#249: Is This the Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy? — GAD and ‘Reality’

GAD Fantasy

A number of different factors — among them Brad’s recent discourse on the dying message, my reading of Tour de Force (1955) by Christianna Brand, and Noah’s previous post on intertextuality in detective fiction — have brought me to the point where I want to ask the question “What is reality in relation to Golden Age Detective (GAD) fiction?”.  Yes, yes, I am a very nerdy man.  You should have guessed this by now.

So, let’s get into it…

The meeting of match and touch-paper for me was Brand’s impossible crime novel, and the essential trick at the heart of that book.  Worry not, I shall avoid spoilers, but essentially I really like the core idea and am more than happy to admit that it works and is possible in the context of the story, but I do not believe for a second that anyone would be able to make it work in real life.  Straight away, therefore, there must be an  appreciable difference between my perception of the world we inhabit and the world these books inhabit.

These novels, after all, exist in what we recognise as the real world — the laws of physics are the same (hence the joy in impossible crimes), the fundamentals of forensic evidence are the same (hence the success of Sherlock Holmes), the idea of cause an effect still applies (hence the logical rigoualr of Ellery Queen), and any move to step outside any of this in the works of, say, Randall Garrett or Isaac Asimov, requires a certain amount of in-universe preparation so as not to be accused of cheating.  Because cheating means that the author has not conformed to our expectations of declaration, and failing to declare a fundamental difference in the world of a novel compared to the world we inhabit would be the ultimate cheat (Asimov’s own introduction to his collected Asimov’s Mysteries (1968) explains this far better than probably anyone else ever could, but then that’s true of almost everything the Good Doctor ever explained).

So while Dr Thorndyke relies on medical evidence and deductions, they are found in real life, too, and the ideas around rigor mortis, etc, must also be upheld in reality.  This, after all, is part of the fun: you’re able to deduce certain things based on your knowledge of the real world, so you get to play along at home.  Crucially this is not a discussion of fairness and rules, I’ve expounded on that theme already, and I’m not discussing whether something outside of the real world can be a GAD mystery — yes, it can.  Essentially, it’s a question of how ‘real’ the world of a typical GAD novel is, and whether we (or, y’know, it could just be me) deliberately make allowances for any deliberate separations from reality.

So, then, several points must be made.

Firstly, does it matter? Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think it does.  Sure, reading is a very subjective thing, one of the few delightfully isolated acts we have these days, but the idea of reality forms the background of these stories, and is something we hanker after in reading them.  Don’t believe me?  Remember that the next time you encounter a ‘poison unknown to science’, encounter an intrguing problem dismissed at the end because the author couldn’t be arsed to explain it, or are forced to figure out the locations of everyone in an alibi problem amidst deliberately vague descriptions.  Let’s face it, we need to know how the land lies, and the resolution of 300 pages having no basis or anchor in acceptable fact is an irritation that takes a good five minutes off our lives.

Secondly, there’s the issue of the in-universe reality that an author creates.  Agatha Christie outright states in her own The Body in the Library (1942) that books by her and her contemporaries exist within the eponymous library, and Edmund Crispin’s Gervase Fen can’t seem to get through a book without pointing out how aware he is of his fictional existence, but there’s nothing to suggest that either of these worlds — beyond an acknowledgement of their being observed — should be subject to any difference of rules than of those in the ‘observing’ universe.  To veer wildly into pop culture for a moment, large numbers of people will have recently discovered the Fen-like meta-awareness of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s Deadpool, but that’s very clearly not set in the world we, the reader/watchers, live in.

deadpool-thumbsup-230330

Yes, we’re talking about you…

In fact, on this theme, there’s even the question of whether the books typically thought of as GAD occur in the same universe as each other.  Sure, every Gideon Fell book exists in the same strata as ever other Gideon Fell book, and the Fell and Henry Merrivale universes acknowledge each other…but does this mean that the Hercule Poirot stories, the Lord Peter Wimsey cases, the conundrums overcome by Inspector Cockrill could also exist together?  There’s no explicit acknowledgement of each other — well, there’s some, since the authors were friends, but it’s mostly tongue in cheek — but could we essentially have a Marvel Cinematic Universe of GAD on our hands?

