Aaah, Christmas; time to drop into the comforting arms of the ones we know and love. I tried to mix things up a bit this year, starting two Christmas mysteries to review this week…but neither really worked for me, and so I’m following my own advice and adding another pre-blogging Paul Halter title to my archives. I distinctly remembered The Seventh Hypothesis (1991, tr. 2012) to be a doozy, with less of a focus on the impossibilities — though we get two in quick succession — and more attention drawn to a complex switchback of mellifluous plotting…so how’d it stand up to a second look? Rather well, as it turns out.
Similar to how Alfred Hitchcock’s two version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934/1956) use the same core ideas but differ in details, the motifs Paul Halter returns to in The Gold Watch (2019, tr. 2019) — the dual time period narratives of The Picture from the Past (1995, tr. 2014), a baffling no footprints murder at an isolated house a la The Lord of Misrule (1994, tr. 2006), the invocation of The King in Yellow from ‘The Yellow Book’ (2017, tr. 2017) — there’s no doubt this is a very different style of story simply using familiar ideas to very new ends. Strange to say this of a Frenchman, but this is perhaps the outright Frenchest work of his yet translated.
Who doesn’t love a list? No-one who matters, that’s who. And since I’ve now read all twenty of the translated short stories of Paul Halter it seems inevitable that I should have my own preferences laid out for everyone to disagree with.
I am reliably informed by the product page on Amazon that I purchased the Kindle edition of The Fourth Door (1987, tr. 1999) — the first Paul Halter novel I ever read — on 19th May 2013. After nearly 6 years, 14 novels, 19 short stories, and 30 blog posts that included a celebration of his 60th birthday I’m going back to the beginning to see where it all began.
With Paul Halter’s debut novel The Fourth Door (1987) being the subject of my 500th post this coming weekend, it’s time to dive into two more of his short stories from the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.