#499: Cat’s Paw (1931) by Roger Scarlett

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Dear Elderly Patriarchs Who Hold the Purse-Strings and Delight in Making Everyone Jump and Dance on Cue: you’d live a lot longer if you stopped gathering your slavishly pecuniary-minded families around you before announcing a surprise amendment to their financial situations.  Weren’t you supposed to be captains of industry at some point?  Don’t your creators lay it on a bit thick with your business acumen, your cut-and-thrust tactics, and the rapier-like intelligence that resulted in you rising to the top?  Gordon’s beer, man, exercise a little nouse; at least change the will and then tell them…

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#434: Locked Room International is 30 – My Favourite 15 Books

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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.

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#430: Minor Felonies – Arsenic for Tea, a.k.a. Poison is Not Polite (2015) by Robin Stevens

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Most people who write and publish one novel go on to complete a second, yet the second is often the one deemed ‘difficult’.  I suppose it’s the not knowing whether a universe and characters previously deployed will stretch over another 100,000 words, or whether a writer used up all their good ideas on Book 1 and so Book 2 is likely to fall on drier ground.

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#426: Slippery Staircase (1938) by E.C.R. Lorac

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I have thus far seen E.C.R. Lorac’s Chief Inspector Macdonald investigate a handful of rather unusual crimes — a man dropping dead in his garden, a body appearing in a car during a London Particular, and maybe a murder following a “How would you commit a murder?” game — but this is by far the most unusual: an old lady falling down the communal stairwell outside her top floor flat.  Footprint evidence shows no-one could have been near her at the time and, but for the equally unsuspicious death of her sister in virtually the exact same manner a few months previously, there is no reason to suspect foul play.

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#405: The 8 Mansion Murders (1989) by Takemaru Abiko [trans. Ho-Ling Wong 2018]

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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.

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#397: The Back Bay Murders (1930) by Roger Scarlett

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Whatever I thought of this book, I was committed to reading more of Dorothy Blair and Evelyn Page’s Roger Scarlett mysteries as I had already bought volume 2 of the Coachwhip reissues — comprising the novels Cat’s Paw (1931) and Murder Among the Angells (1932).  Impetuous?  I prefer optimistic: the promise on display in their debut augured well for their future, and I believed remuneration would be found somewhere in these pages.  So it’s either my own foresight or my stubborn inability to admit a mistake that sees me having a hugely enjoyable time with this one…I shall leave it to the reader to choose.

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