#527: Plotting the Perfect Crime – Potential and Pay-Off via The House of Haunts, a.k.a. The Lamp of God (1935) by Ellery Queen

Black Lizard Locked Room

Slowly, slowly I work my way through the Otto Penzler-edited Woo Whatta Lotta Locked Room Mysteries (2014) — it’s not really a convenient size to dip into — and, since my chronological reading of Ellery Queen is going so well, it seemed time to take on this impossible disappearance story.  Or so I thought…

Continue reading

#520: Seeing is Believing, a.k.a. Cross of Murder (1941) by Carter Dickson

Seeing is Believingstar filledstar filledstar filledstarsstars
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…

Continue reading

#481: The Seat of the Scornful, a.k.a. Death Turns the Tables (1941) by John Dickson Carr

Seat of the Scornfulstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filled
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.

Continue reading

#439: Nine – and Death Makes Ten, a.k.a. Murder in the Atlantic, a.k.a. Murder in the Submarine Zone (1940) by Carter Dickson

Nine and Death Makes Tenstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
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.

Continue reading