#380: The Men Who Explain Miracles – Episode 5.2: Dan’s 15 Favourite Impossible Crime Novels + Bonus Material!

TMWEM Top 15

Last week you had the opportunity to pick through my choices for the 15 best impossible crime novels of all time; this week, in the second and final part of our episode on this theme, it’s Dan’s turn.

The key difference this week is that Dan has actually given his books an order (my “pull them out of a hat while written on bits of paper” method being too self-consciously retro for his tastes), and so you get to discover what he says is currently his favourite impossible crime novel ever.

As I said last week, I’ll post the actual lists somewhere at some point, but in the meantime we hope you enjoy listening and discovering Dan’s choices.  And, once you’re done, be sure to check out his thoughts on all manner of impossible crime fiction and other classic detection at his blog, The Reader is Warned.

Okay, on with the show…


Nine months after the posting of this, I’m now adding Dan’s list of books, which from memory I’m pretty sure is:

The Crooked Wreath (1947) by Christianna Brand
The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939) by John Dickson Carr
The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939) by John Dickson Carr
Till Death Do Us Part (1944) by John Dickson Carr
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938) by Agatha Christie
The Peacock Fether Murders (1938) by Carter Dickson
The Reader is Warned (1939) by Carter Dickson
She Died a Lady (1943) by Carter Dickson
A Graveyard to Let (1949) by Carter Dickson
Killer’s Wedge (1959) by Ed McBain
Murder on the Way! (1935) by Theodore Roscoe
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981) by Soji Shimada
Rim of the Pit 91944) by Hake Talbot
The Big Bow Mystery (1892) by Israel Zangwill


But wait, there’s more!  Not everything we record makes it into these episodes — I insist on singing a show tune, but we never have the money for the copyright — and Dan felt the following would alter the focus of this episode a little too much.

We did, however, want to share this snippet of conversation because, well, we found it interesting, and would welcome any views anyone has.  What’s it about?  Well, listen and find out…

Also, yes, La Maison Interdit is by Michel Herbert and Eugene Wyl, and not Marcel Lanteaume.  That’s also something that played a part in the excision of the above; my typing shames me enough without also getting my classic-era French impossibility authors confused.  Man, I may never be able to show my face again.


Two months from now we have something lined up that I’m so excited about I daren’t even mention it in advance as it may not come off.  Rest assured, it will absolutely be worth this entirely taken-on-trust anticipation should it happen, so here’s hoping we see you in June with that.

Because if it doesn’t come off, it’ll be an episode of my one-man show of Le Miserable and to hell with the lawyers…

95 thoughts on “#380: The Men Who Explain Miracles – Episode 5.2: Dan’s 15 Favourite Impossible Crime Novels + Bonus Material!

  1. Heavy representation form Carr, which is no criticism of course. A few of those – Graveyard, Wire Cage – which I have yet to read.
    I’m pleased to see Brand included in there, well deserved. Also, it’s nice to see McBain get added. His writing in general is superb and rather addictive, and your choice here is one of the best I’ve come across by him – a cracking book quite apart from the impossible element of one of the plot strands.

    • Thanks Colin! As I mentioned in this episode I am still early days when it comes to GAD so I have naturally consumed a lot of Carr – To be honest we could have both done a list of just Carr’s works and it would have been amazing! Hope you like Graveyard and Wire Cage, they are both experimental and interesting books, Carr is really trying something different with each of them.

      And the Brand and McBain are just pure favourites. Your right about his writing style, it totally carries you along.

  2. So I listened through the entire podcast and the list leans heavy on Carr’s work, but who can hold that against you, Dan? After all, who was better than Carr when it came to the impossible crime story? Some of your picks were, however, surprising.

    The Problem of the Wire Cage is not a title likely to make even make onto a top 10 list of Dr. Fell novels, let alone one for impossible crimes in general. You made some great points in its favor, but everyone’s problem with it is that the victim has to be incredibly dense for the trick to work. A Graveyard to Let is a late, funny story (scene in the subway!), but remember the plot only being so-so and figured out the impossible disappearance from the swimming pool.

    However, I agree with you on She Died a Lady, The Problem of the Green Capsule and Till Death Do Us Part, but would have exchanged The Peacock Feather Murders for The Plague Court Murders.

