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.
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.
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.
Gather everyone together in a closed, isolated location, then kill ’em off one by one. Yup, at heart Death in the House of Rain (2006) is simply a marvellous instauration of this most spavined of classic detective fiction framings. The ingredients are familiar — take a remote mansion of obscure design, a landslide, a rain storm, and ten near-strangers, then add some baffling murders and stir — and this familiarity is invested with the vim and vigour that continues to breathe new life into the possibilities these recurrent trappings allow. In short, it is superb; chalk up another win for Locked Room International and fans of impossible crimes.
This coming Tuesday sees the final instalment in my month-long look at Locked Room International’s multi-national impossible crime short story collection, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to address an oversight Puzzle Doctor, TomCat, and I have all been guilty of: the 12 real-life cases also contained within.