I’m going to surprise you and say…yes.  Consider Leo Bruce’s characteristically-contradictory fictional roman à clef Case for Three Detectives (1936), in which Hercule Poirot, Father Brown, and Lord Peter Wimsey gather in all but name to fail to solve a baffling crime.  Again we have a polite but pinpoint accurate satire on these characters, but they are undoubtedly drawn from the separate oeuvres and put together in another setting without sacrificing anything that identifies them for the pasquinades they are.  It’s not as if Wimsey’s ability to summon an army of beetles to do his will has to be obfuscated so that he’ll fit in a milieu that contains Poirot and Brown…these characters in no way lapse into incoherence from their original form so that they can be made to work together.

And is the same not true of any combination of sleuths you could pluck from their comfy homes?  Jules Maigret would roll his eyes in despair if confronted with the picaresque exploits of Perry Mason, but nothing in one set of books precludes a meeting with the other.  Roderick Alleyn would probably wonder at how much nonsense Mrs Bradley spake, and they’d more than likely get in each others’ way, but they could find themselves confronted by the same baffling village poisoning.  Oh, yes, my friends, this has been adumbrated for decades now, there’s nothing revelatory in this claim, but in order to discuss the points I wish to discuss I think it necessary to establish at least this base: for the purposes of this discussion, the GAD novels we shall consider can take place alongside each other — a GADU, if you will.

lvgadu

Nothing to do with us; as you were…

But, how much does this GADU conform to our existence?

I’ll start with an examination of impossible crimes, because I think that’s the best place to examine the fidelity to reality, but we’ll expand outwards from there (hopefully; be under no illusions, I’m making this up as I go…).  Essentially, we always want our explanations to be something that could happen, even if a certain amount of luck is required.  As I’ve mentioned before, you’d be furious if — in this GADU, remember — Gideon Fell’s impossible shootings in a room with no exits, no gun, and no mechanical jiggery-pokery were explained away via supernatural means.  We want to be able to kick ourselves for failing to appreciate the combination of events required to allow this crime to have come off, and so the contortions are accepted so long as they’re achievable (stupidity of victim notwithstanding).

So let’s take Carr’s The Hollow Man (1935), because that’s safe ground for common discussion (there will be one very mild spoiler ahead).  I love the solutions to the murder of Charles Grimaud and the invisible assassin who guns down a man in a snow-covered street without leaving a footprint behind, and I’m happy to accept that this is an achievable set of actions…but only in the book itself.  Frankly, there is no way in hell this could be done in my day-to-day world — provide all the diagrams you like, John, showing how physically possible it is, it ain’t gonna happen.  Not least because — and here’s that MILD SPOILER I warned you about, so feel free to skip ahead to the next paragraph where things are safe again — of the absence of blood; the real world would not permit that confluence of actions without a great deal of blood to give it away (also a problem in the shameless rip-off I foolishly read).  Nevertheless, the book poses a question and answers it in a satisfactory manner.

Equally, while I accept the chain of reasoning formed by Ellery Queen at various stages in The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), there’s nothing less likely to happen in the real world than someone actually putting those events in that order and reaching that conclusion.  The number of criminal plots devised with a slide rule, a Wisden’s Cricket Almanac, five mirrors, and a sniff of the Birlstone Gambit that are still nevertheless unpicked by the genius who simply happens to be on the scene and knowledgeable in and observant of all the things required to fox that plan defies belief, reason, and all mathematics…yet in the GADU they must have been a near-daily occurrence.  Maybe if they were observing us we’d come off as exceptionally dull-witted and in severe need of a dead scullery maid to liven things up a bit.

In the comments of Brad’s post, Moira Redmond, who oversees Clothes in Books, made the following excellent observation:

I love a dying message, even though it is always ridiculous and unreal – but then so are locked rooms, and ridiculous alibis, and blackmailers-who-are-the-next-victims. I love trying to solve the problems, while simultaneously criticizing them.

I chimed in elsewhere with a similar point: this is a genre that takes the ridiculous in its stride very easily, but we will stop short of accepting ghosts even if we’re happy to believe that someone would go to the lengths outlined in some dying clues (a trope alive and well today, as the career of Dan Brown will attest) or that killers are able and willing to go to the lengths they do.  The mystery of a man flying outside a third-storey window in John Sladek’s Black Aura (1974) becomes far too ridiculous if it turns out people can actually fly…but when he is killed and it turns out the killer had to be doing two things simultaneously to achieve this, well, frankly it’s still ridiculous but we’ll accept it grudgingly…so where is the line?  At what point have we crossed into unacceptable nonsense and mummery?

