only the third attempt at conquering it. I decided to give a pass
to the opening salvo of familiar, over-anthologized stories in favor of the
ones I hadn't read before and that's why I skipped on six of them here. This
column of stories is the largest in the book and would've probably bloated this
review pass the page-count of the first posts, which you can read here (I)
and here (II).
describes the stories collected And We Missed It, Lost Forever as thus: "It
is a fantasy of many people to disappear from their present lives. Some people
disappear because they want to; others disappear because someone else wants
them to. And object—large objects—sometimes disappear in the same manner."
the best in this lot, "The Day the Children Vanished" by Hugh
Pentecost, happened to be one of those gems I have read before, but I'll
keep digging. I'll find one that I haven't gone over before. And to keep this
post as short and tidy as possible... here's a rundown of the ones I hadn't
already greedily consumed.
Statue" by Stanley
Ellin was first published in the February 1967 issue of Ellery Queen’s
Mystery Magazine and the impossibility surrounding the disappearance of an
American producer of smutty B-movies, known as "quickies," is only incidental,
but it's wrapped in a well-written, soundly plotted and character-driven crime
story – which even throws a false solution at the observant reader. It's not
the purest of impossible crime stories, but nonetheless a good example of what
contemporary crime fiction could've been if "plotting" hadn't become such a
"All At Once,
No Alice" was penned by William
Irish, who was better known under the penname of "Cornell Woolrich," and
was published in the March 2, 1940 issue of Argosy. The plot is derived
from the long-lingering legend of the vanishing hotel room: a newlywed couple
have trouble finding a room on their spur-of-the-moment honeymoon and the only
room they're able to find is small, narrow room with a cot in one of the more
seedier establishments in the town. Mr. Cannon decides to take the room for his
wife, but, when he returns the following morning, her room is being repainted
and everyone at the place denies ever having seen them – even the registry
seems to deny she ever signed her name in it. John
Dickson Carr carried this premise to a better ending in his popular
radio-play "Cabin B-13," collected in The Door to Doom and Other Detections
(1980) and Heuvel & De
Waal offered a classic treatment of this theme in Spelen met vuur (Playing
with Fire, 2004).
wrote a fabulous impossible crime story, "The Room with Something Wrong,"
gathered in Death Locked In: An Anthology of Locked Room Stories (1987),
in which a hotel room has apparently gained sentience and begins chugging
guests out of the window in the middle of the night.
Bathroom" by the late H.R.F.
Keating was first published in the June 2, 1980 issue of EQMM and it's
a short-short story about Keating's lesser-known series-character. Mrs. Craggs is
a professional charwoman and had a cleaning job with Mrs. Marchpane when "one
of the great mysteries of our time" occurred at her flat: John Marchpane was
taking a shower, while his wife was at the basin, when he simply ceased to
exist from one moment into the other. I suspected Mrs. Craggs was sweeping
something under the rug, but was surprised to learn it was nothing more than
one of those "Puzzles
of Everyday Life." A nice and charming story.
Book of Locked Room Mysteries and Impossible Crimes
(2000) contains the best locked room story I have read from Keating, "The Legs
That Walked," in which a set of severed legs were taken from a guarded tent.
Hammett's "Mike, Alec, or Rufus" appeared in the January 25 issue of Black
Mask, which has his nameless gumshoe, The Continental Op, investigating a
stickup job in an apartment building and the perpetrator, somehow, escaped
without being detected. It's a situation barely enough to be considered a
locked room mystery. However, the writing, style and characters were what's
been promised in the many glowing reviews read over the years. The plot wasn't
bad either, but the explanation left me unimpressed. So good story, until the
end, but that's just me judging it as a snooty locked room fanboy and should not
rustle the fedora's of Hammett enthusiasts – considering it's in an anthology of
locked room mysteries.
Julian Hawthorne's "Greaves'
Disappearance" was published for the first time in Six Cent Sam's
(1893). The titular disappearance of Greaves happens in a busy street, but the
only distinguishing mark of the plot is that the solution, "thus gent became
invisible, and has so remained," makes it an ancestor to G.K.
Chesterton's "The Invisible Man" from The Innocence of Father Brown
Trick" by J.E.
Gurdon was first published in a 1936 collection of short stories of the
same name and the impossible problem here shows Gurdon, and "The Monkey Trick,'
belonged to the pages of aviation fiction, but still an interesting and obscure
find. The story takes place in the tumultuous years preceding the Second World
War and the idea is to give the enemy the idea that England possesses a
wireless controlled aeroplane, which is being demonstrated in front of
witnesses – as it seen landing and taking off again without a pilot. It doesn't
sport a solution that will leave many seasoned mystery readers in shocked
surprise, but I found it to be a surprisingly fun story.
D. Hoch's "The Theft of the Bermuda Penny" was originally printed in the
June 1975 issue of EQMM and has a professional thief, Nick Velvet,
chasing a worthless penny at the tune of several grand. That's part of the
mystery of every story in this series: why would a client pay thousands of
dollars for something that's barely worth a dime, while the other part consists
of how Velvet is going to get that item. A bonus has been added in this story
when the owner of the coin, Alfred Cazar, vanishes from the backseat of a
moving car and left the seat belt fastened – as well as flabbergasted Velvet in
the front passenger seat. Hoch also threw in some semi-impossible plot material
on how to manipulate a bet, a bit clueing and a twist ending within the
confines of just one short story. It wasn't just the sheer size of Hoch's
output that made him a staple of the detective anthologies!
23" by Philip Judson, better known as "Hugh Pentecost," was first published in Flynn's
magazine in 1925 and has classic locked room problem pried open by two late Rivals
of Sherlock Holmes – a reporter for the Republican, named Renshaw, and
the idling James Bellamy. The problem begins when a scream emanates from behind
the door of Twenty-Three, at the old Nathan Hotel, but when the door is
battered down they are greeted by a serene, empty room. It isn't until the
following day, they find the occupant of Twenty-Three: stuffed in the ash
barrels of the basement where a bootlegger kept his illegal stash of booze. So
how did the murderer, alongside with the victim, disappear from a room that was
locked from the inside and watched from the outside? The solution is a good,
early example of the technique writers like Carr and Hoch loved to fool around
So, all in
all, a better round of stories than the previous column and the next one has
some familiar, but good, faces and some promising looking unknown ones.
skipped in this section:
"The Day the
Children Vanished" by Hugh Pentecost
"Beware of the
Trains" by Edmund Crispin
of the Torment IV" by C. Daly King
"The House of
Haunts" a.k.a. "The Lamp of God" by Ellery Queen
Hairpins" by E.C. Bentley
Motor" by Jacques Futrelle