Several years ago, discovering that the impossible crime novel was a thing, I read Anthony Boucher’s Nine Times Nine (1940), originally published as by H.H. Holmes, and loved it. I then discovered TomCat’s list of favourite impossible crime novels and was intrigued by the fact that, eschewing the accepted classic that Nine Times Nine is, Boucher’s later, less discussed The Case of the Solid Key (1941) was included there instead (TC, it must be said, is something of an iconoclast…). More Boucher followed, some of it disappointing, and last year I finally ran to ground a copy of TCotSK in a secondhand bookshop in Philadelphia and — at long, long last — here we go.
The English language is a funny thing. Take for instance Chris McGeorge’s debut novel Guess Who (2018) which, revolving as it did around a group of people solving a mystery while locked in a room, was marketed as a ‘locked room mystery’ when that is a phrase which has already had another meaning for well over a century.
The recent, very exciting publication of the brand new Paul Halter novel The Gold Watch (2019, tr. 2019) served to remind me that I still hadn’t read Locked Room International’s previous publication, a translation of Les Invités de Minuit (1935) by Gaston Boca. This is by my reckoning the sixteenth title from the Roland Lacourbe-curated list of 99 excellent impossible crime stories that John Pugmire has brought into English, and his tireless promotion of these books across the language barrier is a continued source of joy for those of us who lament the dearth of great impossible crime fiction being written these days. Pugmire always has something up his sleeve.
When might a self-published novel not be a self-published novel? That’s the quandary I face with J.R. Ellis’ third book, Murder at Redmire Hall (2018). See, it’s technically published by Thomas & Mercer, but they’re simply an imprint of Amazon Publishing and the line between what’s different about this and simply uploading it to Amazon oneself gets blurrier the more you look at it.
I started 2019 on The Invisible Event by sharing the wonderful news that Goodnight Irene (2018) by James Scott Byrnside was a modern impossible crime novel we had legitimate reason to get excited about. And, excitingly, the end of that book promised a follow-up — titled Nemesis at the time — in 2019. And, one title-change later, no doubt on account of some has-been getting there first, here we are.
I don’t think anyone would doubt that I’m out of my stated era of the Golden Age reviewing a book from 1961, and there isn’t even an impossibility in this one to justify it on those grounds. But Patricia Moyes’ debut Dead Men Don’t Ski (1959) was clothed in the fashions of GAD, and the series bears further investigation for that alone. This second novel is afflicted a little by the narrative periphrasis that betokens later-era crime writing — chapter one should be called ‘Here’s the Cast’ and chapter two ‘Sure, I Understand Sailing, But I Don’t Know How to Communicate It (Glossary of Terms)’ — but, once past that, things improve significantly.
Running for 125 episodes over eight seasons from 2002 to 2009, the TV series Monk — created by Andy Breckman and starring Tony Shalhoub as the eponymous OCD-afflicted detective — was something that had drifted into my awareness without me ever really seeing that much of it. Until now… [cue dramatic music]