#301: The Realm of the Impossible [ss] (2017) eds. John Pugmire and Brian Skupin – Week 3

Realm of the Impossible

The world tour that is Locked Room International’s newest impossible crime story collection continues, with me picking out stories by their approximate geographical groupings to explore the themes they raise.  Previously we’ve had:

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#300: The Lucky Policeman (1938) by Rupert Penny

luckypoliceman315A man prone to bouts of lunacy escapes in unusual circumstances from the private sanatorium where he is a resident, and shortly thereafter a series of murders are committed, the left shoe removed from each victim…well, you join the dots.  And yet, can it really be that simple?  Ordinary GAD rules say no, but this is Rupert Penny, puzzle-maker par excellence, and thus such easy prehension could be both a feint and the actual intended explanation.  So Scotland Yard’s Chief-Inspector Edward Beale is dispatched and brings amateur hanger-on Tony Purdon and Sergeant ‘Horsey’ Matthews with him, a crime-solving triumvirate likely to have even Inspector Joseph French quailing jealously at their ability to unpick complex schemes.

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#297: Murder in the Museum (1938) by John Rowland

26077477It is understandable that we, as readers, hope for everything we read to be good.  However, it is also unlikely that this will be the case, and so sometimes we have to make do with what a book actually offers us.  It may not be good, so is it interesting?  Does it tell us something new about the era in which it is set or was written?  Failing that, is it at least enjoyable?  Murder in the Museum (1938), the first of two John Rowland books published as part of the British Library Crime Classics series, is not especially good, but it is a lot of fun.  And I’ll take fun.  Fun is underrated.  I could broadside this for its many flaws and failings, but the truth is I ripped through it, didn’t take it too seriously, and had a great time.

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#294: The Arabian Nights Murder (1936) by John Dickson Carr

Arabian NightsIn the orchestra of John Dickson Carr’s detective fiction, his early years from It Walks by Night (1930) up to arguably The Arabian Nights Murder (1936) are very much the accordion section.  Events occur in concentrated bursts, with clues and characters squeezed together to make the notes of the plot emerge, only to then be drawn apart before inexorably squeezing together again for another dense exposit you must pore over in order to follow the necessary developments.  From The Punch and Judy Murders (1936) until the 1940s he wrote in the fine, clean, overlapping lines of the harp, and then the violins took over… but enough of this analogy, back to this book and the wheeze of a bellows working overtime.

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#293: On Narrowness in Impossible Crimes, via ‘Locked In’ (1939) by E. Charles Vivian

Miraculous Mysteries

I recently read, with no large amount of pleasure, Evidence in Blue (1938) by E. Charles Vivian.  However, I’m not a man to write someone off after one bad book.  So the presence of a locked room story by Vivian in the Martin Edwards-edited collection of such impossibilities Miraculous Mysteries (2017) from the British Library Crime Classics series was a chance to give him another go.

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#291: Evidence in Blue (1938) by E. Charles Vivian

Evidence in BlueFinding new authors to read is a curious mix of recommendations and speculation.  I started reading Rupert Penny because he appeared on this list, but then the joy of Max Afford and Norman Berrow followed purely because they were reprinted by the same publisher, Fender Tucker’s Ramble House.  Such an approach has typically gone well, and while the care of my choosing could be a factor here, I prefer to think that it’s because RH generally publish very good — and if not very good then at least interesting — books.  Thus, picking up this book by Vivian at the end of last year was pure “Well, it’s a Ramble House reprint” speculation, and a simple hope to continue my generally good run from them.

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#289: The Literary Allusion That Wasn’t – Use of the Flying, Dying Message in The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot (1964) by Robert Arthur


The following will discuss specific details of the plot of The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot (1964), the second novel in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series.  I suppose you could consider such details spoilers.  However, it’s a book with many flaws that I can’t believe the average reader of this blog would get much from, and the need to go into specifics is necessary in order to have a more interesting discussion.  Nevertheless, I’d hate to drop spoilers on you without warning.  Thus whether or not to continue reading is, as always, your choice.

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#288: The Guggenheim Mystery (2017) by Robin Stevens

The mere existence of the_guggenheim_mystery-frontThe Guggenheim Mystery is almost a piece of mystery metafiction in itself: the title was discovered among Siobhan Dowd’s papers following her untimely death in 2007, implying its intention as the follow-up to her impossible disappearance novel for younger readers, The London Eye Mystery (2007)…but no more was known.  It fell to Robin Stevens to puzzle out a plot from these waifish beginnings and so continue the adventures of Ted Spark, his sister Kat, and their cousin Salim.  So here we are — a painting disappears from the eponymous art gallery, the police jump on the most likely suspect, and it falls to this intrepid trio to hunt out the truth, recover the painting, and save the day.

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