#526: The Julius Caesar Murder Case (1935) by Wallace Irwin

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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.

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#523: Death in a Million Living Rooms, a.k.a. Die Laughing (1951) by Patricia McGerr

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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?

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#520: Seeing is Believing, a.k.a. Cross of Murder (1941) by Carter Dickson

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Socialising is difficult, isn’t it? One minute you’re making polite dinner party conversation about jobs with someone you’ve only just met, the next a hypnotist performs a few mesmeric passes and goads a wife into stabbing her husband with a knife everyone knows is fake but which — awks — actually turns out to be real and, oh my god, she’s killed him.  We’ve all been there, and we all know how tricky it can be to factor this sort of thing into one’s TripAdvisor rating.  An unexpected, impossible murder can dampen the mood somewhat — especially when so many people seem to be operating at cross-purposes — but remember you did say the canapés were lovely…

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#517: Murder in the Family, a.k.a. The Murder in Gay Ladies (1936) by James Ronald

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I’m nowhere near Puzzle Doctor/Brian Flynn levels of adoration yet, but there’s a good chance James Ronald could turn out to be one of my very favourite unheralded authors.  Sure, he wrote in quite a range of genres — from ‘a family’s struggles in an unfamiliar environment’ to incident-packed impossible crime novels and, presumably, just about anything in between — and the frank unavailability of so many of his books is going to make tracking him down long and, given the spread of genres, at times possibly unrewarding work, but when he’s good, boy is he good.  As in the case of the Osborne Family Murder — with ‘family’ being very much the key word here.

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