The Case of the Painted Ladies (1940) by Brian Flynn

Brian Flynn's The Case of the Painted Ladies (1940) is the twenty-fifth entry in the Anthony Bathurst series and true to form it deviated from its predecessor, The Case of the Faithful Heart (1939), but, this time, the difference is not a complete 180 in style or form – like the consecutively published The League of Matthias (1934) and The Horn (1934). The Case of the Faithful Heart and The Case of the Painted Ladies are essentially Golden Age whodunits, but Painted Ladies differentiates itself by telling a story that builds towards a crossover event. A rare trope in our corner of the genre. Such an occasion demands an unusual kind of crime to bring in three of Bathurst's "more distinguished colleagues."

The Case of the Painted Ladies begins with three strange incidents on the final day of the life of a well-known, London stock exchange operator, Aubrey Coventry.

Firstly, Coventry receives an unexpected telephone call from the Napoleon of Wall Street, Silas Montgomery, who, unconventionally and unannounced, wants to make an early morning appointment for two o'clock at his place. Silas Montgomery is "a man of powerful interests and subtle influences." So it's wise not to offend him and Coventry had always wanted to meet the notorious New York operator. Secondly, Coventry attends a church bazaar and his wandering leads him to a tent with the notice, "Madame Zylphara, Palmist and Clairvoyante." This reminded him of the telephone call that morning and decided to go inside, but leaves the tent rather unsettled. Madame Zylphara tried to read his palm, but told him she can't read his future "because there is no future for you." Thirdly, the evening ends with a fancy dress ball, but before changing into his custom, Coventry decides to smoke a cigarette in the park. When he asks the only man in the park for a light, the man "simply snarled at him" and obviously tried to get away from Coventry. Surprisingly, the snarling man in blue overalls is spotted among the attendees of the fancy dress ball. Only to disappear before he can be identified.

So ends a day filled with strange, unsettling incidents as the next one dawns, but Coventry has to stay up to await the arrival of Silas Montgomery. Later that morning, the secretary finds Coventry's body in the study with rope marks on his throat and neck. The scene of the crime is practically on the doorstep of New Scotland Yard and Chief Inspector Andrew MacMorran gets to handle a case before a local police force can mess with "until that awful moment comes when they bellow for help." Nonetheless, MacMorran is faced with a complete mystery as the victim "hasn't been robbed and he hadn't an enemy in the world." On the other hand, Anthony Bathurst is intrigued by all the little, inconsistent details at the scene and the incidents that preceded the murder.

Bathurst notices Coventry had not only been strangled, but the murderer had rendered him helpless by lashing him across the chest, round the wrists and legs to the chair – before strangling him with a second rope. But why untie the body afterwords? Bathurst is also puzzled by two note-books found on the desk, "each appears to have been used," because there's "something about them that isn't right." But what? And who was the pseudo-Montgomery? The elusive, but ever-present, snarling man in blue overalls? Just as mystifying is Bathurst's visit to Madame Zylphara. She goes into a trance tells the detective that there are two women concerned in the case, but there's "no alliance between them, they oppose each other." But you won't realize how mystifying until you reach the ending (ROT13: Znqnzr Mlycunen'f cerqvpgvba naq ivfvba jrer yrsg harkcynvarq). Not even Bathurst himself realizes how closely he's getting to the murderer until a serious, near fatal attempt on his life and a late second victim is discovered. This clears the path to that crossover scene.

Bathurst baits a trap for the killer, but not your common garden variety killer traps. This trap comes in the guise of "a new parlour game for listeners." A BBC radio game show in which four well-known sleuths match wits with a BBC staff team that include Val Gielgud. I was fairly surprise to discover who the three guest detectives turned out to be as they were neither B-list names nor thinly disguised. How did Flynn get away with that? I first thought they all shared the same publisher, but that wasn't the case and suppose he had gotten permission. Perhaps the book was originally part of a BBC promotion? Either way, it was a fun and memorable scene. Now how you expect a crossover to play out. You have to read the story for yourself to discover the identity of the detectives and how the case is drawn to a close. 

The Case of the Painted Ladies has a conclusion that appears all neat and tightly wrapped up, but when you let it sink in for a minute, pick it up and shake it a little, you can hear some loose nuts and bolts rattling around inside – betraying some plot-technical and stylistic flaws in the whole design. The murderer appears to have spoiled, what could have been, a clean and perfect crime by making things needlessly complicated. Flynn tried to justify it by pointing out that the biggest obstacle the murderer faced was (ROT13) gung gur bayl jnl ur pbhyq trg va jnf ol univat gur sebag qbbe bcrarq gb uvz, but even then it seems like a risky, roundabout way to achieve something relatively simple (pbzcnerq gb zheqre). There's one particular plot-thread annoyingly left unresolved and Flynn really should have titled the book The Case of the Snarling Man, which is a much better title that doesn't give away a quarter of the solution early on in the game. 

So, while the ending doesn't entirely hold up to close scrutiny, The Case of the Painted Lady stands as another typical example of Flynn's mission to simply write good, imaginative and above all entertaining detective fiction. John Norris, of Pretty Sinister Books, reviewed "Three Detective Novels by Brian Flynn" back in February and noted his inconsistencies, or sins, but his "inventive plots, his unceasing imagination and his absolute love for the genre" keeps him (and me) coming back for more. Whenever Flynn's shortcomings or imperfections surfaced, they rarely ruined or sank a novel. The Case of the Painted Ladies very much belongs to the category of flawed, but still good and entertaining detective novels. A treat for fans of the series and seasoned mystery readers.


The Tin Tree (1930) by James Quince

James Reginald Spittal was a British clergyman, born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, who was a London vicar and wrote three obscure, nearly forgotten detective novels in the 1930s – published under the pseudonym "James Quince." A writer who has been a permanent residence on my wishlist ever since Martin Edwards and Curt Evans reviewed The Tin Tree (1930) and Casual Slaughters (1934) in 2014. The Tin Tree was particularly high on the list as it intriguingly combined a quasi-historical setting with a typical, English village mystery and enough material about the Great War that "one almost could classify the book as a war novel."

But as usually is the case, James Quince has been out-of-print for close to a century and copies have become as scarce as they are expensive. That is until last February when Black Heath reissued The Tin Tree and Casual Slaughters as cheap ebooks. So on the pile it went. 

The Tin Tree stands out among the early, 1930s Golden Age mysteries as a (sort of) nostalgic throwback to the Victorian-era potboiler, but agree with Curt that the story is told with "an easy charm and emotional restraint" in comparison to those turn-of-the-century sensational novels with a tricky and gruesome murder that needs to be solved – culminating with a double-twisted, triple-decker solution. A murder mystery played out against the backdrop of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the battlefield of the Great War, which gave the story an atmosphere, or mood, all of its own. Since there are very few detective novels and short stories from this period that used the First World War as a backdrop. Enough talk. It's time for some action!

A so-called tin tree is a "bizarre fake tree observation posts" built "using steel and wrought iron" to spy on the enemy "after switching them under cover of darkness with real battle-scarred stumps left in no-man's land." The Tin Tree opens with Lieutenant Roger "Secco" Budockshed and Gunner Arthur Rachelson manning one of these twisty, leafless metallic trees when they get shelled and Rachelson screams, "O God! Again!" Lieutenant Budockshed has always been intrigued by the mysterious Gunner Rachelson. What made him refuse promotion and "why should he be so oyster-like a companion?" So he asks him what made him scream out and repeat those words. Gunner Rachelson decides to tell him the whole story.