15-ridiculous-skymall-products-what-on-earth-beard-hat

“Hello, ladies…”

I don’t have an answer, but I do have a theory.  Noah’s musings on intertextuality, which started me down this path a little while back — and they’re excellent, by the way, though you don’t need me to tell you that — splits it into three types, the third of which is:

Every solution to a puzzle mystery shapes every other solution to every other puzzle mystery.

Which he expands upon thusly:

[T]he reader is quite safe from reading a brand-new mystery where the answer to “who killed a child-murdering kidnapper in the confines of a snowbound vehicle” is [the killer in Murder on the Orient Express] — that’s because that’s already been done, and quite well too. More to the point, authors know it and readers know it, and each knows that the other knows it. And since the author knows that the readers know it, the author cannot produce a version of this old book where, say, a blackmailer is murdered aboard an airplane by [the same killer].

In this way, I think what we accept in our reading of GAD is not much different to what we accept and seek in our general reading: the more you see done well, the more accepting you become of things in the same universe that don’t quite hang together.  We forgive the imperfections in the things we love, and since we’re likely to recall where one mystery intrudes rather too copiously upon a prior one we’re equally likely to spread around the tolerance if we’ve seen John Dickson Carr explain how a man can be stabbed in the head by an invisibe unicorn and enjoyed the explanation.  Wonder Woman, after all, has recently given people hope that Justice League might not be terrible following the disappointment of Batman v. Superman: They Punch for a Bit and Then They’re Mates.  Maybe there’s a line you think you won’t step over, but I’m willing to bet there’s a novel out there that’ll edge you far closer than you realise (please note: this is not an invitation to try to trick me into reading paranormal romances…)

So, how real is the ‘real’ world of this GADU?  I suggest that it probably resembles the real world less the more you’ve read; if you can accept invisible unicorns, Latin-quoting detectives, murderous conspiracies, and ploys so convoluted they make Conan Doyle’s belief in færies look positively sane, you’re clearly in a happy place and not willing to look back.  Perhaps this is why those Poirot novels were bastardised reinterpreted so unfaithfully for TV, maybe the world they represent is so hilariously unrelatable that no-one would ever believe it if they hadn’t been soaking in it for a good long while.  Perhaps those of us who read a huge amount of this are the worst possible critics of how realistic it is, having gone native a long time ago.

Or, hey, as I said above, perhaps it’s just me…

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21 thoughts on “#249: Is This the Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy? — GAD and ‘Reality’

  1. The subtitle to your fine essay should be be: Or just how dull can detective fiction be to still entertain? So, er, Is THE BURNING COURT the elephant in this hermetically sealed, triple-locked room? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great follow-up: will we accept dull detective fiction because it’s “realistic” — Simenon bores the hell out of me, but I acknowledge his attempts to do something in the classical mould that retained as much realism as possible, and Crofts might be so highly regarded (I’ve enjoyed the couple I’ve read so far, so no complaints here yet…) on account of the forensic detail that goes into everything. Though, actually, I find the minutiae of Crofts’ stuff really quite unrealistic for all its serendipity, even while I enjoy the hell out of it.

      The Burning Court I’ll have to leave to others; am yet to track down a copy of that. One of these days, though…

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  2. Funny you have bring up the idea of a GADU now, because something recently occurred to me that would link most, or even all, British detective stories from the Golden Age together. I played with the idea of writing a blog-post about it, but the idea would hardly provide me with enough material to pad out an entire post. So I might as well post it here as a footnote, of sorts, to your post.

    During the Golden Age, a person existed in our reality whose fictional counterpart would very likely had face-to-face encounters with characters from hundreds of British detective stories. From John Dickson Carr and Agatha Christie to Nicholas Blake and Gladys Mitchell.

    As different as they may have been as mystery writers, they all would have a fictional counterpart of this person walking around in their universe. Similar to how they all had a fictional counterpart of Hitler pulling shenanigans on the continent.

