#232: Spoiler Warning – Coming in July: Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot


Following on from the spoiler-filled deconstruction of He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr and Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, I’m going ahead with another spoiler-filled deconstruction in the next couple of months, this time of Hake Talbot’s impossibility-laden masterpiece Rim of the Pit (1944).

Dan at The Reader is Warned has kindly agreed to join in this time, and so he and I will, like before, be reading this, sharing thoughts, and then posting the spoilerific results here at some point in July.  And you, dear friends, are invited once again to come along with us: read the book and pitch in, sharing your thoughts and findings in the manner that has made the first two attempts at this sort of thing such fun.

Rim of the Pit — opening line, “I came up here to make a dead man change his mind,” — concerns a group of family and hangers-on isolating themselves in two snowbound cabins, and before long they find themselves dealing with ghostly visitations, flying murderers, demonic possession, and evil spirits on the march.  It was voted the second-greatest impossible crime novel of all time by a panel of people who know about this sort of thing in 1981, and could conceivably give the header of that list, John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man (1935), a run for its money.  It is awesome, and there will be much to discuss.

So, find a copy — Ramble House have reprinted it, available both as a tree-book and an e-book — get your reading, thinking, and analysing hats on, and we’ll see you here in July for the main event.  I mean, feel free to come back in the meantime, too, but whatever Dan and I come up with on this won’t be up until some time in July.  More news on that as, y’know, it happens.


That list of 14 books would actually makes a great series for these Spoiler Warning posts, but I didn’t want to do a third Carr on the trot and so we’re starting at the next book along.  Expect other books on the list — possibly all of ’em, who knows? — to follow in due course…

13 thoughts on “#232: Spoiler Warning – Coming in July: Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot

  1. I own it . . . I’ll read it . . . I’ll join in. You and your Dan go and have your little RotP tete a tete! Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit in a corner. Or maybe I’ll go pick up some stranger and we’ll have our own little spoiler warning by ourselves, Mister JJ Man! You see if I won’t!


  2. Hmmmmm. The ‘Top 14 Impossible Crimes’ strikes me as slightly idiosyncratic. ‘The Hollow Man’ no doubt deserves its top billing, but the selections for Helen McCloy and Ellery Queen, as well as some of the other entries for John Dickson Carr seem underwhelming. I wasn’t overwhelmed by ‘The Crooked Hinge’, and I’ve only heard lukewarm things about ‘The King is Dead’. I don’t even recall the locked-room scenario in ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’…


    • You raise some good points. Might be worth looking at what’s wrong with them, though, and why they don’t necessarily work. Or, well, maybe I won’t do this list and the whole thing will pass from memory. Let’s see where we’re at two years from now!


    • I thought the list of 99 locked room mysteries was more interesting and problematic, especially all those novels from other countries that I sadly guess I will never read. I think it stretches the notion of what we have termed “an impossible crime” to consider titles like THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES just because the matter of administering the poison is unknown till the end. But if that IS the case, then I’m more of an expert and impossible crime maven than I ever thought!

      John, I’m reversed in your opinions of The Hollow Man and The Crooked Hinge. I get why THM is number one, but in terms of sheer enjoyment, I wouldn’t even put it on the list, while TCH may have a ridiculous solution (not my judgment but that of better men than me), but the whole affair is so much more enjoyable and, well, human to me. I guess Through a Glass Darkly qualifies as an impossible crime because the whole “doppleganger” thing is unusual. But I would never have called it a locked room mystery, and the solution is a trifle underwhelming. (But it is a very good book.) The King Is Dead IS a locked room mystery but not a very good one, for reasons that have to do with more than just the puzzle aspect. It’s another one of the Queens’ literary sledgehammers, where they hit you over the head with a political slash biblical metaphor until you’re bleeding almost as much as “King” Kane Bendigo, the victim!


      • Ah yes, I can see why ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ is in the list, given that the criterion was ‘impossibility’ rather than ‘locked room’ – which slightly embarrasses me, given that I once made a long comment about ‘Hag’s Nook’ having potential impossible elements given its supernatural set-up.

        I don’t think I liked ‘Crooked Hinge’ much. I read it on my birthday, thinking that it would be a treat… But apart from some strange mechanics relating to the ‘locked room’ set up (in inverted commas as it wasn’t in a room!), I didn’t even think the novel was put together or written especially well. It was quite nicely bizarre, but some parts were overly protracted.


        • In many ways, the use of the impossibility in Through a Glass Darkly — namely, a person being in two places at once — is exceptionally clever, but there’s just something about it that doesn’t quite ring true for me…possibly because it was so easy to see through, I guess, and it never really convinces me that enough people would be unnerved by something so…basic.

          That said, I do really love how long McCloy leaves it before confirming the precise nature of the unease surrounding Faustina Crayle, and the working in of…certain aspects…is very clever. In many ways, this would be a perfect future Spoiler Warning post, because I feel there is a lot to discuss and it’s only a short book. But one of the 15 best impossible crimes ever? No, not by a long shot.

          Crooked Hinge is one I really enjoyed, but I can see how people could have problems with it. Like certain other Carrs (Ten Teacups, Death-Watch) there’s onetiny element that, if stressed, would make a massive difference, and I find it interesting that someone with Carr’s level of insight into chicanery and charlatanism doesn’t make more of it. But, well, so be it, I guess.

          Wow, this doesn’t really seem like I’ve added all that much. My apologies.


  3. Pingback: Rim of the Pit – Hake Talbot (1944) – The Green Capsule

  4. Pingback: DEAD MAN WALKING, PART ONE: Hake Talbot’s Rim of the Pit | ahsweetmysteryblog

  5. Pingback: #268: Spoiler Warning 3 – Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot | The Invisible Event

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