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.
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.
Had you asserted back in 2014 that the republication of two forgotten crime novels would lay the foundation for one of the most celebrated series of GAD reissues in modern times, well, people would have laughed. And yet the British Library Crime Classics collection, under the stewardship of Martin Edwards and Rob Davies, is now over 50 books deep and gathering momentum for another exciting year. And it’s a sure sign of the hale condition of the series that, far from simply reissuing books, they’re now branching out into original translations with this collection of overseas tales. In the words of Ira Gershwin, who’s got the last laugh now?
Given that an overwhelming majority of modern crime writing really isn’t my thing, it’s always lovely to see Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine publish some short fiction for me to get excited about, like a new Paul Halter story or, as in the current November/December 2017 issue, something from Japanese master Soji Shimada (I’ll Westernise his name herein, since that’s what I’ve done previously).
Disclosure: I proof-read this book for Locked Room International in March/April 2017.
After two wonderful shin honkaku novels in The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji and The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa, John Pugmire’s Locked Room International now brings you this honkaku story collection from early pioneer Keikichi Ōsaka. The introduction by Ashibe Taku, author of Murder in the Red Chamber (2004), does a great job of putting Ōsaka in context, since this was a nascent form of mystery writing that allows a fascinating and at times hugely inventive take on a genre we thought we’d seen everything in already — no mean feat when some of the best here are over 80 years old. And some of these solutions have to be read to be believed… (in a good way, that is).
Disclosure: I proof-read this book for Locked Room International in March 2016
Children, incarnations of The Doctor, phases of the moon…generally I try not to play favourites. But if I had to pick one crime fiction conceit above all others it would undoubtedly be a group of people on an island getting killed off one by one. Sure, isolate them in some ancestral mansion via thunderstorm or on a train via unexpected snow and the effect is arguably the same, but there’s something about the island in itself that renders the idea all the more thrilling to my senses. And so this Japanese island-set puzzle, the second collaboration between Locked Room International’s John Pugmire and translator and crime fiction blogger Ho-Ling Wong after last year’s excellent The Decagon House Murders, would be just what the doctor ordered if the medical profession ever thought of prescribing books for those of us with the thrill of fictional murder in our hearts.