    On a whole, an interesting list (even with the Carr’s) with some lesser-known gems, like Murder on the Way, Killer’s Wedge and The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, that really deserve a spot on these best-of lists.

    By the way, Dan, if you’re interested in mysteries about sculptors and sculptures, I can recommend Lenore Glen Offord’s My True Love Lies (body in sculpture in art class) and Maureen Sarsfield’s Murder at Shots Hall (sculptor heroine).

    • Glad you liked the list and thanks for the recommendations, will get on those for sure!

      I still don’t think the Wire Cage victim is dense for what happens to him. Without spoilers the relationship he had with the killer says otherwise to me. Also he doesn’t know he is in a detective novel! Or does he? Another discussion maybe.

      I am with you in guessing the impossible swimming pool disappearance early on, and as I say a third of the plot could be done away with – but it’s this haunting thing. I can’t get away from how much I enjoyed every moment of it!

      There was a toss up between Plague Court and Ten Tea Cups (both you could say with controversial solutions?!), but it’s TTC’s that continues to stick with me more than Plague Court. But at the same time as I said in JJ’s episode, PC still names me feel terrified! Though I don’t think in was enamored with the killer as you were, although that is an extremely clever twist on proceedings.

  3. A bit of an improvement for me, as I have read 4 of the listed books this time :). Like Dan, I LOVED Poirot’s Christmas and was COMPLETELY blown away by the solution . I personally did not have any problem with the solution to impossibility in Ten Teacups but as discussed in your spoiler post, the murderer’s plan was quite inconsistent.
    Till death do us part has a story which sticks with you and I too was decieved by the ‘object in the room’.

    One thing that particularly suprised me was the omission of Judas window from both the lists. I have not read it but almost all the mystery bloggers seem to be in unanimous agreement that it is the finest of Merrivale.

    • “One thing that particularly suprised me was the omission of Judas window from both the lists.”
      Also surprising are the omissions of He Who Whispers and The Three Coffins !

      • Three Coffins is an amazing, amazing books, with a wonderful set up and I must read it again soon. But as much of my list was built around what books have really stuck with me it doesn’t hold me in the same way. It was my first Carr, and definitely not the best to start with, which I think has marred my view of it.

        He Who Whispers is also amazing, but I guessed what was going on with the impossibility early on (in the first few chapters) and I feel like there is very little detection, and more simple revelation. But it has my favourite start to any Carr book. The description if a post-war bombed London in the rain is gorgeous.

        • Actually, yeah, the lack of detection in HHW is also a flaw for me. And there are possibilities not discussed that would definitely have to be under consideration were it investigated “properly”…but never are. Still a very good book, but a second-tier Carr for me.

      • He Who Whispers I distinctly cooled on when Brad and I reread it for a Spoiler Warning last year; Three Coffins/The Hollow Man was something I feel is already on plenty of lists, so I wanted to get other Carrs in the limelight (always assuming that anyone pays any attention to what I think…)

    • Glad you are mainly in agreement here Sherlock. And hope you are inspired to read more. The solution to TTC is a controversial one, and heavily debated. But it certainly did grow on me more and more. And I often think that as a TV episode/film it would realise itself much more.

      Judas Window is an interesting one. I really really enjoyed, and your are burning the pages to read through it. But its the solution – which is very good admittedly – which I think slows down the end of the books dramatically. It would certainly be in a top 20 – for the set up alone. I know JJ has some critical thoughts on Judas Window.

    • Judas Window I’ve always enjoyed much more — as I said in the Ed Hoch list episodes — for the midway reveal than for the impossible crime. It’s…fine, but not to me the classic everyone else seems to see.

      In terms of Merrivale, I’d easily put Plague Court Murders, Punch and Judy Murders, The Reader is Warned, He Wouldn’t Kill Patience, She Died a Lady, and probably a couple of others that escape me ahead of it. I think the book overall is about on par with The Oeacock Feather Murders and Death in Five Boxes as second-tier Merrivale; but that’s probably another post altogether.

      • I find The Judas Window to somewhat be a sister-book to Till Death Do Us Part. The glaring similarity is the set up of the impossibility and the question as to whether the obvious suspect was really the culprit. Then there’s the top-notch pacing. Both books may well be Carr’s finest hours in terms of unleashing revelation after revelation. To put either book down midway through is an exercise in restraint. There’s another similarity that I won’t get into because I feel it would risk spoilers, but I imagine you can guess what I’m getting at.

