A Haunting At Maplewhite

"Just as an octopus may have his den in some ocean cave, and come floating out a silent image of horror to attack a swimmer, so I picture such a spirit lurking in the dark of the house which he curses by his presence, and ready to float out upon all whom he can injure."
- Rev. Charles Mason (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Land of Mist, 1926)
A staple of today's historical crime genre is transplanting the influential figures from our history books to the fictional realm of the detective story and plant the proverbial deerstalker on their heads. Aristotle, William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci have all assumed the role of detective, but the most popular historical characters for this purpose appear to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini – who appeared (together) in numerous historical mystery novels.

Conan Doyle most well-known appearance as a fictional-character was as the Dr. Watson to Dr. Joseph Bell's Sherlock Holmes in the Murder Room TV-series created by David Pirie. There were also three novels, The Patient's Eye (2001), The Night Calls (2002) and The Dark Water (2004), based on the TV series. Doyle made further appearances, as a detective, in a short-lived series by Mark Frost and teamed up with Lewis Carroll in four books written by Roberta Rogow.

Houdini looks to have been more in demand as a character than his friend and rival, Doyle, because he made countless appearances in fiction, but the most notable ones are three locked room novels, The Dime Museum Murders (1999), The Floating Lady Murder (2000) and The Houdini Specter (2001), penned by Daniel Stashower – known perhaps better for his award-winning Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle (1999). Stashower also made Houdini appear alongside Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Ectoplasmic Man (1985).

And on at least one occasion, Conan Doyle and The Great Houdini appeared alongside each other on the pages of the same detective novel.

Walter Satterthwait's Escapade (1995) is the first of three novels about his Pinkerton operative, Phil Beaumont, who comes across as an homage to the hardboiled detective and his task in on his first recorded outing is to protect the famous artist, Harry Houdini – who he always refers to as "The Great Man." Houdini is stalked and threatened by a music hall magician and master of disguise, "Chin Soo." A shadowy enemy who appears to have followed him all the way to Devon, England, where Houdini is expected to attend a seance at a historical manor house.

Maplewhite is the ancestral home of the Earl of Axminster, an elderly, bed-ridden man, who has temper tantrums and, while he screams, starts "throwing things about his room." The reason for these outbursts is that he can't flog his own son, Lord Robert Purleigh.

Lord Bob, as he liked to be known, is an aristocratic Bolshevist and plans to open Maplewhite to "the toiling masses" when he inherits the title and estate, which displeases the old Earl immensely and soured the relationship between the two – as his son vows that "the swine" will be "the first to go" when the revolution comes. Wedged between father and son is Lord Bob's wife, Lady Purleigh, "a lovely woman" with "a natural, effortless kindness and grace" and their dazzling daughter, the Honorable Cecily Fitzwilliam. And the group of people they invited to stay the weekend makes it very clear that Escapade is one of those typical, modern re-imaginations of the traditional country house mysteries of yore.

The first of the invitees are Lady Purleigh's fat cousin, Mrs. Marjorie Allardyce, who's being accompanied by her paid companion, Jane Turner. She has two frightful encounters with the ghosts haunting the manor house and the vast grounds surrounding the estate.

Secondly, there's Dr. Erik Auerbach, the Viennese psychoanalyst, who freely lectures on Dr. Freud's Oedipus complex in the drawing room, which shocks and revolt Houdini to the point that he has to withdraw for a lie-down. Sir David Merridale, a wise-crack, took the conversation (and everything else) on a less serious note, but he was neither "so witty nor so handsome as he believes" and the "extremely charming" Mrs. Venessa Corneille finds him to be "a dreadful man." Lastly, there's Madame Sosostris, the renowned European medium, who's there to make contact with "the ghost of Maplewhite," Lord Reginald. A distant ancestor of the Earl and Lord Bob.

She's also the reason why Harry Houdini and Conan Doyle are present. Doyle is present as a believer and ally to spiritualism, while Houdini has vowed to expose every trick Madame Sosostris is bringing to the seance table – which sadly remained an under played aspect of the plot and overall story. But, as you probably gathered from this roll call, the book is more of a detective parody than a proper historical mystery novel. The story takes place in August, 1921, but the only aspect that places the book within that period of time are Lord Bob's references to the toiling masses.

