#644: A Hundred Thousand Dragons (2010) by Dolores Gordon-Smith

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When Jack Haldean encounters Durant Craig in the lounge at Claridge’s hotel, the latter apparently carries a grievance from their war days and offers up a volley of abuse before storming out.  Haldean refuses to disclose the reason for Craig’s outburst — offering only that “I let him down rather badly once…I deserve it” — and instead seems keen to forget the meeting.  When a mysterious car accident during a fancy dress party raises the possibility of murder, it’s not long before Halden and Superintendent Ashley find themselves investigating a menage that involves one Durant Craig…and so it seems that Jack Haldean has a reckoning with the misdeeds of his past.

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#629: Hardly a Man is Now Alive, a.k.a. Murder Now and Then (1950) by Herbert Brean

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Three books into the seven-strong output of Herbert Brean, I’m going to suggest that he’s one of the most unjustly-neglected writers of the latter-GAD era — that “latter” prefix being key.  Brean’s plots are dense enough for the puzzle fiends of the 1930s, and his social milieu more than matches the requirements of the post-GAD 1950s hankering after domestic suspense, but each school will be disappointed by how much of its rival is present.  Thus, puzzle fans lazily insisting he’s in the same bracket as John Dickson Carr and realism fans keen to play up his HIBK credentials each sell him as writing sorts of books he never wrote, and everyone ends up disappointed.

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#627: A Little Help for My Friends – Finding a Modern Locked Room Mystery for TomCat Attempt #14: The Darker Arts (2019) by Oscar de Muriel

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A certain amount of debate continues to rage — “rage” might be too strong a word — over whether the impossible alibi qualifies as a true impossible crime.  I suggest that, should it eventually be inducted into future Locked Room Murders supplements, we do so on a ‘one out, one in’ policy and retire the “death by unknown means” to make space.

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#587: As If by Magic (2009) by Dolores Gordon-Smith

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Disorientated, drenched, and on the verge of a fever, George Lassiter wanders the streets of London until attracted to a particular house which he breaks into in order to warm himself by the fire.  While he is waiting in the darkness and warmth, three people enter, one of them apparently drops dead on the spot, and Lassiter beats a hasty retreat before being caught by a local bobby.  Upon telling his story, the house is investigated and no sign of a body is found, so Lassiter is carted away to the local hospital.  And when Lassiter’s friend, part-time sleuth and general man-about-town Jack Haldean, hears of his predicament, it’s the beginning of a complex and dangerous skein.

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#526: The Julius Caesar Murder Case (1935) by Wallace Irwin

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This title had stuck in my memory from perusing Ramble House’s stable, and when I saw it listed in Locked Room Murders (2nd ed., 1992) — having not previously realised it was an impossible crime — I snapped it up.  Then it cropped up in the comments of a post at Brad’s place and it was as if the stars had aligned. The dedication to Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler “with the author’s feeling that in distance there is security” hints that you’re not getting the usual run-of-the-mill stuff, and the opening line introducing “Publius Manlius Scribo, star reporter and sports columnist on the Evening Tiber” in 44 B.C., heavily implies that you’re clearly not getting a slavishly faithful historical epic, either.

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