        • Totally. They are both unputdownable for sure. And I think Judas Window is probably to more ‘famous’ or ‘regarded’ of the two because it really is a very pure locked room set up. I think these two have similarities in another way relating to what you have said, which is also the main idea of He Who Whispers, that of someone who is persecuted seemingly wrongly (if that makes sense)

          • Yeeesss, both HWW and TJW center around wrongly persecuted characters – but two more different stories – in tone, mechanical aspects, etc. – from the same author I cannot imagine. TJW was my first taste of Carter Dickson, whom I had purposely ignored as a lad, and I fell in love with it. The humor of the trial scenes, the central impossibility – all of it I loved. Then I got to the ending. I loved the who, but honestly who in their right mind is expected to possess the specialized knowledge to figure out that how? Still, I liked it more than The Reader Is Warned!!!!

            HWW did to me what the books on your list did to you, Dan . . . it haunted me for days. I read the last sentence and I wanted more than anything to have a friend – anyone! – in the vicinity to talk about this with. God, being a GAD fan can be so f**king lonely!

            • Yes indeed. We’re rather spoiled these days by being able to chew the fat over this stuff via the internet – those days when you read something (or watched something) and then had absolutely no-one to rave to about it now seem both distant and also close enough to remind us of the fun to be had from these little online communities.
              The Judas Window is, I agree, terrific fun but He Who Whispers has real heart and there’s something genuine and rather fine in Carr’s approach to the central character. There’s a decency there that transcends the genre, something that raises the book and the author to a whole different level for me.

            • I definitely felt like this before I reread it…so maybe there’s something to be said for the timing of my reread. Or maybe my tastes have moved on. Given that I’m now going to try and redo Carr chronologically from where I am — which will encompass quite a few rereads — I’m very curious to see how certain books fare at a second approach. Man, maybe it’ll turn out that I don’t like him at all, and I’ve been a closet Gladys Mitchell fan all along… 😛

            • That’s why we’re so lucky to have the range of tastes and opinions we have: even if you knew people two doors down who shared a love of these books, man it would be so frustrang that they kept going on about how superb PD James was and what a hack Brand was and how brilliant the Nicholas Blake novels are when you read them as a critique on British colonialism.

              This way, I get you defaming Rupert Penny (while championing Ellery Queen, of all the effrontery!), but also Noah appreciating the man’s strengths and appeal, and you can rinse and repeat this for all of us who orbit these various sites. If we did know people to discuss this with face-to-face, we’d be online in a shot looking for someone to support our opinion anyway. Win/win,.

            • Not only the racial element, there are also other problems with the book which I shall enumerate after re-reading the book.
              The racial elements are much worse in Murder On The Way !

            • I think the issue is hard to describe without spoilers, so in the most general terms, the teeny tiny cast made it difficult NOT to guess the killer, and a certain action early in the proceedings totally confirmed it for me. Honestly, though, Dan, I should wait a year or two and give this a re-read.

  4. Another Fascinating List!
    She Died a Lady is actually my favorite Carter Dickson and was also my first ever Carr read,giving it a special place in my heart and making me feel really pleased at its inclusion.
    I really do need to get to reading Murder on the Way! as it seems to have near universal praise in this community.
    I am even more pleased at SAHR and its inclusion.You listed nearly all of the reasons why I love it to death perfectly,especially the monologue Bella gives.
    Hercule Poirots Christmas was a early read for me as well.I went from being a Agatha Christie only fanboy to a impossible crime fanatic partially due to this novel and Murder in Mesopotamia.
    I actually solved The Problem of the Green Capsule like Dan,but that doesn’t at all deter me from thinking the novel doesn’t deserve a spot on the list.It is probably the greatest impossible alibi story ever written.
    The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a book that I’ve been meaning to get for a long time but it’s always been overshadowed by other books.I think that your praise of the novel has really tipped me over the edge on it,Dan.
    I had a feeling that Till Death Do Us Part would be your 1st place choice and it certainly holds mine.

    • Thanks Bekir! Glad you enjoyed it and that your are as enthusiastic about these titles as I am. SDAL is not a bad way to start your relationship with Carr!

