I’d promised TomCat that I’d attempt to find a quality modern locked room mystery this week, but the book I was going to look at — Lord Darcyverse continuation novel Ten Little Wizards (1988) by Michael Kurland — has (miraculously…?) vanished. So instead, here’s a revival of another occasional series: a selective pick through some self-published impossible crime stories in search of the gold that doubtless exists there somewhere.
For reasons that are not entirely clear — he is not mentioned in the synopsis, nor the single review of this item at the time of writing (which is itself a single word — “Read” — whose tense is undetermined), nor used as a “For fans of…” comparison — this title appears when you search for Paul Halter on the world’s largest website of buying anything. And it happens to be a self-published impossible crime story, so why wouldn’t I buy it? The question is, should you?
Four businessmen are playing their weekly early-morning round of golf when one of them hits his ball into a sand-filled bunker. Taking his next shot from down in the bunker, out of sight of everyone else, not only does he hit the ball straight out of the sand and into the hole (which he cannot see), but when the others approach the bunker to congratulate him they find it empty except for a blood-stained golf club, with no way for their colleague to have vanished without either being seen or leaving obvious traces. Intrigued? You should be…
Continuing the grand old tradition of crime-solving clergy — I refer, of course, to The Father Dowling Mysteries — Hal White’s collection of impossible crime stories featuring the retired octogenarian Reverend Thaddeus Dean gives us six takes on vanishing murderers, no footprints in the snow, impossible alibis, and more classic staples of my most-beloved of sub-genres. And, no small praise, it bears the stamp of approval from Bob Adey…so, are the stories any good? Well, as part of my continued trek to find something in the realms of self-published detective fiction that’s actually worth your time, let’s have a look…
Well, following the discovery of Matt Ingwalson’s Owl and Raccoon novellas I pledged to give more self-published works a go because — hey! — some of it is evidently very good indeed. Sure, an overwhelming majority is awful, but it’s worth the relatively slight cost to potentially find something surprising. Which brings us to The Third Gunman by Raymond Knight Read.
“Self-published” is, I’d wager, the phrase most likely to strike fear into the heart of even the most ardent book-lover. After all, that’s how we had Fifty Shades of Grey inflicted upon us, and the rise of ebooks (a great thing as far as I’m concerned, as look at the number of classic crime titles now available via that medium) has given new scope to the possibilities for getting a book out to an audience without first taking a detour via editors, proof-readers, fact-checkers, or any of the countless bastions of velleity that could previously be taken as read upon picking up a book.
However, just as Patrick Ness has shown us that not everything labelled YA need be treated disdainfully, so self-publishing will produce the odd gem, and Matt Ingwalson’s duo of impossible crime novellas featuring detectives Owl and Raccoon definitely fall into this category. And, as it’s Christmas and you’re likely to be busy people, I’m flashing them up now as a recommendation for a couple of quick reads to fit in between the chaotic scenes of this festive period (or, y’know, any other time that suits).