#40: Hard Cheese (1971) by Ulf Durling [trans. Bertil Falk 2015]

Hard CheeseJohn Pugmire’s continuing mission to bring us the best unheralded impossible crime stories from around the globe under the guise of Locked Room International now adds Sweden to Japan (Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders), France (Noel Vindry’s The House That Kills, Henry Cauvin’s The Killing Needle, plus ongoing translations of the wonderful Paul Halter) and England (Derek Smith’s criminally ignored Whistle up the Devil and Come to Paddington Fair).  Hard Cheese by Ulf Durling gives us something classically locked room – man dead in hotel room, door locked on the inside – and adds to it a knowing wink at just about every mystery convention going: the dying message, the inverted mystery, the had-I-but-known, the least likely suspect…even when these ideas aren’t being explicitly used, Durling is throwing out casual references to the tropes and traps of the genre.  Add name-checks to John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie, Freeman Wills Crofts and others, and clearly here is a man who knows whereof he writes.

The book is split into three unequal sections, each told by a different first-person narrator.  First up is Johan Lundgren, one of a trio of elderly gentlemen who meet weekly to discuss crime novels:

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