      Tokyo Zodiac Murders is 100% worth your time, and if you like the kind of books from my list this will be so up your street. Hugely underrated! And the solutions, oh man you are in for a treat!!/

      • My money says that Tokyo Zodiac Murders ia about 68% worth your time, but that is at least in part due to the only extant English translation being very clunky. It’s a book that will hopefully merit an upgrade and re-edit before too long, because I’m sure there’s a musch better book in there somewhere if someone is willing to trim and reprurpose bits of it. But the resolution is, as I said in the above, one of those “Holy hell!” moments I have experienced all-too-infrequently in my reading.

  5. Just listened to part 2, another extremely enjoyable experience … no flak from this quarter, but I do think both you guys need to read Death of Jezebel before too much longer!!
    Congratulations, gentlemen — important and interesting work.

    • I have read Death of Jezebel — it was on my list! Dan would have read it, too, but I’m not letting my copy out of my sight…!

      Thanks for the kind words. We’re delighted to think people are finding this interesting, and chuffed to have so many perspectives added in these conversations.

  6. As I unpack my suitcase and rethink my June vacation plans, I find myself with the time to reflect on this list and on the very nature of what goes into anyone creating a list. I have been trying – and failing – to conceive a post that deals with this very subject. But one point that fascinates me is this: considering that we are all rabid fans of a relatively small body of literature, our opinions are measured by such a wide variety of criteria.

    I think the challenge for me personally (and really, when it comes down to it, doesn’t everything revolve around me?) is the love I feel for so many impossible crime mysteries balanced against my relative antipathy for the mechanics of impossible crime mysteries. To illustrate using a few of your choices, Dan:

    The Problem of the Wire Cage: The first half of this novel is utterly terrific: the four young people grappling with their problems over tennis and inclement weather while the crippled man discusses murder with Sup. Hadley upstairs; the hero coming upon the heroine as she slinks away from a dead body – clearly the only person who could have killed the odious swain; and the subsequent investigation told – with all the tension of the very best Columbo episodes – exclusively from the point of view of the two suspects who have broken enough laws to go to prison whether or not they killed anyone . . . all of this is amazing. But the second murder and the solution at the end all seem utterly mechanical and anti-climactic to me. It almost felt like a maths problem, and God in heaven, who would want to face that?!?!?!?

    She Died a Lady: In all fairness, you didn’t ignore what makes this one so special – you just sort of glossed over it. I guess the impossible stuff is just fine (I have sort of forgotten most of that part of the solution as I usually do), but the revelations of everything else are so utterly jaw-dropping that this has to rate as top-drawer Carr on my list forever more.

    I think when it comes to my preferences, I will always have a soft-spot for the human element, which don’t always figure into locked room mechanics. That’s why He Who Whispers ranks at the top of my Carr list: I might have glommed onto the killer right away (without really understanding anything yet about their plot), but the story unfolds with such feeling, the murderer’s second attack is so chilling, and the final page is so heart-rending and surprising without having a damn thing to do with the murder that I felt Carr had achieved something special that he really hadn’t done before. Why on earth should this aspect interest mystery fans, you ask. That question strikes at the heart of my fascination with how differently we approach the same material.

    Hercule Poirot’s Christmas: I think what I love about this one is that it strikes the perfect balance between the three main elements of WHO, HOW, and WHY more than a lot of impossible crime mysteries do. The answer to each of these questions is equally riveting in this book, and without going into any spoilers, the elements are beautifully interdependent on each other. If you ever want to give JJ a run for his money on these spoiler episodes, Dan, I’ll tackle HPC with you! 🙂

    Suddenly At His Residence: I think I need to re-read all of Christianna Brand for the reason that I love her as much as I love Christie all of whose stories I have re-read multiple times. I feel I do a disservice to Brand by having covered her books just once and at such an early stage of my reading (and my life.) Excellent clueing, brilliant false solutions, yes – but Brand’s greatest achievement is the human element: how she makes you like, and laugh over, and really care about five or six people . . . all while she keeps hammering home that one of them is a killer. That’s why Green for Danger and Tour de Force – JJ’s least favorite Brand titles – are so devastating to me. The other titles are more vague in my memory. So while I always say I’m going to re-read this or that (I’m re-collecting all of the Peter and Iris Duluth novels by Patrick Quentin, for example), I do think Brand deserves my closer study. Heck, she deserves everyone’s closer study. She is truly one of the greats.

