#411: Six Were to Die, a.k.a. The Dark Angel (1932) by James Ronald [a.p.a by Kirk Wales]

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I feel as if I’m encroaching on the territory of John Norris at Pretty Sinister by reviewing a book that isn’t all that easy to come by; worry not, John, I don’t have well-enough stocked shelves to support this kind of habit, so it’s back to normal next week.  This title is one that — like What a Body! (1949), The Rynox Mystery (1930), Death Has Many Doors (1951), and Dead Man Control (1936) — was brought to my attenion by the Roland Lacourbe library of highly-regarded impossible crime novels, though due to the absence of a French translation did not qualify for the main list.  Well, as you can see from the rating above, I think our Francophone brethren are missing out.

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#405: The 8 Mansion Murders (1989) by Takemaru Abiko [trans. Ho-Ling Wong 2018]

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Before we get onto the book itself, it’s worth mentioning that this is the twenty-ninth publication from Locked Room International.  Under the stewardship of John Pugmire, we’ve been brought a wonderful mix of classic and modern impossible crime novels and short stories from all corners of the globe, and — given the standard of their recent output — it certainly seems that the best is far from past.  I anticipate a great many excellent, obscure, and previously-untranslated works coming our way in the years ahead thanks to LRI, and I wanted to take a moment to recognise the work that goes into making this happen.

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#388: Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery (1926) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive into another complex alibi problem so soon after Cut Throat (1932) by Christopher Bush.  But if anyone can convince me of the joys of alibi-breaking it’s Freeman Wills Crofts, and so off I went in hope of some fiendish minutiae to get the brain cogitating with possibilities.  As it happens, I need not have worried — there is no complex alibi-breaking here.  Sure, there’s a grand mix of ratiocination and weighing the odds on the way to intelligent deductive work, but this is decidedly a ‘wrong man on the run’-style thriller before it’s a novel of routine.  Were pithiness my forte, I’d probably make an ‘Alfred Hitchcrofts’ reference.

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#385: Cut Throat (1932) by Christopher Bush

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Flour, eggs, sugar, butter.  Mix them, put them in the oven, you get a cake.  But there are cakes and there are cakes.  Equally, books.  Give me a baffling murder, the precise focus of which shifts again and again like the first two sections of John Dickson Carr’s The Arabian Nights Murder (1936), and stir in a Croftian alibi trick and I should be in heaven.  Alas, this is one of the bad cakes — the sort of well-intentioned thing your seven year-old nephew bakes and you take two bites from out of politeness and then put down and hope no-one brings back to your attention.  Christopher Bush has taken promising ingredients and cooked us a turgid mess.

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