Gunner Arthur Rachelson reveals that his real name is John Montauban. A name dominating the headlines in 1914 and captured the attention of the entire nation, which "was as yet but mildly interested in Serajevo." At the time, John Montauban pulled double duty as estate manager and babysitting his younger, troublesome cousin, Sir Juan Montauban. John is unable to babysit his cousin round the clock and is enraged when he learns he not only impregnated a seventeen-year-old housemaid, but closed the matter behind his back by giving the family a cheque for £300. Angrily, John goes to Pecheford House to confront his cousin. Sir Juan only real interest was in the combustion engines and was working in the yard/garage. Ever since he was a child, John entered the yard by climbing up the wall to the roof, slide down a bit on the other side and dropped himself. A fifteen feet drop! And that what he did on that day. When he looked over the wall, John spotted his cousin's legs sticking out from underneath a car directly below and dropped himself. Just as he made the drop, wearing "heavy nailed boots," Sir Juan poked his head out and got his skull squashed like a ripe grape.

John immediately understands the difficulty he would face in trying to explain it was an ill-timed accident. There were more than enough witnesses who saw him in "a white-hot rage" and possesses a platinum motive as he stood "to gain the baronetcy, the entailed estates, and, say, £80,000" – which is unconditionally his in the event of Juan's death. So he engineered his own disappearance and got a lucky break when a practically naked, badly decomposed body was fished out of a river and everyone agreed the "messy corpse" was that of the wanted John Montauban. Operation Mincemeat thirty years before its time! He nearly got away to begin an entirely new life in the United States had it not been for the murder in Serajevo to complicate his "sham murder." This story is told to Lieutenant Budockshed with the Great War playing out in the background with "a crackle of machine guns" and "the greatest artillery duel of the war" ("chronicled elsewhere"). 

Lieutenant Budockshed is eventually wounded and moved to a London hospital where he decides to delve deeper into the 1914 murder case, which turns the sham murder into a quasi-impossible crime. The body was still very warm when John had picked himself up and Juan must have pushed himself out from beneath the car, but, if John is innocent, who could possibly have had the time to kill him? And get away unseen from an empty garage yard? However, this is the point in the story where it begins to resemble a Victorian-era potboiler with the introduction of the villain of the second-act, Señora Zumarraga. Mrs. Antonia de Zumarrage is a well-known medium from Barcelona, Spain, who holds expensive private séances and avoids other spiritualists. She turns out, like everyone else in the story, to have a connection to the old murder case ("funny that we always seem to come up against Spaniards in this affair"). Señora Zumarraga involvement gives the second-act a touch of the turn-of-the-century thriller, but Quince skillfully used it to setup the first of two false-solutions with a marvelous play on that trite, 1800s artifice of the deathbed confession. The third and final act deals with the three solutions, two false-solutions and climaxing with the correct one.

The solutions demonstrate the author had an imaginative mind and was likely influenced by G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown (c.f. "The Hammer of God," 1910), which shows a particular richness in the unusual motivation behind the second and third solutions. But they are not exactly models of fair play. The Tin Tree stands on its storytelling and wartime backdrop. Not rigorous plotting. So plot purists beware unless you have a special interest in detective set during the World Wars.

Nonetheless, The Tin Tree is an admirable, even impressive debut and, as has been pointed out elsewhere, you can chalk most of the story's shortcomings up to an inexperienced novelist. I suspect another problem (or maybe a blessing) is that the novel is a little older than its publication date suggests and there's a clue suggesting the story might gone through a couple of different versions and rewrites. When Budockshed goes over the case, he wonders what happened to the murderer before and after John landed on his cousin. Had the murderer time enough to escape through the yard door and shut it without being seen or had the murderer hidden somewhere. Dismissing the possibility that the murderer (ROT13) jnf haqre gur pne, orpnhfr “ab tebja-hc crefba penjyf haqre n pne jvgubhg furre arprffvgl.” This foreshadows the second false-solution and suggests it may have been intended as the right one with the third solution being a final addition to the plot. I could be entirely wrong, but it would explain the uneven, patchiness between the engrossing opening-act, a sagging middle-part and the ending with its triple-solutions. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed The Tin Tree as a rare, World War I mystery novel in spite of its flaws. But I'll try to pick something more traditional for the next review.


The General Goes Too Far (1936) by Lewis George Robinson

Lewis G. Robinson had a long, distinguished service career as a Medical Officer in the British Army, serving during the First World War and rising to the rank of Colonel before retiring due to ill-health, who drew on his army experience to write four specialized, military-themed detective novels – all but one published under the name "George Limnelius." Under the same pseudonym, Robinson wrote three extremely obscure short stories, "The Time-Gun" (1929), "A Perfect Alibi" (1929) and "On the Ether" (1930), which were published in The Royal Magazine. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anything about the short stories, except for titles and publication dates. 

The Medbury Fort Murder (1929) is his best remembered novel, championed by Robert Adey as an unfairly forgotten locked room mystery, who helped secure the book a spot in Martin Edwards' The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (2017). A place earned not only for its "insider's picture of the army" and "authentic flavour of military life," but for its "no-nonsense treatment of sex and violence" that's "hardly in keeping with the lazily conventional view of Golden Age fiction as cosy." I reviewed the book in 2019 and thought the story's true merit lies in its inversion of the inverted mystery. Somewhat reminiscent of 1930s Anthony Berkeley. The Medbury Fort Murder is definitely a cut above your average, 1920s detective novel and a portent of things to come in the decades ahead, but the other novels had been out-of-print for decades in 2019.

Last year, Nick Fuller listed Lewis Robinson in a blog-post, "Detective stories to reprint," going over some very obscure authors who "might well merit reprinting," but, unbeknownst to Nick, Robinson had already sneaked back into circulation by stealth! Black Heath reissued his four standalone mysteries, as cheap ebooks, in June, 2021. This gave me an excuse opportunity to dive into the neglected work of another forgotten mystery writer. ...Tell No Tales (1931) and The Manuscript Murder (1933) have already neared the snow-capped tops of the big pile. Since I'm chronologically challenged, I wanted to begin with his final novel. 

The General Goes Too Far (1936) in many ways resembles The Medbury Fort Murder as both succeeded in simultaneously being inverted mysteries and genuine whodunits, but The General Goes Too Far is richer in characters, storytelling and setting – which begins in 1920s Ireland and concludes years later in a West African colony. But it starts out as a messy tangle of characters and incidents, until the third and fourth chapter. This is the gist of it. Major-General Sir John Sangye is "a natural-born Puritan" with a personality forming "a pattern of all the less amiable virtues" (an ambitious teetotaler and non-smoker), but, twenty years ago, he had a secretive relation with a young stage actress, Nellie Johnson. She became pregnant with his child, but married Sangye's rich, middle-aged cousin, Captain Challoner, who accepted the child as his own. However, Captain Challoner has no intention to father his cousin's "bastards" and this comes to a head when their car breaks down in the middle of the Irish countryside. A local Shinner commando ambushes the stranded car and a firefight ensues, which Sangye uses as a cover to shoot and kill Challoner. Sangye married his widow and accepted his own daughter, Belinda, as his stepdaughter. So "he erased the memory of that cold-blooded murder from his conscious mind," but "old sins cast long shadows" and it would come back to haunt him. This is only the prologue!

The next chapter introduces another set of cousins, Major Anthony Carson and Major Reginald Heverell, who have a fabulous wealthy aunt. Aunt Edna is in her eighties, sickly and a lot to leave one or both of her nephews. Major Carson begins to play with the idea "to expedite, as it were, the slow processes of Nature" by tampering with Aunt Edna's life saving amyl drops. Simply replacing the nitrate of amyl in one of the capsules with a drop of water. And he would be on his next six-month tour abroad when she gets to the harmless capsule during a fit. Finally, the third chapter introduces a young lieutenant, Benjamin Daunt, who's Belinda's fiancé and learns from his uncle, Colonel Daunt, the truth about Belinda's parentage. But he's indiscreet with this information. And that has consequences when they all come together in a remote African outpost of the British Empire.