    P.S. Guys, I was honored to be used as the red herring for your next podcast. My actual true honest plan is to save up to spend a week in London in June 2019, to attend the Bodies in the Library event with ALL of you, and if you can time it right, to be a guest on your podcast. You don’t even have to mention my name. My alias will be . . . “The Human Factor.”

    • You’re — of course — absolutely right about the wide criteria we bring to such a small body of literature. Equally, perhaps coming at a subgenre that is all about misdirection and oversight purely for what you call the human factor could well be why you’re not so taken with these: there has to come a point where a piece of misdirection that is going to be essentially a spirited piece of logomachy. Human elements no doubt exist — look at Christie’s Appointment with Death, which is impossible purely because of the character dynamic of one person — but they’re not going to be the focus in the overwhelming majority of this type of scheme.

      The human angle (relying at is does on psychology and so much that is left unsaid) being an explanation of a physical impossibility is always going to feel a little pale when so much is made of how physically impossible something has been — consider something like Wilders Walk Away, which comes down to a lot of psychological reasoning for physical disappearances…great, but the physical aspect of those disappearances must also be explained. There’s a discord there, I think, and one that is very difficult to resolve.

      That’s not to say that novels featuring impossible crimes are without any human element at all; they are just found elsewhere, often kept away from the necessary mechanics. The example that immediately jumps to mind here is Henry Merrivale getting the murderer to confess at the end of He Wouldn’t Kill Patience, where we’re very much away from the impossible setup. Incidentally, I fought my way through the explanation of Ngaio Marsh’s Off with His Head, and it’s a perfect psychological explanation of what happens…but it deliberately misleads about physical aspects of that situation in order to make it more mysterious (at least it appears to from the bits I’ve read) and so falls down.

      In short…I dunno. We’ll look forward to hosting you next June!

      • I didn’t mean to suggest that I’m only drawn to impossible crimes whose solution depends on emotional or psychological factors – although those can be lovely! A good trick is a good trick, whether it involves how, who, or why! I remember being impressed with, of all things, the trick about the empty room in Halter’s The Fourth Door. It’s pure mechanics – and incredibly daring on the part of the murderer – but then so are the majority of impossible crime scenarios; that’s where the fun is (and where the line between ingenuity and ridiculousness is drawn!) Conversely, that massively complex plot in The Hollow Man at least partly depends on the relationships between certain people, but the book still leaves me cold.

        I guess the point I make here has to do with you calling He Who Whispers second tier Carr based on the impossibility and lack of clueing in that direction. I totally get that and certainly don’t criticize your opinion – and yet it’s such a beautifully written novel and so daring for its time, and the final decision is so emotionally devastating – so much more so than in 90% of Carr’s other work, that it feels top drawer to me, for reasons other than the mechanics.

        Dan excuses one of the biggest criticisms of the murder plan in Wire Cage based on the emotional relationship between two characters. Here’s where feelings enter into mechanics . . . although I don’t really buy Dan’s argument here, I have to assume that the victim’s egocentricity is so great that he would allow what follows to follow. This might be the point for the rich presentation of what a doink the victim is!

        • I have to agree with your summation of He Who Whispers Brad!
          The emotional and human aspect of the novel is a incredible and the last page is certainly heart wrenching.
          It’s a novel that isn’t just the impossible crime.Its a novel where both the crime and the horror and humanity of murder mix.
          The cruelty of the killers plot is shocking in how horrific it is and the way Carr deals with a certain characters “issue” is quite profound.
          Maybe I’m overestimating the novel and what it does,but in my opinion it is one of Carr’s classics and certainly the second best Fell novel.

            • It is Till Death Do Us Part of course.
              It’s always been a battle between this and HWW for the top spot on my list,but I choose TDDUS because it just feels so much more complete.
              Like HWW the impossible crime isn’t center stage and also like HWW the characters are so beautifully drawn.
              The novel twists and turns and has so many shocking revelations throughout the novel.
              The beginning scene is so mouthwatering and it just gets better from there.
              Sure,part of the final explanation is quite disappointing but everything else is just right.
              I recently re read the book and it just really struck me the second time,wayyyyyy more than the first.
              It’s amazing how Carr was able to produce these two novels back to back and if you look real closely you really do start to see all the similarities.
              Persecuted female leads,past crimes,the characters,etc.