    So, who is this person, you ask? You should be able to guess by now, but I’ll give everyone two hints: this person is the holder of a record that won’t be broken any time soon and he, or rather his occupation, played an important role in a famous short story by a writer mentioned in JJ’s post.

    I’ll check back in a couple of hours to see if anyone got it right (hope you won’t mind this minor hijacking of your post, JJ).

    Liked by 1 person

      • You’re (basically) correct, Harry. The person I was hinting at was the most famous hangman of the previous century, Albert Pierrepoint, who hanged over 400 murderers and war criminals. A record for the fastest hanging (a breakneck seven seconds) is his.

        Recently, I wondered how many murderers from our favorite detective stories his fictional counterpart hanged. Because, if he exists in a GADU, he would have hanged murderers who were caught by Alleyn, Fell, Appleby, Bradley, Poirot, Campion, Fortune etc. etc.

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        • Now that’s a really cool in-universe idea…hey, perhaps we just proved that the GADU is real…though whether this means we have to add Pierrepoint’s fictional clients to his real ones will, I’m sure, elicit no discussion whatsoever.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Literature of this type is art, whether it’s god or bad quality or more or less worthy than other types is another issue and as much a matter of taste as anything. The fact remains it’s art, not documentary, commentary or satire, although there’s no reason why any or all of those elements cannot be contained within it. So, if it is art, there’s only one question to answer:
    What has art go to do with reality?
    For me, the answer has to be very little, if anything. The illusion of reality, and that’s all it can ever be under the circumstances, is no more than a framework, a kind of deliberately artificial periphery within which an artist can explore his/her themes. It’s a deception which the audience willingly participates in and reality, or maybe realism is better, doesn’t need to be mixed up with logic, which I think is always essential – I’d argue the latter must exist whereas the former is, if not totally dispensable, at least highly malleable.

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    • Niiiiice, Colin; I suppose I’m conflating the two so as to help differentiate GAD from Fantasy or other flights of imagination that move carefully but distinctly away from reality (often, it must be said, wth an abandonment of logic as a result!).

      Is there not a certain amount of reality that you’re looking for in your art, thought if you read this kind of thing? Deos that “play along at home” aspect of GAD not come into it for you? I’m not implying any fault in your otlook if so [editor’s note: he probably is…], I’m just interested in how you see the complete separation of Art and Reality in regards to GAD…

      Equall, though, I appreciate that’s a tricky question, so feel free to ignore it!

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      • Good question, and I’ll see if I can clarify. I tried to draw some distinction between reality/realism and logic, but I want to reiterate that here. While they are related they are not the same and, personally, I don’t believe both are necessary.

        I can’t see a way to get around logic. A story must have an internal logic in that the actions and events which unfold before us must conform to the rules of whatever universe is used as the setting – you could, IMO, have a flying man shot out of the sky by a talking duck so long as the artist has already established the physical rules for the make believe world he/she has dreamed up as a backdrop for the tale. However, this would be unacceptable in our traditional GAD universe simply because we’ve been told it’s similar enough to the world we know for such fantastical elements to defy all logic.

        I’m not worried about the realism aspect because I’ve already made a deal with my own consciousness to accept the fact conversations can and will have forms and go in directions I know very well would be, to say the least, highly unlikely in real life. And there are other, let’s say inconsistencies which are bound to crop up: weather conditions will be unusual (rain drying too fast, snow sticking around too long etc), time will be compressed or stretched to facilitate the narrative, and so on.

        No, art and reality/realism do not and I’d be inclined to argue should not be in bed together. I’ve had discussions of this type when discussing films in the past – critiquing the use of performers whose race may not have matched that of their character is pointless in my view for this reason. Do we criticize the use of masks in ancient theater? In fact, do we dismiss the art of theater wholesale for its lack of realism? The backdrops and props are just that, backdrops and props but I’d be stunned to hear the validity of the art questioned on that basis. I remember visiting the IMDb message boards in the past (when they still existed) and was bemused to see people claiming a film was ruined for them (yes, actually ruined) by having characters carrying or firing off guns in, for example, 1874 when it was common knowledge that those particular weapons weren’t available until 1892! This way lies madness. Or cultural philistinism. Or both. In my humble opinion, of course.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Thanks for taking the time to expand on this, Colin; I think in many ways we are of one mind here. When I look back over the books I disdain the hardest, it’s generally on a breakdown of internal logic than any aspect of, say, slang used 10 years too early (the advantage of reading books in the GAD bracket is that so many of them are set contemporary to their writing, anyway, so such anachronisms tend to be beyond consideration).

