As in life, this blog has a few untrimmed threads hanging — one of these days I really must return to The Knox Decalogue and The Criminous Alphabet — but for today it’s back to The Baffle Book (1930). The first seven problems in F. Tennyson Jesse’s edit of Lassiter Wren and Randle McKay’s famous puzzle series failed to excite my reason or my enthusiasm, so how does this second quarter of puzzles stand up?
Marketing has a lot to answer for. In much the same way that Herbert Brean a couple of weeks ago found himself the centre of a tussle between competing crime fiction ideologies, and endless crime fiction authors these days end up with “as gripping as Agatha Christie” in their synopses, it’s fashion that determines how to lie to you when selling something.
A lot of impossible crime novels published these days have, let’s face it, about enough impossible crime content for a short story. So a short story collection seems like a sensible thing to try, right? Even one that does put ‘short stories’ on its cover and then call itself “a novel” on the back. Right?
The reprinting of Robert Adey’s Locked Room Murders (2nd ed., 1991) at the end of 2018 was a delightful turn-up for those of us who had been dreaming of owning that reference bible. And once the excitement settled, I’m sure more than a few people started thinking “Hey, they should really do another one of these…”.
The accepted wisdom is that Edgar Allan Poe wrote five stories which formed the basis of the nascent detective fiction genre, and the plan for this month had originally been to look at one story each week. But that’s what you plan when you fail to account for the rigour and research of Christian, who blogs at Mysteries, Short and Sweet.
It’s Christmas Eve, you’re keenly watching for snow and listening for reindeer hooves on your roof, and Christian and I are moving onto the lesser crime stories of Edgar Allan Poe — the weaklings which nevertheless still hold some sway where the development of detective fiction is concerned.