          • As a character piece it is wonderful, I don’t deny, and Fey Seaton is a strikingly-realised and surpringly full character to find in such a book…but in the same way that other would downgrade fabulous plot for poor characters, I’ll equally hold both plot and character equally accountable. The gap between the quality of the two here is far too glaring to ignore.

            • While I know where you’re coming from here, I had no real issues with the plot and didn’t pick the culprit before the reveal – I know, that may not be a badge of honor but I did work out the trick in Nine Times Nine, so there! – so that part of it all didn’t trouble me/ Of course, in general, I think I will take a good (and in this case, progressive and refreshing) bit of character work over a slight flaw in the plotting.
              Actually, I really like the way we all appreciate or value certain elements of these works in different ways. It makes the chat so much more stimulating.

            • Well each to his own I guess 😀.
              HWW has a very nice impossibility but I’ll admit the clueing is a tad weak.I read the book very early in my Carr reading odyssey and the crime really amazed me back then.
              I really should re read the novel soon in order to see how my opinion may or may not change.
              The balance of character and plot is very important and it’s the reason that a book like Five Little Pigs is my favorite Christie with After the Funeral a close second.But I do sometimes hold plot more accountable than character and vice versa and that usually happens when I read a author I have read for a long time.
              Can’t wait for the mysterious new installment in 2 months.The air of mystery is killing me!

        • This whole emotions/mechanics plot/character is a wonderful discussion point. Again for me with this list, it was the haunting aspect that was most important, and therefore it was anything from character, clueing, plot, solution etc that made each book stand out for me – and each one was different in that respect.

          Tokyo Zodiac for the chilling atmosphere, plus the absolute killer solution – The Wire Cage for one aspect of the solution which I raved about in the Spoiler Warning discussion on here, and for the extremes of tension and humour (the net testing description, and the one object fallen from the pocket for example).

          I think there are interesting discussions to be had around the ideas of how we have very personal responses to books based on a million different factors (sometimes even including how you were feeling at the time of reading the book, and what the weather was like!) – and then things then kind of transcend personal baggae and experience to as they reveal new ideas to you – or as they are in the form of the genre’s ‘rules’ and ‘restrictions’ for want of some much better terms.

          There are things we love about this genre because it is this genre, and how books do the most amazing things within the specific frame work, then things that are down to personal taste and personality.

            • Given that ATTWN is discussed to death, a look at her less-heralded impossible crimes might be fun…I’d love to pick apart Appointment with Death in detail, for instance.

            • I would love to do this, I think as Brad said earlier the way she approached the few impossibles she wrote are very interesting. The short impossible The Dream is one I have always loved by her as well.

            • What are all the Christie impossibles?
              And Then There Were None
              Roger Ackroyd
              Hercule Poirots Christmas
              Appointment with Death
              Murder in Mesapotamia
              The Dream (short story)

              Are there anymore?

            • You could argue that The Mysterious Affair at Styles is an impossible crime. Is there an impossible element to Three-Act Tragedy, too? I don’t want to discuss details here, but a question of “how could this have been done?” is brought up in both novels?

            • I’d question the impossible nature of Three-Act Tragedy, but I know what you mean. Equally, I’m not too sure about Roger Ackroyd, but I did know the solution to that going in and so perhaps I overlooked hte impossible element (and, hey, I didn’t even know there was such a thing back then, either…).

              There’s an impossible shooting in Why Ddn’t They Ask Evans?, right?

            • Yes, there is an impossible shooting in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? In fact, it is initially regarded as a suicide, but finally turns out to be murder. However, the solution is mediocre.

            • I think that to regard The Mysterious Affair At Styles as an impossible crime story would be stretching it too far. The only apparent impossibility here is regarding the administration of the poison since strychnine is a fast-acting poison. The impossibility is explained by a Chemistry-based solution !

            • Santosh has replied about Styles, which is just as well since I remember virtually nothing about that book. There is a bit with marks made in a flower bed, and, uh…

            • Hmm . . . No one can figure out how the woman was poisoned, and the solution requires technical knowledge. Nope – nothing like you standard impossible crime novel at all.

