Slowly, slowly I work my way through the Otto Penzler-edited Woo Whatta Lotta Locked Room Mysteries (2014) — it’s not really a convenient size to dip into — and, since my chronological reading of Ellery Queen is going so well, it seemed time to take on this impossible disappearance story. Or so I thought…
This title had stuck in my memory from perusing Ramble House’s stable, and when I saw it listed in Locked Room Murders (2nd ed., 1992) — having not previously realised it was an impossible crime — I snapped it up. Then it cropped up in the comments of a post at Brad’s place and it was as if the stars had aligned. The dedication to Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler “with the author’s feeling that in distance there is security” hints that you’re not getting the usual run-of-the-mill stuff, and the opening line introducing “Publius Manlius Scribo, star reporter and sports columnist on the Evening Tiber” in 44 B.C., heavily implies that you’re clearly not getting a slavishly faithful historical epic, either.
For the second look at novels which I suspect put me on the route to my persistent craving of a classic detection fix, we go back to an author I adored during what were probably his lean years and had moved on from once he regained his youthful popularity.
Quite apart from having the best damn title ever, Death in a Million Living Rooms (1951) by Patricia McGerr employs one of my favourite conceits of classic-era detection: the Live On Air Murder. With The Dead Are Blind (1937) by Max Afford, Murder in the Melody (1940) by Norman Berrow, and And Be a Villain (1948) by Rex Stout giving us death on the radio, McGerr turns to the television studio to kill her poor victim live in front of the several million who tune in to Podge and Scottie’s weekly comedy show, with — as in Stout’s take — poison in the sponsor’s drink responsible. That you know it’s coming makes it no less horrible, so whodunnit?
Three things in life you can’t do: hurry love, touch this, and go home. For all the nostalgia the third provokes, it’s never the same; and yet of late I’ve found myself pondering the fact that my journey to 1930s detective fiction must’ve started somewhere. And so, for my Tuesday posts this month, I am going to attempt to go home.