If you’ve met me, firstly I apologise, and secondly it’ll come as no surprise that I have a tendency to ruminate on that which many others pass over without so much as a backward glance. Previously this resulted in me writing something in the region of 25,000 words on the Knox Decalogue, and today I’m going to turn my eye upon the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list. Prepare thyself…Continue reading
Let the record state that The Wailing Rock Murders (1932) is the seventh title I’ve read from the Roland Lacourbe-curated Locked Room Library list to not actually contain an impossible crime. Others of this distinction have run the gamut from wonderful to utterly forgettable, so an absence of impossibility is not to be held against it, and Clifford Orr’s second and final novel undeniably contains plenty of locked rooms…but they’re the ‘locked from the outside’ variety, whose very nature should not be confused with the sort of thing we (are meant to) mean when throwing a term like ‘locked room mystery’ about.
You may view the above rating of this book as too harsh, and you may be right. Honestly, I’ve struggled with how good The Curse of the Bronze Lamp, a.k.a. Lord of the Sorcerers (1945) may or may not be, and it certainly has its fans — at one point John Dickson Carr apparently considered it among the four of his own books that he enjoyed the most. But the key thing I keep coming back to is how this novel, rooted as it is in Egyptian curses and an apparent vanishing in a ghostly old family pile, written by a man who could stir up sulfur and brimstone with a well-place adjective and could summon the most wonderful patterns from the most perplexing of mysteries, is so very forgettable.
The brain works in funny ways. TomCat has been a champion of Killed on the Rocks (1990), the sixth novel to feature William L. DeAndrea’s semi-amateur sleuth Matt Cobb, for as long as I can remember. I learned of this book from TC’s list of favourite impossible crime novels, and was delighted to find a copy about 16 months ago, but it would have sat on my shelves for a long time yet — because, dude, my TBR is haunting — had I not learned, quite by accident, that DeAndrea himself died at the tragically tender age of 44. I can’t explain the logic, but I suddenly had the urge to read this, and the desire to enjoy it…and now I’ve done both.
Seventeen. John Pugmire has now, through Locked Room International, published 17 previously-non-Anglophone books from the Roland Lacourbe-curated Locked Room Library list, all but one being his own translations. This brings LRI’s roster up to 38 books, a frankly incredible achievement (and hopefully a long way from finished yet), comprising among others Paul Halter, a shin honkaku renaissance, and a reprint of Locked Room Murders by Robert Adey and a completely new follow-up. And still the great titles keep on coming, including this unheralded little gem from Alexis Gensoul and Charles Grenier — one of three books Gensoul wrote in 1945.
It’s been a fun ride with Dorothy Blair and Evelyn Page, but now we reach the end. A mere five books came from these two ladies under their Roger Scarlett nom de plume, and it’s thanks to the tireless work of the folk at Coachwhip publications — and GAD’s own Curtis Evans — that these hugely enjoyable novels have been made available again. Because enjoy them I have, and my feelings about this final volume are amplified by having read all that preceded it; without that context, I (and possibly you — be forewarned) would not have gotten quite as much out of this last hurrah. As it is, and as you can clearly see above, I loved it to bits.
It had been my intention to review a book by a new-to-me author this week, but thankfully I was able to get to it a little ahead of time and watch disconsolately as, after a bright start, it fizzled out to nothing (man, some Silver Age stuff has a lot to answer for…). Instead, here’s another from John Dickson Carr’s era of tight, house-set puzzles which range from masterpieces (The Reader is Warned (1939), The Seat of the Scornful (1941)) to very good (The Crooked Hinge (1938), The Emperor’s Snuff-Box (1942)) to, er, Seeing is Believing (1941). And with The Gilded Man (1942) being somewhat overlooked, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to get…