There were, however, enough fascinating plot-threads that initially held my attention. On their first night, Turner has a ghostly bedside visitation and later encounters a pair of ghosts, of a woman and a small boy, at the ruins of an old mill house, which is followed by a rifle shot that was fired from the edge of the woods – narrowly missing the Great Man! So did his nemesis manage to find him? These events culminate with the death of the Earl, shot to death, behind the locked and barred door of his bedroom.

The murder occurred towards the end of the first half of the book, but had high hopes for the second half and the locked room angle when Houdini immediately provided a false solution. A solution that involved lock picking and manipulating the bar with "a strong piece of wire." Sure, the explanation was routine, as far as these locked room murders are concerned, but it was only to demonstrate that a murderer could have left a locked crime-scene behind. So I began to hope that the eventual solution would be something clever or even original, but Satterthwait pulled one of the oldest, time-worn solutions from his moth-eaten bag of tricks. And after that, my interest rapidly began to wane.

I'll grand you that the story was not an unreadable one. On the contrary, I quite liked the hardboiled character of Phil Beaumont and the portrayal of the slightly hubristic, but kind, Houdini. Doyle did not have big part to play in the story, but was glad he was included. Hey, who doesn't like Doyle? And there were moments when the author showed he possessed plot-awareness. Such as the clue of Turner's nearsightedness, when she saw the ghosts at the mill house, and how that related to the first shooting incident. A writer, like John Dickson Carr, could have spun quite a ripping yarn out of that single plot-thread.

I also have to admit that the secret behind the ghost at the manor house and how that haunting resulted in murder was not entirely without interest, but the answer obviously revealed the hand of a modern writer. However, all of these points of interest were lost on the larger canvas of the story.

I'm sure readers of contemporary crime novels will be delighted by this modern take on the classic country house mystery, but actual readers of the classic detective story will not be overly impressed with the end result of Escapade. A spirited and well-meant attempt to imitate the greats of yesteryear, but not a classic in its own right. You can almost entirely blame that on the plot not living up to its own potential.

Well, just like last year, this year of blogging ends with a badly written, piss-poor review of a disappointing read, but I'll trick to pick something good to kick-off the New Year with. So I'll end this letdown of a blog-post and wish you all the best in the coming year. I hope to see you all back in 2018!


A Score to Settle

"Oh, it's a very nasty bit of goods, this is. And so clever, so filthily clever. Everything nice and simple. No fancy touches. I tell you one thing, all of you, for what it's worth. I've been telling it to myself ever since this started. We're up against good acting."
- Chief Detective-Inspector Alleyn (Ngaio Marsh's Enter a Murderer, 1935)
Back in October, Dean Street Press reissued the first ten of sixty-three Ludovic Travers detective novels by Christopher Bush and the earlier titles in this series are known for their minutely timed, clockwork-like plots – a plotting-style affectionately referred to as "Golden Age baroque." Reputedly, the plots became leaner and less in-depth during the post-WWII era without losing their intricate nature.

Nick Fuller commented on my review of The Case of the April Fools (1933) and described the later titles as "less GAD" with "more hardboiled influences." Travers acts as "a genteel PI" who narrates his own cases, but, according to Fuller, the first person narration works and there are clever plots to be found in this phase of the series. So my interest in later-period Bush was piqued and wanted to sample one of his titles from the 1950s. And that immediately brings me to the subject of today's blog-post.

The Case of the Amateur Actor (1955) is the 44th book about Travers and, as late an entry as it is, the plot is structured around Bush's favorite ploy of meticulously linking together multiple (unrelated) murders. A ploy he played around with in earlier titles such as Dancing Death (1931) and The Case of the Bonfire Body (1936).

The story begins when Travers, who now works as an operative for the Broad Street Detective Agency, is summoned by his policeman friend, Superintendent George Wharton, to Room 323 of the Royalty Hotel – where he's asked to identify the body of a murdered man. An engagement book with Travers' name in it had been found in one of the coat pockets of the victim and he identifies the body as having belonged to a literary agent, Gordon Posfort.

