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.
With Christian recently starting his blog looking at impossible crimes in short fiction, and with a new Paul Halter translation in the current issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, the time seemed ripe to go back and reread this collection of Halter’s short fiction and get my thoughts on record. Originally published in English by Wildside Press in 2006 (in slightly modified form from its original 2000 publication in French) and then taken in by Halter’s subsequent English publisher Locked Room International, the ten stories here serve as a great primer for the breadth of Halter’s ingenuity, and rediscovering them has been a huge amount of fun.
Following the hugely enjoyable and terrifyingly ingenious machinations of Szu-Yen Lin’s Death in the House of Rain (2006), published in English last year by Locked Room International, I was delighted to discover that another Lin story was available in English, ‘The Ghost of the Badminton Court’ from the August 2014 edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
Disclosure: I proof-read this book for Locked Room International in February 2018.
There will come a time when my love of the puzzle novel will result in me having to recuse myself where reviews are concerned, I think, because my response to the machinations of the most complex of GAD is simply not that of a normal human being. Until such a time, however, I shall continue to frolic and bask in the joy of the likes of Noel Vindry and his pattern-obsessed kin because, frankly, it’s just so much fun. The Double Alibi (1934) is doubtless the most twisty yet translated into English by John Pugmire, and if anything approaching this level of ingenuity remains then, dude, I hope we get to see that as well.
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).