              And don’t start getting snide about Christie’s first mystery. You don’t see me ever being rude over books you like, do you? Well, do you?

              P.S. Not re-reading Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? for nobody!!!

            • Who’s being snide? I can remember nothing about it. I do remember enjoying WDTAE?, but that means nothing, as already covered elsewhere.

  7. I love your approach, Dan, of providing “favorite” impossible crimes, rather than necessarily the “top” ones. There’s a bit of a subtle difference, isn’t there? The Problem of the Wire Cage is definitely one of my favorites, but I don’t know that I would say that it is one of the best.

    I’m again delighted to see The Reader is Warned included in a list – could this be the start of a heightening of reputation in the years to come?

    I’m pretty much exactly halfway through Suddenly at His Residence – the inquest has just ended. The fact that I’m not going to get an opportunity to finish the book until tomorrow is pure agony.

    My one criticism of your list – how daaaaaare you have The Problem of the Green Capsule so far down! Heresy! I’m surprised JJ didn’t smack you with a book!

    Well, I’m kidding of course – I’m the first to argue that TPotGC isn’t really an impossible crime. Of course, this is coming from the same guy who claims that Green for Danger is! [Ducks…]

    • I do hope you enjoy Suddenly at his Residence.
      It certainly is my favorite of Brand’s novels and is a true masterpiece.

    • Is there the sense of The Reader is Warned being underappreciated, then? I tend to avoid too much in the way of discussion about books I’ve not read — especially by Carr, and especially after my Burning Court experience — so I wouldn’t be aware if this was the case, but is it actually defamed in some way? Or is it just a case of other books being seen a more go-to Carrs a la Everyone Recommends The Hollow Man?

        • Yes I haven’t seen it criticised but also not seen it lauded, but it should certainly be more regarded. Maybe again it’s down to things like the Ed Hoch list and the Lacourbe list that lift certain Carr books, for example, up for further debate and discussion while leaving others behind?

    • Yes! There is a BIG difference between ‘favourites’ and ‘the best’, and I am coming to see that more and more these days. Graveyard to Let for example I solved very early on and would cut out a third of the book as I said in this episode… but I LOVED it, and therefore it stays with me. It’s not something I would give to someone to begin with, but it was wonderful for me. Myself and JJ did in fact talk about the idea of have a ‘books to start off the genre with’ discussion and why we would recommend them.

      Will you be writing about SAHR?

      • I’ll be writing about SAHR, although I’m a bit backed up on some posts. I have a review of a controversial Carr title to finish, which should be fun.

        I’d love a post by you and JJ about “books to start with” – it would lead to fun debate. Plus, I would have loved it a few years ago when I was getting into the genre. In fact, if you guys want to collaborate…

  8. Thanks for the shortlist, Dan. 😬 I appreciated the mention of a lesser-known Brand, but I’m torn between “Tour de Force” and “Crooked Wreath”. I didn’t manage to guess the ending for “Wreath”, but did so for “Tour” – but respect the boldness for “Tour” more.

    I think “Green Capsule”, for me, suffered for being the second Carr I read – when I still had yet to get used to Carr’s dramatics. That shooting scene that JJ asssiduously dis-remembers was probably the thing that made me 🙄😑. It’s the only Carr I’ve re-read, and I felt more favourable towards it the second time round.

    • Thanks again for tuning in JFW. Glad you enjoyed it. I totally see what you mean about the difference between TDF and CW, particularly in the idea of boldness as you said. But yes I saw through the conceit early on, and because I know Brand is better than that I was surprised that it was then the actual solution to it all. But the book itself is a beauty, and there are so so many awesome scenes, not to mention the final few chapters!

      You may find it very funny to note that for some reason I cannot remember that shooting from The Green Capsule scene either! And I can see why it suffered from being a second Carr book. As I was saying in the podcast it really needs to be seen as an essay/piece of study on the form, and if you are not that comfortable with Carr’s work, it won’t work for you at all. Many books in the genre are like that I think. Books that require you to have read a good amount of the genre before reading them. Could be another nice list?

  9. Another enjoyable collection of novels. I like that you, Dan, managed to pick quite a lot of titles that J. J. didn’t have in his list. I like the inclusion of Crispin, who really needs to be mentioned in these parts.

