Who doesn’t love a list? No-one who matters, that’s who. And since I’ve now read all twenty of the translated short stories of Paul Halter it seems inevitable that I should have my own preferences laid out for everyone to disagree with.
Brad has threatened to drum me out of the GAD Club Members’ Bar for my lack of kow-towing to the work of Ellery Queen. In fairness, I really rather enjoyed Halfway House (1936), but here I am fighting for my rights. And I think he’s timed this deliberately, being well aware that The Door Between (1937) was up next for me, because Gordon’s beer is Eva MacClure, the heroine who finds herself at the centre of an impossible murder plot, one of the most frustrating perspective characters I’ve yet encountered. Goodness, she makes one positively ache for the company of Noel Wells from The Saltmarsh Murders (1932) by Gladys Mitchell.
It’s cold outside, it’s dark outside — yes, thank-you, The Southern Hemisphere, no-one likes a smartarse — Christmas is over; time to battle through with some beloved authors. First up, and most beloved of them all despite a recent charge by Freeman Wills Crofts, Mr. John Dickson Carr and Dr. Gideon Fell, here engaged in no showy impossibilities but instead the sort of low-key case for which Carr doesn’t get enough credit. Where the relative simplicity of this might lead to this being overlooked, I’d argue that its restrained execution and structure are so brilliantly without flaw that the more easily you dismiss it the more you’re falling into the very trap it lays.
The last time anyone tried to use the wind as a threatening murder weapon we got The Happening (2008) from the, er, mind of M. Night Shyamalan. Nine years prior, however, Paul Halter had written about the small coastal village of Pickering in 1936, and the youthful, ethereal Stella Deverell predicting the deaths of locals ahead of the storms and winds that batter the vicinity. And what Stella predicts comes to pass: not just deaths, but madness, relationships breaking down, and unforeseeable good fortune for fishermen. Add in her own talents in making gold from rocks and vanishing without a trace and you’ve got an impossible crime tale on your hands…
Noah Stewart, one of the most knowledgable people currently blogging on the subject of GAD, once said that Romance and Detection are the two genres wherein the ending is never in doubt before you’ve even read the first page (I’m paraphrasing, of course — Noah would never put anything that pompously).