Someone had lured the literary agent to the hotel room, perforated his abdomen with no less than six bullets, and left him on the floor to face a lonely, agonizing death.

Travers and Wharton promptly arrive at the conclusion that the murder of Posfort wasn't "a simple killing," but a murder out of revenge, because "someone meant him to die a pretty painful death." A second clue is that the small caliber of the bullets insured irreparable damage instead of instant death. As the detectives poke around in the victim's past, they uncover a gem of a motive that fits the circumstances of the murder like a glove and concerns the untimely passing of Posfort's former receptionist-secretary, Miss Caroline Halsing – who died from "an overdose of sleeping tablets." Miss Halsing committed suicide when she became pregnant and there were more than enough willing avengers to be found in her immediate circle of family members and friends.

However, halfway through the story, the Posfort Case became an unsolved murder and left Travers with "a gnawing curiosity" as he began to realize that something had happened to which he might never find an answer.

Over the course of the second half, Travers is shepherded back onto the trail of Posfort's murderer by looking into two, seemingly unrelated, police cases.

The first of these two cases is known as the Marland Affair, a deadly robbery, in which the victim, Rickson, was beaten to death on a path that led to his home and his murderer took his attache case and wallet. Only thing linking both murders is that one of the suspects of the Posfort Case lives in Marland. But to be honest, this second murder is a pretty slender plot-thread in the overall scheme of the story and the book could probably have done without it. I believe the plot and story would have across as a tighter job without this second, sloppy murder in the background, but suppose it was necessary for the murderer to leave a trail behind that could be connected. But the third case is of integral importance to the plot.

Richard Alton was a schoolmaster at Queen's School, Dorminster, who ran the school dramatic society and was a prominent member of the dramatic society in the city, but his colleagues thought him "a bit too assertive in his Socialist views" – which they assume had a hand in his disappearance. A lot of them assumed he simply was a Communist who had been "called behind the Iron Curtain" and he reputedly send a letter from Berlin. However, the disappearance of Alton ends with a gruesome discovery in a ditch by the side of the road.

The Case of the Amateur Actor is definitely different in tone and tenor from the earlier, baroque-style, novels from the 1930s and impressed me as a concession by Bush to the changing landscape of the genre during the post-WWII years.

First of all, there's the first-person narration by Travers recalling the hardboiled private eyes from the United States and, secondly, the murders here are seedier in nature than the grandiose crimes found in such earlier novels as The Perfect Murder Case (1929) and Cut Throat (1932). The execution of the murders here are simple and pretty ugly without any of the bells and whistles often associated with the Golden Age detective stories.

All of that being said, Bush did not appear to have compromised all that much on plot-complexity, because the multiple, apparently unrelated, murders are expertly tied together. Travers gradually gets a hold of the practically invisible thread linking all of the involved parties and this leads to a monumental discovery, nicely foreshadowed in the first part of the book, which hands him the tools needed to demolish a clever little alibi – an alibi that was perhaps too clever for its own good. A sizable portion of the problems that had faced Travers and Wharton came as a result of this alibi-trick. So it was a nice touch that the whole matter became plain as day once the alibi was cleared.

On a whole, I found The Case of the Amateur Actor a compelling and surprisingly well done departure from the earlier books in the series. The plot may lack the density of such (baroque) titles as Dancing Death (1931) and The Case of the April Fools (1933), but not their intricacies or its deft handling of the complected cases ploy. So that makes me very curious about other late titles, like The Case of the Counterfeit Colonel (1952) and The Case of the Flowery Corpse (1956), but the next Bush on my pile is the very early Dead Man Twice (1930). A book that had been recommended to me numerous of times. So you can expect a review of that one in January of 2018.

Sorry of this post came across as a little hurried, but had to crank this one out under time constraint. Anyway, there will be one more review before this year draws to an end and, hopefully, it will end 2017 on a high-note. So you'll be expected back here later this week!


