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…
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.
You’ve heard of Elephants Can Remember (1972): it’s the final time Hercule Poirot investigates a case at Agatha Christie’s direction, written in the final stretch of her career when everything she did was awful and without merit. Not even I could find something positive to say about it…could I?
Yes, this was supposed to be The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) by Ellery Queen in preparation for the forthcoming spoiler-filled look at Halfway House (1936). Yes, you all warned me that book was awful, and you were correct. Let’s instead board a cruise ship stuffed with munitions at the outset of the Second World War and watch the eight — or is it nine? — passengers slowly get to know each other until one of them is found murdered in their cabin, the corpse peppered with fingerprints which do not match those of anyone on board. Aaah, I feel better already — man, I love the work of John Dickson Carr; the idea of having never discovered it makes me feel a little unwell.
Some months ago, in our podcast The Men Who Explain Miracles, first myself and then Dan chose our fifteen favourite locked room novels of all time. In celebration of Locked Room International recently putting out their thirtieth fiction title, I have done essentially the same again, this time choosing solely from their catalogue: effectively, my personal picks for the ‘top half’ of their output to date.
Greetings, and welcome back to episode 7 of our every-two-monthly (is there a word for that?) podcast The Men Who Explain Miracles, which this month we’re using to look at the career of John Dickson Carr.