Dear Elderly Patriarchs Who Hold the Purse-Strings and Delight in Making Everyone Jump and Dance on Cue: you’d live a lot longer if you stopped gathering your slavishly pecuniary-minded families around you before announcing a surprise amendment to their financial situations. Weren’t you supposed to be captains of industry at some point? Don’t your creators lay it on a bit thick with your business acumen, your cut-and-thrust tactics, and the rapier-like intelligence that resulted in you rising to the top? Gordon’s beer, man, exercise a little nouse; at least change the will and then tell them…
With Paul Halter’s debut novel The Fourth Door (1987) being the subject of my 500th post this coming weekend, it’s time to dive into two more of his short stories from the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
For a book set against the backdrop of a play based on one of Agatha Christie’s most famous works, and featuring a detective the front flap tells us is “unparalleled even by Hercule Poirot”, there’s more than a passing whiff of Ngaio Marsh about this one.
“I am going to kill a man” — it must surely be the most famous opening line in the whole firmament of Golden Age detective fiction, and but for Sherlock Holmes and “the” woman I’d suggest the famousest opening line in all detection ever. When Aidan at Mysteries Ahoy! and I realised we were reading this near-contemporaneously, he kindly agreed to delay his review by a week that we might publish our thoughts as simultaneously as possible — I’ve not read his review as I write this, but I will by the time you’re reading it, and I am fascinated to find out how successfully he feels the game is played after that wonderful opening serve.
My five-hundredth post approacheth — a reread and re-evaluation of The Fourth Door (1987), the debut novel of M. Paul Halter, of whom I am quite the fan — and so Tuesdays in February will focus on the six translated Halter stories featured in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine that have yet to be collected into a second English-language anthology.
A mere nine books into the 37-strong output of Freeman Wills Crofts (soon to be 38 thanks to the excellent work of Tony Medawar and Crippen & Landru), I’m going to make a bold assertion: Crofts, I suggest, went out of his way to never write the same type of book twice. Oh, I know, you’ve heard they’re all just a boring man in a boring office poring over boring train timetables and talking boringly about boring tides on the way to solving a boring murder (to be honest, the only truly boring thing about Crofts is being told how boring he’s supposed to be)…but first read nine books by the man before telling me I’m wrong.