          In part, this is why I came to the conclusion I did in the post above: I think we accept a great deviation from the ‘normal’ order of things, but are still happy to think of them as realistic, and I was surprised once I sat down and thought about it just how far from reality so much of GAD fiction is.

          On the subject of the IMDb message boards…man, I’m sort of sorry that section of the internet is lost to us now. I had an illuminating discussion on their once about the M. Night Shyamalan movie The Village and how they felt the movie was ruined because it was unbelievable that the people in the village could make their own glass for the windows…and, of course, you’ll remember how central that is to the plot…!

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      • It’s not reality that matters. No work of fiction deals with reality. What matters is having rules. Detective fiction has lots of rules and golden age fair-play detective fiction has more rules than any other genre.

        The rules aren’t remotely realistic. You know the killer is going to be one of the people staying the weekend at Lord Fotheringay’s country house. The killer can’t be some anonymous passing tramp whose existence is not suspected until the very end. The killer can’t be one of the servants. In reality of course the murderer might well be an anonymous passing tramp or a disgruntled parlour-maid, but that’s against the rules.

        Detective fiction is rules-based, not reality-based.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with Colin! There’s nothing inherently realistic about Dickens or Austen, say, and thank God for that! Jane could make an outing picking for strawberries rife with drama, poignancy and meaning. Charlie could interlink the lives of 60 – 80 people from all stratas of British society (and throw in one evil French person) and have us buy into it and beg for more.

    The point isn’t really a comparison between GAD reality and, er, REAL reality but in how well the authors create and endow their literary landscapes. I’m not sure it matters if Fell and Poirot could meet in one of their respective GADUs and solve together, or even Poirot and Marple. In those stories where multiple detectives exist, it becomes as much about the clashing of egos as of solving the case. (See Wade’s The Dying Alderman or, for that matter, ANY mystery where Scotland Yard Meets Amateur Sleuth.) But I think that one could theoretically drop Fell into ORIENT EXPRESS or enjoy watching Poirot make something of THE BLACK SPECTACLES. Well, maybe . . .

    Essentially, all these authors have created a universe that we readers accept as we trot from one murderous country home to another. So many examples, so many tropes created. In this world, Ellery Queen can create FOUR complex solutions to the murder of a Greek art collector because, like you and me, JJ, he’s lonel- er, intellectually stimulated by bizarre crimes. But the whole ability to DO what Ellery does here is ridiculous – any real cop would make fun of it – and it’s even parodied constantly by Anthony Berkeley, Leo Bruce, and the rest of those parodists!

    Thus, when it’s well done, I think of it as “real.” I’ll buy into any fiction that couldn’t actually happen, even without the unicorns. And as far as mysteries go, the powers that be long ago decided that there are no actual unicorns, that the fun is in going about pretending that the laws of “reality” have been broken but always proving in the end that they have not. (I’m in the middle of Rim of the Pit as we chat, so I know whereof I speak!)

    Two more things (so that, like TomCat, I can avoid making a fool of myself by trying to stretch out my response into an actual post): first, we all have our individual limits as to what/how much we will accept. I thought THE HOLLOW MAN went way overboard; it stretched the limit of what I will accept in a murderer’s actions/author’s plot. That, I’ll admit, is just me! Most people acknowledge it as brilliant. The second thing is that those of us who read these things a lot are like the comic book fans of old who used to write in with letters to the editor that said: “I loved your February issue of Superboy, ‘Krypto’s Revenge,’ but on page 16, panel 4, Superboy’s cape is white instead of red. What gives?” We have small tolerance for what we perceive as flaws or weaknesses in a plot. It’s kind of silly that the three murders in DEATH ON THE NILE form a chain of “Let’s kill X; oh, Y saw me, so let’s kill Y; oh, Z saw me kill Y, so . . . ” I mean, how careless can you get? Or that there are TWO separate blackmailers to be gotten rid of in THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE. Couldn’t Christie come up with another idea for murder #3? Why did she even NEED this murder of a minor character? Isn’t Ellery Queen testing our limits in THE LAST WOMAN IN HIS LIFE when (mild SPOILER here) he has his dying victim lie in bed, his lips at the phone talking to Ellery himself, and thinking, “Oh dear! I want to identify my killer, but I have a stutter and if I try this word or that word, I’ll incriminate this or that innocent person.” I mean the guy goes through something like TEN WORDS! before he finally gives up and says something so oblique to the average 1961 American that it’s going to take 250 boring pages of investigation to clear THAT helpful message up.