Murder in Retrospect: The Best and Worst of 2017

"Quiet, Watson! Do you hear the clock chiming? The new year is approaching."
- Sherlock Holmes (Ken Greenwald's "The Adventure of the Iron Box," collected in The Lost Adventurers of Sherlock Holmes, 1989)

So here we are again. On the threshold of the New Year and, as the past twelve month are slowly disappearing into the rear view mirror, the time has come make up the balance, which means I have to do my annual chore of compiling a best-of list and pretend to be surprised that the locked room mystery (once again) dominates the list – something actually caught me by surprise this year. No, seriously! Who could have foreseen that the impossible crime story would, again, be all over my list this year?

Anyone who dared to raise an impudent hand to that question will be burned, as a witch, at their nearest town square! Anyway...

I completed a list with my best-and worst reads of 2017 and have divided my list in four sub-categories. These sub-categories are "The Best Reads of 2017," "Honorable Mentions and Curiosities," "The Best Short Stories Read in 2017" and "The Worst or Most Disappointing Reads of 2017." Interestingly, the only name who makes an appearance in all four categories is John Russell Fearn.

So let's get this show on the road.


The Mystery of the Headless Horse (1977) by William Arden

A surprisingly cerebral entry in The Three Investigator series, in which Jupe, Pete and Bob give a helping hand to the family of a schoolmate, Diego, who are in danger of losing their long-held property. What could potentially help them is discovering a long-lost family heirloom, a gem-encrusted sword, but it disappeared over a century ago. And the trail has gone stone-cold. So the boys have to act more as historians, rather than detectives or adventurers, in order to find obscure clues and hints in dusty old archives at the local library.

Murder in Stained Glass (1939) by Margaret Armstrong

A solidly plotted detective story that takes place against the vary-colored backdrop of a stained glass artist's workshop and the charred bones that were found in the kiln. Only downside was that the story was a little more than a novella.

Murder à la Richelieu (1937) by Anita Blackmon

A dark, grisly tale of throat cutting and acid attacks at a quiet and usually respectable residential hotel in a southern town of the United States. The case is tackled by the delightfully crusty and snappy Miss Adelaide Adams. A character who makes you wish Blackmon had written more than just two mystery novels.

The Fair Murder (1933) by Nicholas Brady

A memorable mystery novel that opens on the muddy grounds of a rain soaked fun fair. One of the big attractions of the freak show, an immensely fat woman, is stabbed to death under somewhat baffling circumstances inside her tent. However, the memorable aspect of the plot is not the how, but the why, which made the book one of the darkest and most grotesque detective stories from the genre's Golden Era.

Ebenezer Investigates (1934) by Nicholas Brady

The village of Dowerby throws a bazaar in order to raise money for the new Village Hall, but the festivities end tragically with the brutal stabbing of a local girl. Rev. Ebenezer Buckle shines here as both a detective and as a shepherd of his community.

Dancing Death (1931) by Christopher Bush

One of the strongest, most tightly plotted of all the wintry, snow-covered holiday mysteries and places Bush's series-character, Ludovic Travers, in position that forces him to unsnarl the intricacies that link two murders with a burglary case in the wake of a fancy-dress ball. A minor masterpiece when it comes to these house-party detective novel.

Cut Throat (1932) by Christopher Bush

A political rally is canceled after the organizer received a hamper, carefully tied with rope, by special delivery and the hamper contains the murdered remains of a long-time rival – his throat had been slit from ear to ear. The subsequent investigation makes for a rich and baroque detective story, but the undisputed highlight is the time-manipulation trick used by the murderer to create a rock solid alibi.

The Case of the April Fools (1933) by Christopher Bush

A classic country-house mystery about an inexplicable and "dastardly double murder," which is plotted like a John Dickson Carr novel.

The Clue of the Phantom Car (1953) by Bruce Campbell

An adolescent mystery novel about two cub reporters, Ken Holt and Sandy Allen, who investigate the peculiar case of a ghostly car that vanished from a stretch of hillside road.

The Mystery of the Invisible Enemy (1959) by Bruce Campbell

My first brush with the two cub reporters of the Brentwood Advance, Ken and Sandy, who have to figure out here how a particular ruthless extortionist could have obtained photographs of the plans of a new type of casting machine – which was being developed behind the locked doors of a sealed laboratory. A great read and discovery!