A remote, lonely outpost situated between the boundaries of French Gambia and the British Protectorate of Nuevas Palmas, Liberia, where a handful of outpost station were strung along the seven hundred miles of frontier – of which Makompe was the remotest outpost. An island fortress, "built on the site of a seventeenth century Portuguese fort," which constitutes the only fixed defenses of the port of Libreville. So the island fort comes under the responsibilities of the War Office and completely independent of the Colonial Office. It really irks His Excellency, the Governor, knowing that there is one spot, "only about a square mile in all," in the Colony where his writ does not run. Any crime, civil or military, done on the island would be tried by Court Martial. So there's "plenty of scope for friction." The characters who gathered there have already gotten themselves in trouble or plotting how to get themselves out of it as the past slowly comes back into focus. When someone gets shot in a restricted area of the fortress, Major-General Sir John Sangye refuses to waive his "technical right" to jurisdiction and let the Colonial Office investigate the case. And, if worst came to worst, the Governor could get the Home Government to intervene, which would look very bad, but the General stubbornly continues with "dangerous policy." What follows is a Court of Inquiry (in lieu of an inquest), a quick arrest and the suspect getting court martialed, which makes for a very unusual take on the courtroom drama.

Yes, The General Goes Too Far is all over the place as it tries to be an inverted mystery with a detective pull. A frankly written, character-driven crime novel with the General having to face the consequences of his past crime, while trying to come up with "some cunning move to deflect the impending blow at his daughter's happiness." A military courtroom drama with a last-minute, locked room murder placing another character in the docks and simply a story of military life in the Colonies. But it was not an entirely unsuccessful juggling act. You need to get through the messy, tangled opening chapters to get a good idea who's who, what they want, or do, and why. That makes what unfolds at the fort appear all the more mystifying. You have no idea in which direction the story is going or where its going to end.

Robinson managed to keep this up until the trial began, but during and after the trial it became easy to see where the story was headed and the solution began to take shape. Admittedly, the detective story elements were timeworn and second-rate. Such as the late locked room murder, which served as another dead giveaway. But, by that time, it hardly detracted from the overall quality of the story. 

The General Goes Too Far is an engrossing, well-constructed and fascinatingly told inverted detective novel enhanced by its unvarnished depiction of a far-flung, Colonial outpost of the British Empire – replete with class-and race distinctions as well as the tensions between civil and military administrators. This helped balance out some of the shortcomings revealed during its second-half. So the end result may still be a second-string mystery novel, but a first-class second-stringer with a less than conventional take on the inverted detective story. And, perhaps, in some way a little ahead of its time. But I think readers today can appreciate an obscure vintage with a slightly modern twist.


Invisible Weapons: Case Closed, vol. 81 by Gosho Aoyama

The 81st volume of Gosho Aoyama's Case Closed, known outside of the English-speaking world as Detective Conan, begins where the previous volume ended with Doc Agasa taking Conan and the Junior Detective League to the Flower Festival in the public park – where they meet Jodie Sterling to discuss the events from vol. 78. There is a pickpocket slinking through the crowd of cherry blossom viewers and Doc Agasa witnesses a murder when he came out of the restroom.

Doc Agasa thought he saw someone hammering a stake into the ground, "a silhouette" wearing "a hat and holding a thin stick about a foot long," who limped away and disappeared into the crowd. After the incident, Doc Agasa discovers the body of a woman. A notorious pickpocket the police has been after for some time, but a straightforward case of a pickpocket getting brutally mugged herself quickly turns into a much more complicated and tricky problem. The crime scene is a little distance away from the park, which is immediately closed off by the police and should trap the murderer inside. They retrieve the stolen, emptied wallets in the trashcans, netting them three potential suspects, but none of the three suspects have a limp or carrying "a foot-long stick." A weapon that's nowhere to be found in the park or shrine. And why did the three suspects talked to the Junior Detective League around the time of the murder?

The solution is a work of beauty as it craftily dovetails the nature of the invisible weapon with how it disposed, why Doc Agasa saw the murderer limping away and why it was necessary to talk to Conan and his friends – only one aspect of the motive seemed a little iffy. Other than that this is one of the better, pure detective stories in the series with an original take on the impossible problem and a plot-thread tied directly to the ongoing storyline. And, on top of that, the Junior Detective League were not completely useless here. A winner!

The second, three-chapter story, titled respectively "The Barroom Detective Takes a Case," "The Barroom Detective Makes a Deduction" and "The Barroom Detective Solves the Case," is a long overdue Richard Moore centric case. Richard Moore accepted a job from the bartender of the Blue Parrot, Yuzuki Fukui, who has been hearing a pop, "like a champagne bottle," which is always followed by "a citrus scent." So she assumed customers were sneaking in bottles, but she kept an eye on the clientele and didn't catch anyone drinking wine or champagne. The only customers who were always around when it happened was a corporate executive and three of his downtrodden underlings. Moore takes the case by sitting at the bar smoking cigarettes, drinking gimlets and butchering Raymond Chandler with his internal monologue ("my heart throbs to the cool rhythms of jazz on the speakers" and "she must think I'm the great sleuth Philip Marlowe").

Rachel sends Conan to the Blue Parrot to tell her father dinner is getting cold, but Conan arrives at the bar right at the time the executive is found dead slumped over the bar. Stabbed in the neck with something sharp and toxic. So the bar is searched and the three suspects patted down, but every possible weapon (like darts) turn out to be clean. Another so-called invisible weapon case ("just like the pickpocket case the other day") with the only difference that the trick here seemed needlessly complicated. Surely the same effect could have been achieved in a less risky, roundabout way. Nonetheless, a good, fun little story with a splendid ending giving Sleeping Moore's take on why he blackouts when he "solves" a case.

The third story, more or less, picks up immediately after the second story as Conan realizes something about the pickpocket case, which is now tied to the Hostage Case (vol. 65) and Mystery Train Case from the previously mentioned vol. 78 – bringing "Bourbon" and "Vermouth" back into the picture. Conan is soon wrapped up in another murder case when he and Rachel bump into Masumi Sera. Sera is hired by the older sister of school friend, Rumi Kitao, who's dating a senior college student, Kenya Settsu, but "rumor has it he's a player who's two-timing her with his ex," Waka Hashitani. Rumi asked Sera to check him out ("cheating... the private eye's bread and butter") and took the opportunity to recruit Rachel and Conan. This leads them to finding Waka's bludgeoned body in the chloroform fume filled bathroom of her apartment wearing nothing more than a towel and a mudpack.

Just like the first story, this has all the appearance of a routine story that can be found in every volume of the series, but there's more to the story than is apparent on the surface. Firstly, Sera acted wonderfully as a rival detective by proposing a false-solution, which was sound and convincing enough, but Conan has to correct her deductions (as Jimmy) over the phone by pointing out the dying message. A hidden, unsuspected dying message that nonetheless had been strongly hinted at throughout the story. Logically revealing the only person who could have done it. Secondly, the story reinforces the question how much Sera really knows, or suspects, regarding Conan's identity. And who's calling and texting? That question is (sort of) answered towards the end and during the next story, but it's an answer that raises more questions than it answers.

The fourth and final story is actually a complete one (hurrah) and brings Conan, Rachel, Serena and Sera to the bowling alley where they meet two school teachers. A third teacher had trouble holding his liquor, got into a fight and is now passed out in the car, but the troublesome gym teacher goes missing and is found sometime later inside a porta potty – as "a drowned corpse." A bizarre scene, to be sure, but, even without figuring out how the trick was done, because the method made the murderer standout. I appreciated the murderer's motive helped justify employing such a risky, complicated trick, but the Conan/Sera storyline is what gave the story its interest.

So very little to complain about except for the repetitive motive cropping up in all, but one, of the four stories. Other than that this another rock solid volume perfectly balancing the stronger, plot-driven standalone cases with the multiple, character-driven storylines stretching across the series.