    Clearly, I have nothing better to do with my Saturday. Aren’t you all at the BL event? Sigh! I’m going shopping . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    • There’s a demand for rigour in detective fiction that isn’t really apparent elsewhere, I agree: it’s not so much that Superboy’s cape is white instead of red, it’s that on page 17 of issue 12 he said he’d never met anyone from Greece and yet the second anniversary prequel special has him solving a case while on holiday in Greece…and that story is set 3 years before issue 12!

      That’s neither an abandonment of logic nor reality, it’s just bad writing and failing to include all the elements held true before. And this has to apply in GAD as much as in reality, otherwise things get…messed up — like I say about The Hollow Man, where suddenly stepping outside of what would realistically happen causes a bit of an interruption in the fun (and, dude, you are far from the only one who doesn’t get on with that book).

      Liked by 1 person

      • That COULD have been Superboy of Earth 2 – and, oh man! did they get away with murder when they started going to all those parallel worlds and reinventing origins and the like. That’s one thing I’ve always felt was inferior about comic fiction to, say, detective fiction: the need to go back and start over every twenty years or so. It means that I can sit down with a 20-year-old Christie fan and converse, but I won’t get far with a Batman fan of that age because he will have met a completely different Batman. And I refer here mostly to origins: I have no problem if Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller all want to have a different take on the Caped Crusader. Of course, Rex Stout’s Poirot would be quite odd, as would Hammett’s version of Miss Marple.

        But then, movies do this all the time, don’t they, Kenneth Branagh???

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dashiell Hammett’s Miss Marple…oh, please let that be a manuscript that exists somewhere…

          You make a great point about the different origins, variations, and alternate realities. Of course, we may yet end up with people who are fans of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot and dislike Christie’s…may god have mercy on their souls. At the very least, this pluracy of ideas and concepts gave us a great set of books to fall back into: fine, comic writers can relaunch the New 52 or whatever they like, but if Dorothy Bowers come sup with something that’s sort of Miss marple but not quite, she actually has to launch that as a new book, and add all the associated ideas, context, and fripperoes that go with it. It might be interesting to see what would have happened if different authors were free to write their own versions of classic characters — look what Leo Bruce did with it — but at least because they couldn’t a lt of great books resulted.

          (Dorothy Bowers, incidentally, didn’t write anything of the standard of the Miss Marple books; I was just reaching for a name and that was the first one that hit me).

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  5. I read a book yesterday in which the murder weapon was a ‘karrit’ — ‘one of the deadliest reptiles in India’. This, according to the narrator, was indistinguishable from a garden slug and was able to fit inside a pocket torch (so it’s not supposed to be the krait, which is around 3ft long). The murderer cast it at his victims with a fishing rod and line. In other ways the book was sober, well-written, filled with intelligent reasoning, and somehow it must have played fair because at one point I thought ‘I hope it doesn’t turn out to be the deadly Burmese beetle’. But as much as I want to leap this hurdle, my petty sense of reality keeps me earthbound, and the book remains unsatisfactory. [Murder on the Marsh by John Ferguson]

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, god, you’ve got me thinking back now over what might be my — ahem — favourite awful solution. I think the locked room murder where the method was a tiny remote-controlled miniature fly that was flown into the victim’s nasal passage with some poison on it and then overlooked by the investigators because it was either a) too tiny or b) able to escape the room unobserved when it was opened…or perhaps the “someone who committed a crime was already dead at the time” story where there’s a sort of projection device that is able to perfectly replicate someone else’s face over your own, so they looked like the dead man. Yeah, those were some serious nadirs in this genre (both fairly recent short stories, too, from people who have evidently learned nothing from the hundreds and thousands of brilliant books available to them).

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