He Who Whispers (1946) by John Dickson Carr (a re-read)

One of Carr's masterpiece (shush, JJ) and tells the tale of a persecuted woman, vampirism and a seemingly impossible stabbing at the top of a crumbling castle tower in pre-war France.

Mystery in the Channel (1931) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Inspector French meticulously reconstructs the murders of the chairman and vice-chairman of Moxon's General Securities, who were shot to death, aboard a yacht found floating in the English Channel. A slow-paced, but fascinating, read with an excellent alibi-trick and a satisfying end.

So Pretty a Problem (1950) by Francis Duncan

Duncan's series-character, Mordecai Tremaine, is a retired tobacconist and a passionate reader of romance stories, but also suffers from the detective-curse and is perhaps the first character to be called out as "a murder-magnate." Here he's simply enjoying a holiday on the coast, in Cornwall, when a woman approaches him on the beach with the message that she has just shot her husband. Naturally, the case turns out to be far more complicated and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the book was a locked room mystery. One that was completely overlooked by the late Robert Adey when he compiled Locked Room Murders (1991).

Except for One Thing (1947) by John Russell Fearn

A practically unknown, but superb, example of the Columbo-style inverted detective story, in which Chief Inspector Garth of Scotland Yard matches wits with a celebrated chemist, Richard Harvey, who has foolishly tied himself to Valerie Hadfield – a cold and mean-spirited actress who could ruin him. So one day she simply vanishes and what happened

Death in Silhouette (1950) by John Russell Fearn

A massively underrated impossible crime novel: a prospective bridegroom disappears from his own engagement party, which was hosted by his future in-laws, but is eventually found behind the locked door of a dimly-lit cellar – hanging from a cross-beam. Fearn imagined a splendid, double-pronged solution that I can only describe as a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too explanation. You'll know what I mean when you read it.

Pattern for Murder (2006) by John Russell Fearn

A posthumously published novel, originally titled Many a Slip, which remained inexplicably unpublished for over half a century. The brilliant story follows the chief projectionist of a cinema, Terry Lomond, who strays down the path of a career criminal and begins, innocently enough, with petty theft, but a witness to a burglary faces him with the possibility of a spell in prison. So he decides to take out this witness and the ingenious method he develops is the stuff of geniuses. Highly recommended.

The D.A. Draws a Circle (1939) by Erle Stanley Gardner

A first-class duel of wits between Doug Selby and a crooked lawyer, A.B. Carr, which takes place amidst small town politics, corruption and a complicated murder investigation.

She Shall Die (1961) by Anthony Gilbert

You'll not often find titles from the 1960s on any of my best-of lists, but this is a late gem from a Golden Age writer with a penchant for mixing old-fashioned detection with domestic suspense. Here we have a story of a woman who is under a constant cloud of suspicion and suspected of having committed two murders. Arthur Crook makes a very late appearance, but shines with all the brilliance of the traditional detective figure in the last couple of chapters. Definitely recommended.

The Danger Within (1952) by Michael Gilbert (a re-read)

A first-rate, semi-autobiographical detective-cum-thriller novel centering on the inmates of an Italian POW camp and one of the many problems facing them is the body of a rumored traitor appearing under impossible circumstances inside a collapsed escape tunnel.

A Variety of Weapons (1943) by Rufus King

A young photographer, Ann Ledrick, accepts a commission to photograph ocelots and travels to a remote estate in the heart of the Adirondacks, but finds herself in the shadow of an old family tragedy – which would give birth to a new one. A clever plot steeped in suspense and a well-drawn cast-of-characters.

Death in the House of Rain (2006) by Szu-Yen Lin

A Taiwanese detective novel set in a mountaintop mansion designed as a three-dimensional representation of the Chinese character for "rain" and this place becomes the stage for no less than four seemingly impossible murders.

A Case of Spirits (1975) by Peter Lovesey

An excellent historical mystery set in Victorian England and the plot takes on one of the crazes of the time, spiritualism, which provides the story with a wonderful situation for an impossible crime. I really have to return to this series in 2018.