Seeker (2005) by Jack McDevitt

Last year, I took an excursion into the deep antiquity of the faraway future with the first two archaeological science-fiction mysteries in Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath series, A Talent for War (1989) and Polaris (2004), who work as antique hunters, dealers and explorers a hundred centuries in the future – a time when humanity had spread out "across more than a hundred worlds." Since humans are going to human, wherever they go, human expansion to space has left its mark on the universe. Abandoned, long-lost space habitats and stations older than the pyramids in our time. Starships disappearing into the void of space and ended up in the seam between history and myth. Derelict ships and failed outposts orbiting distant planets and stars. Even some ancient ruins of a dead alien civilization on a now sun-scorched planet. 

So humanity in McDevitt's universe has accumulated a huge pile of strange stories, unsolved mysteries, dangerous secrets and a ton of collectible artifacts during their nine-thousand years of exploring the stars and settling planets. Some of those secrets and artifacts can spell trouble when the wrong people become interested, which gives the series its "detective pull" and the novels have been likened to Ellery Queen in space. McDevitt cited G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries as the prime influence of his science-fiction stories as his stories are not so much about the who or why, but "what in Heaven's name is going on here?" The series is perhaps best described as having a "passion for the past, and for the relics that survive the ages, that wait for us in the dark places where no one goes anymore." An attitude perfectly exemplified in the third and arguably best (so far) of the Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath novels. 

Seeker (2005) won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2006 and the story is more science-fiction than a space mystery, but the central mystery and solution is in the same league as James P. Hogan's Inherit the Stars (1977). A pure science-fiction novel with a genuine and engrossing mystery, which was so good we appropriated it. And they could very well lose another one! :)

Amy Kolmer approaches Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath, of Rainbow Enterprises, to appraise a ceramic cup, "sort of thing you might buy in a souvenir shop," but there's "something antiquated" about the green-and-white eagle etched into its side and the Mid-American English symbols – dating the cup back to the Third Millennium ("nobody spoke English in the Fourth"). A little research reveals the cup is possibly linked to the legendary colony ship, Seeker. During the middle of the Third Millennium, the Earth had become overcrowded, torn by war and wrecked with environmental problems. The political leaders of the time had become "increasingly ruthless" and America became a repressive theocracy. A growing group of dissatisfied people, known to history as the Margolians, yearned for freedom and, when interstellar travel became a possibility, they decided to leave Earth.

On December 23, 2688 (a mere 666 years in our future), the Seeker carried the first nine hundred people to their secret planet, Margolia, which was the first of three trips together with its sister ship, the Bremerhaven. They made three trips each over a two-year period carrying more than five thousand people to a new world. Their leader told the world that where they were going "even God wouldn't be able to find them." And he was right. Some of the original colonists returned to Earth when the ships came back to pick up more immigrants, but they had no idea where Magnolia was located and the colony, as well as its two starships, became lost to history and passed into legend. So the cup is an eye-gouging rare collector's item, if it really came from the Seeker, but verification is going to take a lot of work.

Chase Kolpath is Alex Benedict's "pilot, social director and sole employee" whose official title is executive assistant and she does most of the legwork during the first part of the story. She begins with tracing back who owned the cup, which begins with their client's burglarizing boyfriend to a forty year old mission of the Department of Planetary Survey and Astronomical Research. This will send her all over the galactic neighborhood.

Chase visits a space station orbiting a black hole, named Morinda, where thousands of researchers and scientists "were measuring, poking, taking the temperature of, and throwing assorted objects into, the beast." Dumping trash into a black hole sounds like something we would do. However, I particularly liked Chase's visit to one of the worlds of the Ashiyyur, or the Mutes, who were the only intelligent species of aliens humanity encountered and our "technological equals" – acting as "sometime friends, sometime rivals, occasional enemies." During her stay on that world, Chase has to go to the Ashiyyurean Museum of Alien Life-forms crammed with stuffed creatures and plants plucked from "living worlds," but they also have the Hall of the Humans dedicated to "the only other known technological species." Ashiyyureans placed us high on the evolutionary scale (just "a step below the Ashiyyur"), even though "our primary mode of communication was yapping." Fair enough.

While the two relic hunters are busy at work on the puzzle of the lost colony, trouble is brewing on the sidelines as Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath have accusations leveled against them of being nothing more than grave robbers and looters. An attack spearheaded by a "near-legendary archaeologist," Casmir Kolchevsky, who's pushing for some serious legislation "to stop the thieves and vandals who make a living looting the past." But there someone else lurking in the shadows who tries to take Benedict and Chase out in more drastic way. So there are some crime fiction elements to be found here, but they were not very inspired and the murderous attempts felt like a retreat of previous novel. Nothing to the detriment to the overall plot as they only served as the B-stories to pad out the main storyline. The main storyline became better, and better, as the astonishing truth of what happened to the Magnolian colony began to come into focus and it's a genuine rug-puller! A truth even more fascinating and intriguing than its premise that both fires up the imagination and makes you disgusted with being stuck in the 21st century.

So not much else can be said about the second-half of the story without giving anything away, but what I can do is unnecessarily pad out the review with an alternative solution that occurred to me while reading.

McDevitt's universe is a lonely, mostly empty space where intelligence is concerned. Only humans, mutes and whoever build those ruins, on Belarius, were the only intelligent creatures who had ever gazed at the story. Since this is a science-fiction novel (not a detective story proper), I began to wonder if perhaps one of the colony ships had accidentally flew too close to a black hole, got flung back in time and settled on a planet where they evolved into the Ashiyyureans – while the second ship simply got lost in space. So the only intelligent species humanity encountered among the stars were human after all (it kind of made sense), but eventually rejected the possibility because surely they would have discovered, sooner or later, a genetic kinship between their species.

By the way, the worlds of the Ashiyyureans is perfect for an impossible crime in the spirit of Isaac Asimov's The Naked Sun (1957)! The Ashiyyureans are a race of telepaths who live in "a society where everybody's thoughts are open" and can boost about don't having "many hypocrisies." Not easy to get away with murder when your thoughts can be openly read. What if a murder happened and everyone's thoughts turned out to be pure and innocent? There's an in-universe solution to the problem. I mentioned in my review of Polaris that there's mind wipe and personality adjustment technology to give criminals an entirely new personality, psyche and memories. What if the murderer uses the technology to create a near-perfect copy of his own personality and memories. Removing only the incriminating thoughts and memories of the murder. After the murder is committed, the culprit reboots his brain and a pre-programmed A.I. removes the device, which then wipes its own memory before replacing it with near-perfect copy without the incriminating memories. Sure, the tempering with the A.I. is bound to be discovered, but that can function as both a red herring and a tell-tale clue.

So, as you can see, this series has been a fun, unexpected back road in my own exploration of the detective story and look forward to Echo (2010). Yes, I'm skipping The Devil's Eye (2008) as it seems to be more of a thriller than archaeological space opera mystery.


Sic Semper Tyrannis: "The Audiophile Murder Case" (1982) by D.B. von Din (a.k.a. Barry Ergang)

Last month, I reviewed The Further Misadventures of Ellery Queen (2020), edited by Josh Pachter and Dale C. Andrews, which is the second anthology of parodies, pastiches and homages celebrating the personification of the American detective story, "Ellery Queen" – shared pseudonym of the mystery writing cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. Rex Stout's elephantine sleuth and his right-hand man were honored in a similar themed anthology, The Misadventures of Nero Wolfe (2020). I ended my review with the observation that there's another well-known, American mystery novelist, namely S.S. van Dine, who should have enough material related to him to compile The Misadventures of Philo Vance

I know genre satirist, Jon L. Breen, wrote three pastiches, "The Austin Murder Case" (1967), "The Vanity Murder Case" (1970) and "The Circle Murder Case" (1972). "The Pinke Murder Case" by N.O.T. von Dime, collected in The Mixture As Before (1930), is an early parody of Van Dine and Vance (have not read it), while Ashibe Taku's "Taikun satsujin jiken" ("The Tycoon Murder Case," 2000) is a slightly more recent take on the Van Dinean detective story. There was a 1940s radio serial based on the characters, entitled Philo Vance, which probably has one or two scripts with interesting enough plots to include (e.g. "The Deathless Murder Case," 1949). Curt Evans wrote an amusing blog-post in 2018, "Philo in the Fifties," in which he speculates (tongue-in-cheek) "what Van Dine might have written had he lived, like Chandler, into the next two decades." An anthology like that can easily be "padded" out with the inclusion of John Riddle's obscure, long out-of-print and novel-length The John Riddell Murder Case: A Philo Vance Parody (1930). I think a lot of readers would appreciate it more than brief excerpts from larger works.