    I wouldn’t necessary pick all the same novels that Dan did (and I haven’t read the McBain one, so can’t comment on that), but generally there’s nothing much I’d say definitely doesn’t belong. I would, like so many others here in the comments section, not choose “A Graveyard to Let”, but that’s no biggie. Personal preferences should also be satisfied.

    The main name I miss from these two lists is Boucher/Holmes, who’s written a couple of nice ones.

    • Thanks so much Christian, glad you enjoyed it. I’ve only read the one Boucher locked room from the Ed Hoch list so I need to read a few more, but I imagine something by him would make it into my top 15 in the future. I am always hearing good things about The Solid Key for instance.

  10. Another very enjoyable episodes folks – I’d love to be able to provide some detailed responses but mostly it’d be ‘I haven’t read that yet but it’s now on the TBR list’.

    I did go ahead and order a copy of A Graveyard to Let based on this conversation though. It sounds really fun.

    • Many thanks, and feel free to come back and add thoughts at any future point once you’ve read any of those TBRs. I’ll be here for a while yet (I hope).

      Also, there’s an S.S. van Dine book — I believe it’s The Dragon Murder Case — that also has someone jumping into a pool and disappearing. If you’re interested in that kind of thing.

      • I will endeavor to do remember to do so. Thanks for the van Dine recommendation – if it turns out that swimming pool impossibilities are a thing for me then I will be sure to check it out. 🙂

  11. All right Dan, you’re next. 😛

    I disagree with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders being on the list, or at least as high up as it is. Was it influential? Yes. Does it deserve recognition? Yes. But the book itself is a little weak for me. “That trick” is excellent, yes, but the rest is a little too plodding for my liking, and the locked room is disappointing, compared to the excellent and perfect false solution. *That* is the trick I’m thinking of and kicking myself for not thinking of! Unless I’m horribly misremembering the details, always possible. But I think that was the only real disagreement I had, the list was unique and different from JJ;s, which is nice. Good job 😀 (Now do short stories). 😛

    • For my own part, I’d love to do a short story list, and this is something Dan and I have talked about, but I am also a good few years of reading off having the coverage necessary. Perhaps when we update these lists five years from now we can each do a shorter form list, too, as an added bonus.


      Thanks Dark One! I am in agreement with you about the locked room actually. I prefer the false solution than the actual one also, but I also think it was a pretty bold move to throw a false solution as good as that out so early on, and then write another one. But also the real solution links pretty beautifully to the final solution of the murders of the daughters. And it’s the solution to the daughters murders that is just out of this world amazing for me.

      • Oh no, perfectly fair. I was semi-spoiled on the trick so maybe it didn’t hold the same wham for me. Still a good one, and I’d read another Shimada any day, I’m just not sure if I’d use this an the intro. But to each his own, maybe someone going in more blind than me would have a better time with it. 😛

  12. I regard only 4 Christie novels as strictly impossible crime ones: ATTWN, MIM, HPC and C.
    In Appointment With Death, it looks impossible because of the lies told by the family members. In WDTAE? , the solution is laughable !

    • I’m not sure if having a poor solution is a reason not to include a book, if it’s a locked room, it’s a locked room, even if the explanation is poor. That being said I’ve never considered Appointment with Death to be an impossible crime, even when I was reading it.

        • I vaguely remember it being a “she was stabbed but no-one went near her” murder…especially on account of the misdirection that allows the murderer to be who they are. I could be wrong, though. Does happen.

          • SPOILER ALERT !

            She was actually pricked with a hypodermic. Several people went near her. [I have edited out the spoiler portion of this in order to preserve the book for others who may stumble upon this — JJ] .

            • I’ve taken out the solution from the above, but it sounds like an impossibility to me from that description…

            • SPOILER ALERT !

              What is the impossibility ? Obviously, she has been killed by one of the persons approaching her. Obviously, some of these people are telling lies.

  13. Pingback: #434: Locked Room International is 30 – My Favourite 15 Books | The Invisible Event

  14. Can you please post a list of both Dan and yours top 15 impossible crime novels so I can refer back to them thanks.

    • I can and I shall — had intended to do this a while ago and entirely forgot, so thanks for the reminder. I’ll get the lists up later today.

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