The Echoing Strangers (1952) by Gladys Mitchell

A splendid, imaginative and beautifully written tale about identical twins, who were separated after the death of their parents, homicidal mania, blackmail and two murders – which are tightly woven together in what is one of Mitchell's finest plots.

More Dead Than Alive (1980) by Roger Ormerod

A locked room novel with a ton of false solutions about a stage magician who vanished from the top room of a tower with the only door blocked from the inside. The plot recalled some of the better episodes and special from the Jonathan Creek series.

An honorable mention for Ormerod's The Weight of Evidence (1978), which has two original impossible problems that are closely depended on one another. I liked it.

The Owner Lies Dead (1930) by Tyline Perry

Arguably, the best reprint of 2017 and one of the highlights of this best-of list. A devastating explosion rips through a coal-mine in Genesee, Colorado, which results in a growing number of casualties. Rescue workers were able to bring eleven bodies to the surface and seventeen men were still trapped in the mine shafts, but the fire forces them to seal up the mine air-tight. After five weeks, the entrance is reopened and what they find at the bottom is a body with a bullet in his back! A fantastic impossible crime novel with a unique backdrop. Highly recommended.

It Might Lead Anywhere (1946) by E.R. Punshon

A religious rivalry at an ancient borough, called Oldfordham, ends with the fatal bludgeoning of a local miser. This is a rather slow-moving, ponderous detective story, but everything neatly fits together and have really fallen for Punshon's writing. Inexplicably, I have neglected him when compared to last year. So I have to rectify that in 2018.

The Case of the Missing Corpse (1936) by Joan Sanger

A newspaper reporter and narrator of the story, John Ellis, accompanies the writer of a daily sports column and amateur detective, Peter Alcott, on a special assignment to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of a famous sportsman – which brings them as far as pre-Castro Cuba. My reason for including this title is on account of the jolt of surprise I received upon learning the solution. It brought me back to my first experiences with Christie.

Lady in Lilac (1941) by Susannah Shane (a.k.a. Harriette Ashbrook)

A well-written, competently plotted suspense novel, full of twists and turns, about an aspiring actress whose down on her luck and her last dollar, but then her lives takes an unexpected turn when she prevents a woman from taking her own life. The two women decide to exchange identities and that's the beginning of a dangerous, fast-paced adventure.

La bête hurlante (The Howling Beast, 1934) by Noel Vindry

A fascinating read that consists of a conversation between M. Allou and a man, named Pierre Herry, who tells a bizarre story the former about the strange occurrences at a fourteenth century castle and ended with a double murder under seemingly impossible circumstances – which made him a wanted man. A crafty piece of detective-fiction that can be considered a minor masterpiece.

Constable, Guard Thyself (1934) by Henry Wade

This is an interesting detective story and an early predecessor of the modern-day police procedure, in which Detective-Inspector John Poole of Scotland Yard has to find the murderer of the Chief Constable of Brodshire, Captain Scole – who shot to death in his office at the police station. A shooting incident that is revealed in the solution to have been an impossible crime and the motive has its roots in the horrors of the First World War. Only flaw is that the murderer can be spotted early on in the book and this negates the gimmick of hiding the killer among an entire flock of policemen.

The Sleuth Patrol (1947) by Manly Wade Wellman

A cross between a juvenile mystery novel and scout fiction about three troop scouts, Holmes "Sherlock" Hamilton, "Doc" John Watson and Max Hinkel, who have various adventures that turn out to be linked together. A very fun read.