I'm sure there are more than enough short parodies, pastiches and homages to fill out an anthology. Serendipitously, I stumbled across one such parody/pastiche that turned out to be a pleasant surprised.

Barry Ergang is the former editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, winner of the Derringer Award and short story writer who penned the locked room mystery "The Play of Light and Shadow" (2004) and the short-short parody "Gideon Fell, Hardboiled Sawbones" (2003) – based on a comment by our very own Nick Fuller on the old GAD Yahoo group. During the first months of 1980, Ergang began working on pastiche that parodied both Van Dine's Philo Vance and the audio industry at the time. The story was titled "The Audiophile Murder Case" and was submitted was submitted and turned down by various mainstream hi-fi magazines, because the editors likely had a problem with the story's "less-than-charitable takes toward certain aspects of the industry" as well as "the possibility that some equipment manufacturers would be offended" and "thus cease purchasing advertisements." So a few years went by before the story was picked up by J. Gordon Holt, editor and reviewer of Stereophile, who began serializing the story in October, 1982.

Unfortunately, the story didn't make it into print quite like Ergang had envisioned it. This oversight was only rectified in 2019 when Ergang published a restored version of "The Audiophile Murder Case" as it was originally intended to be published. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a locked room mystery! So put on some synthwave as we go back to the '80s!

Winderley "Golden Ear" Manner was the editor, publisher and principle reviewer for Semper Fidelis, "a so-called "underground" audiophile journal," whose readers took his reviews as gospel. So he wielded the power to "virtually make or break a manufacturer," which went to his head and became "more and more authoritarian" as he gained subscribers and a reputation. This didn't made him very popular with manufacturers and retailers.

Manner occasionally invites people to his penthouse floor of a high-rise, New York apartment building to participate in a listening panel in his soundproof listening room. There were several people on the day of his murder who received such an invitation, Jason Linderman, Addison R. Corman and Selwyn Ericson. All of them work in the audio industry and all have an ax to grind with the editor/reviewer of Semper Fidelis, but, when they arrive at his penthouse, the door to the listening room is closed and apparently locked on the inside – which had to be removed from its hinges. Inside they discover Manner's body, gagged and wrists tied with copper wire, hanging from a noose with headphones on. Fortunately, that's the moment Manner's fourth guest arrives on the scene, Milo Rance. Besides being a detective extraordinaire, Rance has an ear tailored for "the niceties of sonic accuracy" (Manner "once asserted that Rance's ear was second only to his"). Now he has to figure who silenced Gold Ear in a locked room filled with amplifiers, turntables, tape decks and speakers.

I've to compliment Ergang here for how handled the locked room problem. When I learned the door was not locked, or bolted, but secured with a drop-latch, I was a little disappointed. The drop-latch suggested an obvious trick, under the circumstances, but Rance inspects the drop-latch ("swung like a pendulum") and concludes "the latch is too loose to have stayed poised until the door closes." So it could "not have been maneuvered into place" and "allowed to drop from vibration when the door was shut." The actual locked room-trick is a 1980s update of the kind of locked room trickery Van Dine was up to in his own novels, but the who-and why also hid a few genuine surprises. Mostly that the story gives the reader two different answers to those questions. The official solution is perfectly in line with the (neo) traditional detective story, but the ending suggested a second, unexpected, but actually foreshadowed, solution with an undeniably original motive attached to it. And that's what elevated "The Audiophile Murder Case" above the status of a mere pastiche or parody.

So, yes, Ergang's "The Audiophile Murder Case" was an unexpected, but welcome, discovery, which succeeded in parodying Philo Vance, but with a good enough plot to make it stand on its own as a detective story. The locked room angle was just the icing on the cake. Just one question. Where are the footnotes, Barry? You forgot the footnotes! Why did you forget the footnotes? The story is still incomplete without them! 

Notes for the curious: I previously reviewed two other locked room mysteries set among audiophiles and manufacturers. Herbert Resnicow's The Dead Room (1987) and Motohiro Katou's "Glass Room" from Q.E.D. vol. 15.


The Hangman's Handyman (1942) by Hake Talbot

There's one thing readers and publishers of detective fiction have in common: comparing writers to their illustrious predecessors, which is either done to give other readers an idea where a new name fits in the lineage of the genre or simply as a marketing ploy. I remember when an untranslated Paul Halter was talked about as the heir of John Dickson Carr and every new female mystery novelist, since the publication of P.D. James' Cover Her Face (1962), is billed as the second coming of Agatha Christie, but rarely is the comparison accurate or entirely fair – acting more as a millstone around an author's neck. Halter had somewhat of an uphill battle during the 2010s following the translation of his first novel-length locked room mystery, Le roi du désordre (The Lord of Misrule, 1996). Not a story that delivered on the promise of what a novel-length Father Brown tale by G.K. Chesterton would have been like. 

But every now and then, the comparison between two authors click into place like puzzle pieces. And when that happens, it's both a huge compliment and glowing endorsement. Although it happens very rarely.

One such rarity is represented by an American magician, Henning Nelms, who penned two highly regarded locked room mysteries, The Hangman's Handyman (1942) and Rim of the Pit (1944), which were published as by "Hake Talbot" and often likened to the works of two masters of the form – namely John Dickson Carr and Clayton Rawson. Robert Adey noted in Locked Room Murders (1991) that Talbot was "the only author to successfully emulate Carr" and "in fact a very satisfactory mixture of Carr and Rawson" combining "Carr's flair for atmosphere and the bizarre with Rawson's magic tricks." I agree! And it was high time to revisit Talbot's classic contributions to the impossible crime story. So where better to begin than with The Hangman's Handyman! 

The Hangman's Handyman brings Talbot's regrettably short-lived series-detective, Rogan Kincaid, to a desolate, rocky island on the Carolina coast. An island curiously named The Kraken with a bay named Gallows Cove where drowned bodies are carried to by the local current and a great stone house. The island is the property of a manufacturing chemist, Jackson B. Frant, who decided to throw a house party. The invitees comprises of his half-brother, Evan Tethryn, who's an English lord and most of the guests were his friends. Such as the girl Evan intends to marry, Miss Sue Braxton. She's accompanied by her father, Dr. Stirling Braxton. Nancy Garwood is another friend of Evan who was introduced to her host only a few days before in a New York night club. Finally, there are the previous owners of the island, Miss Julia Makepeace and her brother, Arnold, who brought along their nephew, Bobby Chatterton. A young man who loves magic tricks and locked rooms.

Rogan Kincaid is a late arrival and finds the gloomy mansion as "quiet as a catacomb" with Nancy Garwood apparently being the only living soul in the place, but she has trouble remembering what, exactly, happened or what happened to the others – until she suddenly recalled that the host had died. Jackson Frant had continued to needle his half-brother during dinner about the family curse that came with his father's title, but not an ordinary family curse. Oh no! This is a "curse that worked backwards" as Evan inherited "the power to curse others," which he demonstrated to half-brother once he had enough of his taunting and sneering jokes. Evan pointed to Jackson and spoke the curse words, "Od rot you, Jack! Od rot you!" Jackson dropped dead on the spot. The body of Jackson was carried up to his own bedroom where, once everyone has come back into the story, a gruesome discovery is made. Jackson had been dead for only two hours, "lying in this cool, wind-swept room," but the body has rotted and decomposed at an almost supernatural rate. And throughout the story evidence is unearthed proving the decomposed body is that of Jackson Frant.

This is not the only impossibility that earned The Hangman's Handyman a permanent place among the most popular and beloved locked room mystery novels. Kincaid is attacked in his dark bedroom by "something smooth, slimy, impalpable," like "a wet slither," who nearly chokes and strangles him to death. This rouses the household and they have to break down the door, because it's locked and bolted on the inside with the key sticking in the lock. But, when the door is busted open, the only person they find inside is an unconscious Kincaid. This attack forces Kincaid to act as a bedridden armchair detective during the second-half of the story.

However, the medical miracle of Jackson Frant's rapidly decomposed body and the assault in the locked bedroom are not the only story elements that makes the book standout. Talbot actually gave his detective an origin story. Rogan Kincaid is a professional gambler and somewhat of an adventurer whose character was formed by the carnival lot, card table and "the crooked little Swiss" who brought him up and taught him "to be cleverer than the other fellow" – which is how Kincaid can make a living by playing "smart poker." A dangerous occupations with people who don't always want to pay their debts, but "the gambler's ruthlessness was matched only by his prowess" and reporter remarks at one point he had seen Kincaid "clean out a poolroom once with eight guys in it." Some were carrying guns, but Kincaid "could throw pool balls faster than they could shoot" and "the way he handled a cue would make your mouth water." This is the only real difference between Talbot and Carr. Talbot leaned ever so slightly towards the better pulp writers like Fredric Brown and Theodore Roscoe. But a mystery writer nonetheless. So the backstory of Kincaid has a thread directly tied to the central puzzle and that spells trouble for the detective when people begin to propose false-solutions. That places him in cross hairs of the police.

So there you have it. A dark, lonely island with a house where people get attacked or perish under seemingly impossible circumstances replete with discussions of elemental spirits, magic trick and locked rooms. Not to mention a man with a grudge and loaded gun roaming the island and the whispered, formless presence of the titular handyman ("the sort that whistles at his work and can tie a noose or pull a customer’s heels with equal alacrity"). The Hangman's Handyman is a remarkable debut brimming with promise, but not without a few imperfections that need to be mentioned. Firstly, while the impossibilities are excellently handled, they are only original in their presentation ("...it dropped on me, as if it had been hanging from the ceiling"). The solutions to both impossibilities are clever variations on tricks seasoned mystery readers have seen before. Secondly, the overall solutions is slightly marred by the fact that the culprit is pretty bad at time management. And being difficult for difficulty's sake. This is what ultimately betrays the murderer even if you fail to figure out how everything was engineers. Talbot badly showed his hand in one brief scene (ROT13/SPOILER: gur puvyqubbq fgbel bs Rina phefvat n xvggra naq svaqvat vgf qrpnlvat pnepnff n qnl yngre vzzrqvngryl pbasvezrq ur jnf ng yrnfg va ba vg. Fhpu na boivbhf cybg-fjrrgrare. That's why the book will always stand in the shadows of Rim of the Pit, but don't let those minor flaws take anything away from The Hangman's Handyman as a delightful, well-handled and slightly pulpy take on the John Dickson Carr-style locked room mystery. Very much recommended to every dedicated locked room reader!


The Updated Mammoth List of My Favorite Tales of Locked Room Murders & Impossible Crimes


"Locked rooms... I'll tell you what it is, Humbleby: you've been reading too much fiction; you've got locked rooms on the brain."

- Gervase Fen (Edmund Crispin's "The Name on the Window," 1953)

Years ago, I compiled two lists, "My Favorite Locked Room Mysteries I: The Novels" and "My Favorite Locked Room Mysteries II: Short Stories," which desperately needed updating and that fact didn't go unnoticed as some of you kept banging on about it – to quote one recent comment, "another year and you haven't added anything." Shaming apparently works as it began to hang around me like a noose and decided to completely redo both lists, but this list is different from the previous two.

Firstly, I merged both lists into one and forgone the brief plot descriptions, because the list is bloated enough as it is. Secondly, I split the list into different categories divided by periods and specialized sub-genres (historical, juvenile and non-English) with the novels and short stories listed under "Curiosities & Oddities" not representing the best or personal favorites of mine, but still have something of interest to offer to the dedicated locked room enthusiast. Thirdly, this list was compiled based on my old, often shoddily written reviews and Watsonian memory dictated by my personal taste that has all the maturity of a 12-year-old John Dickson Carr. Lastly, the prolific impossible crime and short story writers, who have a lot of missing stories on the list, really need a separate list of their own. Same goes for all the brilliant and wonderful locked room trickery that can be found in the Japanese anime-and manga detective series, but don't feel qualified to compile such a list as my experience with them has been very narrow in scope. Needless to say, the Detective Conan (a.k.a. Case Closed) episodes "The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly" and "The Case of the Seance's Double Locked" can be counted among the best the impossible crime genre has to offer.

So the list is undoubtedly incomplete and likely overlooked a few stories, but this mammoth-sized update should keep you bloodhounds off my back until at least 2027. Enjoy!



L'auguille qui tue (The Killing Needle, 1871) by Henry Cauvin

The Big Bow Mystery (1892) by Israel Zangwill



"The Suicide of Kiaros" (1887) by L. Frank Baum 

"The Story of the Lost Special" (1898) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"The Mystery of the Strong Room" (1899) by L.T. Meade & R. Eustace