Death in the Dark (1930) by Stacey Bishop
The Five Matchboxes (1948) by John Russell Fearn
Account Settled (1949) by John Russell Fearn
Whispering Wires (1918) by Henry Leverage
The Maze (1932) by Philip MacDonald
Gruwelijk is het huwelijk (Marriage is Gruesome, 2017) by Eugenius Quak
I'll Grind Their Bones (1936) by Theodore Roscoe


Book of Murder (1930) by Frederick Irving Anderson
- "Beyond All Conjecture"
- "Big Time" (a virtually unknown impossible crime story)

De geliefde die in het veen verdween en andere mysteries (The Lover Who Disappeared in the Bog and Other Mysteries, 2017) by Anne van Doorn
- "De geliefde die in het veen verdween" ("The Lover Who Who Disappeared in the Bog")
- "Het joch dat grenzen overschreed" ("The Brat Who Went Too Far")

- "The Miracle of Moon Crescent" by G.K. Chesterton (a re-read)
- "The Diary of Death" by Marten Cumberland
- "The Broadcast Murder" by Grenville Robbins
- "The Haunted Policeman" by Dorothy L. Sayers (a re-read)
- "The Villa Marie Celeste" by Margery Allingham

- "The Thief of Claygate Farm"
- "No Shred of Evidence"
- "From Beyond the Grave"

The Thefts of Nick Velvet (1978) by Edward D. Hoch
- "The Theft from the Onyx Pool"
- "The Theft of the Silver Lake Serpent"
- "The Theft of the Mafia Cat"
- "The Theft from the Empty Room"
- "The Theft of the Bermuda Penny"

- "The Valley of Arrows"
- "Ghost Town"
- "The Flying Man"
- "The Vanished Steamboat"
- "The Trail of the Bells"
- "The Phantom Stallion"

- "Punishment for a Gypsy"
- "The Gypsy's Paw"

The Ginza Ghost (2017) by Keikichi Osaka
- "The Mourning Locomotive"
- "The Monster of the Lighthouse"
- "The Cold Night's Clearing"
- "The Guardian of the Lighthouse"
- "The Demon in the Mine"

The Cases of Hildegarde Withers (2012) by Stuart Palmer
- "The Riddle of the Yellow Canary"

- "Dead Drunk"
- "Horse-Collar Homicide"
- "Circle in the Dust"
- "No Killer Has Wings"

The Realm of the Impossible (2017) by John Pugmire and Brian Skupin
- "Jacob's Ladder" by Paul Halter
- "Leaving No Evidence" by Dudley Hoys (has fair-play issues, but the solution is great)
- "The Venom of the Taratula" by Sharadindu Bandyopadyay
- "Sir Gilbert Murrell's Picture" by Victor L. Whitechurch
- "The Miracle on Christmas Eve" by Szu-Yen Lin
- "Seven Brothers" (an excerpt) by Aleksis Kivi
- "The "Impossible" Impossible Murder" by Edward D. Hoch
- "The Lure of the Green Door" by Rintaro Norizuki
- "The Barese Mystery" by Pietro de Palma
- "The Locked House of Pythagoras" by Soji Shimada

- "The Invisible Bullet"
- "The Rough Fist of Reason"
- "The Empty Flask"

Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek (2002) by John Sladek
- "By an Unknown Hand" (a re-read)
- "It Takes Your Breath Away" (a re-read)
- "You Have a Friend at Fengrove National" (a re-read)


Beyond the Locked Door (1938) by Luke Allan

An obscure title in the locked room sub-genre and had hoped the book would turn out to be minor gemstone, but the overall plot was fairly weak and the explanation to the locked room murder was a redressing of one of the oldest tricks in the book. Not recommended.

Murder at the Chase (2014) by Eric Brown

A story that began promising enough with a man claiming to be a 120-year-old Satanist from the Victorian era, who held ghostly seances, which lead to the impossible disappearance of another man from a locked study. Unfortunately, the story was poorly plotted, disappointing and, worst of all, dull and boring.

Robbery Without Violence (1952) by John Russell Fearn

A bad and disappointing read by my favorite second-stringer, which began promising enough with the impossible theft of gold ingots from a hermetically sealed, time-locked bank vault. Sadly, the story dissolved into a poorly done pulp story with a second-rate science-fiction solution.

Hide in the Dark (1929) by Frances Noyes Hart

A boring, long-winded and excruciating read that takes place on All-Hallows Eve, 1928, in a dark, untenanted mansion. So the premise had potential, but was poorly executed.

So there you have it, folks. My highs, and lows, of the past year. And, with that out of the way, I only have one more thing left to do: wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the coming year!

I'll be back in the final week of this year.