"The Mystery of the Circular Chamber" (1898) by L.T. Meade & R. Eustace

"The Warder of the Door" (1898) by L.T. Meade & R. Eustace

"The Problem of Cell 13" (1905) by Jacques Futrelle

"The Flaming Phantom" (1905) by Jacques Futrelle

"The Phantom Motor" (1908) by Jacques Futrelle

"The Round Room Horror" (1911) by A. Demain Grange

"The Secret Garden" (1910) by G.K. Chesterton

"The Fairy Tale of Father Brown" (1914) by G.K. Chesterton

"The Invisible Bullet" (1914) by Max Rittenberg

"Flashlights" (1918) by Laurence Clarke





The Three Taps (1927) by Ronald A. Knox 

The Death of Laurence Vining (1928) by Alan Thomas 

Invisible Death (1929) by Brian Flynn

The Medbury Fort Murder (1929) by George Lumnelius

Murder en Route (1930) by Brian Flynn

The Owner Lies Dead (1930) by Tyline Perry

About the Murder of the Night Club Lady (1931) by Anthony Abbot

About the Murder of the Circus Queen (1932) by Anthony Abbot

The Silver Scale Mystery (1931) by Anthony Wynne

Sudden Death (1932) by Freeman Wills Crofts

The Kennel Murder Case (1932) by S.S. van Dine

The Devil Drives (1932) by Virgil Markham

Murder Among the Angells (1932) by Roger Scarlett

The Murder of Sigurd Sharon (1933) by Harriette Ashbrook

The Plague Court Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson

The Stingaree Murders (1934) by W. Shepard Pleasants

Constable, Guard Thyself! (1934) by Henry Wade

The Unicorn Murders (1935) by Carter Dickson

The Case of the Chinese Gong (1935) by Christopher Bush

The Three Coffins (1935) by John Dickson Carr

Twenty-Five Sanitary Inspectors (1935) by Roger East

Murder on the Way! (1935) by Theodore Roscoe

Death of a Queen (1935) by Christopher St. John Sprigg

Case for Three Detectives (1936) by Leo Bruce

Death in the Tunnel (1936) by Miles Burton

The Dead Are Blind (1937) by Max Afford

The Whistling Hangman (1937) by Baynard Kendrick

The Man from Tibet (1938) by Clyde B. Clason

The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson

Death from a Top Hat (1938) by Clayton Rawson

Invisible Weapons (1938) by John Rhode

The Listening House (1938) by Mabel Seeley

And Then There Were None (1939) by Agatha Christie

The Reader is Warned (1939) by Carter Dickson

Nine-and Death Makes Ten (1940) by Carter Dickson

The Case of the Solid Key (1941) by Anthony Boucher

The Frightened Stiff (1942) by Kelley Roos

The Hangman's Handyman (1942) by Hake Talbot

She Died a Lady (1943) by Carter Dickson

Blind Man's Bluff (1943) by Baynard Kendrick

Till Death Do Us Part (1944) by John Dickson Carr

Murder and the Married Virgin (1944) by Brett Halliday

Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot

The Whistling Legs (1945) by Roman McDougald

He Who Whispers (1946) by John Dickson Carr

Thy Arm Alone (1947) by John Russell Fearn

The Three Tiers of Fantasy (1948) by Norman Berrow

Death of Jezebel (1948) by Christianna Brand

What a Body! (1949) by Alan Green

The Footprints of Satan (1950) by Norman Berrow

Death in Silhouette (1950) by John Russell Fearn

Flashpoint (1950) by John Russell Fearn

The Longstreet Legacy (1951) by Douglas Ashe

The Case of the Little Green Men (1951) by Mack Reynolds

The Sleeping Bacchus (1951) by Hilary St. George Saunders

The Woman in the Wardrobe (1951) by Peter Shaffer

Polly Put the Kettle On (1952) by Joan Fleming

The Danger Within (1952) by Anthony Gilbert

Whistle Up the Devil (1954) by Derek Smith

Six Were Present (1956) by E.R. Punshon

Killer's Wedge (1959) by Ed McBain



"The Oracle of the Dog" (1923) by G.K. Chesterton

"The Dagger with Wings" (1924) by G.K. Chesterton

"The Miracle of Moon Crescent" (1924) by G.K. Chesterton

"The Arrow of Heaven" (1925) by G.K. Chesterton

"Big Time" (1927) by Frederick I. Anderson

"The Strange Case of Steinkelwintz" (1929) by MacKinlay Kantor

"The Light at Three O'Clock" (1930) by MacKinlay Kantor

"Solved by Inspection" (1931) by Ronald A. Knox

"About the Disappearance of Agatha King" (1932) by Anthony Abbot

"Blind Man's Hood" (1934) by Carter Dickson

"The Lamp of God" (1935) by Ellery Queen

"The Border-Line Case" (1937) by Margery Allingham

"The Dream" (1937) by Agatha Christie

"Persons or Things Unknown" (1938) by Carter Dickson

"Leaving No Evidence" (1938) by Dudley Hoys

"The Haunted Policeman" (1938) by Dorothy L. Sayers

"The Room With Something Wrong" (1938) by Cornell Woolrich

"The Silver Curtain" (1939) by Carter Dickson

"The Other Side" (c. 1940s/1990) by Hake Talbot

"The Day Nobody Died" (1941) by D.L. Champion

"The Spherical Ghoul" (1943) by Fredric Brown

"The Dead Sleep Lightly" (1943) by John Dickson Carr

"The Problem of the Emperor's Mushrooms" (1945) by James Yaffe

"Murder Under Glass" (1947) by Joseph Commings

"The House in Goblin Wood" (1947) by Carter Dickson

"The Vanishing Trick" (1948) by Max Afford

"The Dauphin's Doll" (1948) by Ellery Queen

"Off the Face of the Earth" (1947) by Clayton Rawson

"From Another World" (1948) by Clayton Rawson

"Murder on a Bet" (1950) by H.C. Kincaid

"The Three Widows" (1950) by Ellery Queen

"Snowball in July" (1952) by Ellery Queen

"The Adventure of the Sealed Room" (1953) by John Dickson Carr & Adrian Conan Doyle

"Bones for Davy Jones" (1953) by Joseph Commings

"The Name on the Window" (1953) by Edmund Crispin

"The Thumbless Man" (1955) by Charles B. Child

"A Country to Sell" (1955) by Edmund Crispin

"The Glass Bridge" (1957) by Robert Arthur

"Dead Drunk" (1959) by Arthur Porges



Diplomatic Death (1961) by Charles Forsyte

Too Many Ghosts (1961) by Paul Gallico

Diving Death (1962) by Charles Forsyte

Murder Most Ingenious (1962) by Kip Chase

The Hand of Mary Constable (1964) by Paul Gallico

The Fox Valley Murders (1966) by John Holbrook Vance

Mr. Splitfoot (1968) by Helen McCloy

Death After Evensong (1969) by Douglas Clark

Black Aura (1974) by John Sladek

Inherit the Stars (1977) by James P. Hogan

Invisible Green (1977) by John Sladek

Leonardo's Law (1978) by Warren B. Murphy

More Dead Than Alive (1980) by Roger Ormerod

Hoodwink (1981) by Bill Pronzini

Scattershot (1982) by Bill Pronzini

Murdercon (1982) by Richard Purtill

The Tree of Death (1983) by Marcia Muller

The Gold Deadline (1984) by Herbert Resnicow

Bones (1985) by Bill Pronzini

The Dead Room (1987) by Herbert Resnicow

Killed on the Rocks (1990) by William L. DeAndrea

Original Sin (1991) by Mary Monica Pulver

The Key to the Case (1992) by Roger Ormerod

A Shot at Nothing (1993) by Roger Ormerod

The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (1994) by Lawrence Block

Bloodhounds (1996) by Peter Lovesey

Come to Paddington Fair (1997) by Derek Smith

Pattern of Murder (2006) by John Russell Fearn

Schemers (2009) by Bill Pronzini


"The Room at the End of the Hall" (1961) by Don Knowlton

"No Killer Has Wings" (1961) by Arthur Porges

"The X Street Murders" (1962) by Joseph Commings

"The Unguarded Path" (1963) by Arthur Porges

"Coffee Break" (1964) by Arthur Porges

"The Impossible Theft" (1964) by John F. Suter

"The Locked Room to End Locked Rooms" (1965) by Stephen Barr

"The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr" (1965) by William Brittain

"The Long Way Down" (1965) by Edward D. Hoch

"The Japanese Card Mystery" (1965) by James Holding

"The Impossible Murder of Dr. Satanus" (1965) by William Krohn

"The Scientist and the Wife Killer" (1966) by Arthur Porges

"Nobody Likes to be Played for a Sucker" (1969) by Michael Collins

"Odds Bodkins and the Locked Room Caper" (1969) by Richard Curtis

"The Theft from the Empty Room" (1972) by Edward D. Hoch

"By an Unknown Hand" (1972) by John Sladek

"The Locked Room" (1972) by John Sladek

"The Case of the Modern Medusa" (1973) by Edward D. Hoch

"The Half-Invisible Man" (1974) by Bill Pronzini & Jeffrey Wallmann

"Captain Leopold and the Impossible Murder" (1976) by Edward D. Hoch

"The Arrowmont Prison Riddle" (1976) by Bill Pronzini

"Scenes from the Country of the Blind" (1977) by John Sladek

"The Flung-Back Lid" (1979) by Peter Godfrey

"Where Have You Gone, Sam Spade?" (1980) by Bill Pronzini

"Booktaker" (1982) by Bill Pronzini

"The Theft of the White Queen's Menu" (1983) by Edward D. Hoch

"The Grand Guignol Caper" (1984) by Joseph Commings

"The Phantom Stallion (1985) by Edward D. Hoch

"Eternally Yours" (1985) by H. Edward Hunsburger

"An Almost Perfect Crime" (1987) by William F. Smith

"The Christmas Bear" (1990) by Herbert Resnicow

"The Problem of the Phantom Parlor" (1993) by Edward D. Hoch

"The Problem of the Crowded Cemetery” (1995) by Edward D. Hoch

"An Abundance of Airbags" (1995) by Edward D. Hoch

"The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke (1997) by Lawrence Block & Lynn Block

"The Problem of the Potting Shed (2000) by Edward D. Hoch

" Circus in the Sky" (2000) by Edward D. Hoch

"The Climbing Man" (2005) by Simon Clark

"With a Twist" (2005) by J.A. Konrath

"Murder at an Island Mansion" (2008) by Hal White

"Murder on a Caribbean Cruise" (2008) by Hal White

"The Haunted Room" (2014) by Gigi Pandian

"Not With a Bang" (2016) by Matt Ingwalson

"Flatline" (2018) by Robert Innes




Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room, 1907) by Gaston Leroux

La maison interdite (The Forbidden House, 1932) by M. Herbert & E. Wyl

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

Les invités de minuit (The Seventh Guest, 1935) by Gaston Boca

Ill mistero dell'idrovolante (The Flying Boat Mystery, 1935) by Franco Vailati

Honjin satsujin jiken (The Honjin Murders, 1946) by Seishi Yokomizo

Koude vrouw in Kralingen (Cold Woman in Kralingen, 1970) by Cor Doctor

Ättestupan (Deadly Reunion, 1975) by Jan Ekström

Senseijutsu satsujinjiken (The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, 1981) by Soji Shimada

Naname yashiki no hanzai (Murder in the Crooked House, 1982) by Soji Shimada

Shinsoban 8 no satsujin (The 8 Mansion Murders, 1989) by Takemaru Abiko

Koto pazuru (The Moai Island Puzzle, 1989) by Alice Arisugawa

Ikeru shikabane no shi (Death of the Living Death, 1989) by Yamaguchi Masaya

Operazakan – aratanaru satsujin (The New Kindaichi Files, 1994) by Seimaru Amagi

Le cercle invisible (The Invisible Circle, 1996) by Paul Halter

Ikazuchi matsuri satsujin jinken (Deadly Thunder, 1998) by Seimaru Amagi

L'homme qui aimait les nuages (The Man Who Loved Clouds, 1999) by Paul Halter

La toile de Pénélope (Penelope's Web, 2001) by Paul Halter

Misshitsu no kagi kashimasu (Lending the Key to the Locked Room, 2002) by Tokuya Higashigawa

Zaregoto series: kubikiri saikuru (Zaregoto: The Kubikiri Cycle, 2002) by NisiOisiN

La ruelle fantôme (The Phantom Passage, 2005) by Paul Halter

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

Seijo no kyusai (Salvation of a Saint, 2008) by Keigo Higashino

Een afgesloten huis (A Sealed House, 2013) by M.P.O. Books

Shijinso no satsujin (Death Among the Undead, 2017) by Masahiro Imamura

De man die zijn geweten ontlastte (The Man Who Relieved His Conscience, 2019) by Anne van Doorn

La montre en or (The Gold Watch, 2019) by Paul Halter

Rechercheur De Klerck en de ongrijpbare dood (Inspector De Klerck and the Elusive Death, 2020) by P. Dieudonné


"Yaneura no sanposha" ("The Stalker in the Attic," 1925) by Edogawa Rampo

"The Monster of the Lighthouse" (1935) by Keikichi Osaka

"The Cold Night's Clearing" (1936) by Keikichi Osaka

"The Demon in the Mine" (1937) by Keikichi Osaka

"Akai misshitsu" ("The Red Locked Room," 1954) by Tetsuya Ayukawa

"Shiroi misshitsu" ("The White Locked Room," 1958) by Tetsuya Ayukawa

"Doukeshi no ori" ("The Clown in the Tunnel," 1958) by Tetsuya Ayukawa

"De zaak van de bronzen waterreservoirs" ("The Case of the Bronze Water Reservoirs," 1973) by Bertus Aafjes

"Hakkyō-suru jūyaku" ("The Executive Who Lost His Mind," 1984) by Soji Shimada

"Ningyou wa tent de suiri suru" ("A Smart Dummy in the Tent," 1990) Takemaru Abiko

Midori no tobira wa kiken” ("The Lure of the Green Door," 1991) by Rintaro Norizuki

"La marchande de fleurs" ("The Flower Girl," 2000) by Paul Halter

"La hache" ("The Cleaver," 2000) by Paul Halter

"La vengeance de i'épouvantail" ("The Scarecrow's Revenge," 2005) by Paul Halter

"The Japanese Armor Mystery" (2005) by Mă Tiān

"L'abominable homme de neige" ("The Abominable Snowman," 2006) by Paul Halter

"The Miracle on Christmas Eve" (2016?) by Szu-Yen Lin

"De dichter die zichzelf oplsoot" ("The Poet Who Locked Himself In," 2017) by Anne van Doorn

"La livre jaune" ("The Yellow Book," 2017) by Paul Halter

"Het huis dat ongeluk bracht" ("The House That Brought Bad Luck," 2018) by Anne van Doorn



The Julius Caesar Murder Case (1935) by Wallace Irwin

The Bride of New Gate (1950) by John Dickson Carr

Captain Cut-Throat (1955) by John Dickson Carr

Fire, Burn! (1957) by John Dickson Carr

The Red Pavilion (1961) by Robert van Gulik

Case of Spirits (1975) by Peter Lovesey

A Murder in Thebes (1998) by Anna Apostolou

Goodnight Irene (2018) by James Scott Byrnside

The Spies of Sobeck (2008) by Paul Doherty

The Mysterium (2010) by Paul Doherty

The Opening Night Murders (2019) by James Scott Byrnside

The Strange Case of the Barrington Hills Vampire (2020) by James Scott Byrnside



The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat (1944) by Enid Blyton

The Mystery of the Invisible Thief (1950) by Enid Blyton

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

The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy (1965) by Robert Arthur

The Mystery of the Shrinking House (1972) by William Arden

Death Knell (1990) by Nicholas Wilde

The Worm Tunnel (1999) by Michael Dahl


"I Was the Kid with the Drum" (1937) by Theodore Roscoe

"The Thief of Claygate Farm" (1947) by John Russell Fearn



Whispering Wires (1918) by Henry Leverage

Death in the Dark (1930) by Stacey Bishop

Something Wrong at Chillery (1931) by R. Francis Foster

Damning Trifles (1932) by Maurice C. Johnson

The Man with Bated Breath (1934) by Joseph B. Carr

I'll Grind Their Bones (1936) by Theodore Roscoe

Devil's Planet (1942) by Manly Wade Wellman

They Walk in Darkness (1947) by Gerald Verner

Account Settled (1949) by John Russell Fearn

Exit for a Dame (1951) by Richard Ellington

Vision Sinister (1954) by John Russell Fearn

She Died Without Light (1956) by Nieves Mathews

Koromu no satsujin (Murder in the Red Chamber, 2004) by Taku Ashibe

The Man Who Was Not (2005) by John Russell Fearn

The Statue of Three Lies (2011) by David Cargill

Come One, Come All (2011) by Fredric Neuman


"The Diamond Lens" (1858) by Fitz-James O'Brien

"The Grosvenor Square Mystery" (1909) by Anonymous

"The Hills of Homicide" (1948) by Louis L'Amour

"The Closed Door" (1953) by Kendell Foster Crossen

"The Lurker in the Locked Bedroom" (1971) by Ed Bryant

"The Case of His Headless Highness" (1973) by Ellery Queen

Still not enough? You want more locked room lists? I have a list with "My Five Favorite Impossible Crime Stories from Case Closed, vol. 1-69" and back in 2017 I compiled a now outdated list with all the known Dutch-language locked room novels and short stories. I also put together two lists of lost media, "A Selection of Lost Detective Stories" and "A Return to the Phantom Library," which sadly has a lot of locked room mysteries that went unpublished and were eventually lost to history.