#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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#270: The Madman’s Room (1990) by Paul Halter [trans. John Pugmire 2017]

Madman's RoomReader, brace yourself for a shock: I — the man who curated an online celebration of Paul Halter’s 60th birthday last yearloved The Madman’s Room.  Given the hue and stripe of originality Halter has brought to the impossible crime genre (The Demon of Dartmoor, The Lord of Misrule, and The Invisible Circle, among others, all contain what surely must be original resolutions to the inexplicable), it’s no surprise to find him resolving the mysteries herein as inventively as he does.  What I especially enjoyed was the simplicity brought to the answers, particularly the way he occludes that simplicity so smartly so that you look back on come the end and go “Oh, hell, how did I miss that?”.

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#259: ‘The Yellow Book’ (2017) by Paul Halter [trans. John Pugmire 2017] and Categorising No Footprints Murders…

Of late, I have found myself surrounded by invisible men.  Entirely fictional, of course, but there have been a lot of them: shooting someone in an empty room in You’ll Die Laughing (1945) by Bruce Elliott, disappearing into darkness in I’ll Grind Their Bones (1936) by Theodore Roscoe, vanishing from rooms and beaches in Thursday’s forthcoming Wilders Walk Away by Herbert Brean, performing miracle appearances and disappearances as I reread Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot…everywhere I look, people are vanishing.

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#200: Celebrating 100 Impossible Crimes with Paul Halter’s The Vampire Tree (1996) [trans. John Pugmire 2016]

vampire-tree-100

This, my 200th post on this blog, will also be the 100th to be tagged with the subject ‘Impossible Crimes‘ and — since my very first was a review of Paul Halter’s The Phantom Passage — I thought I’d hold this milestone to look at the most recent Halter translation from John Pugmire’s Locked Room International, which goes by the English title The Vampire Tree.  I will probably do this at some length, though without mentioning specifics past the 25% mark, and with a brief mention of only one slight spoiler, signposted in advance.  So, let’s get into it…

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#150: The House That Kills (1932) by Noel Vindry [trans. John Pugmire 2015]

house-that-killsAaaah, the debut novels of celebrated authors.  Would anyone read It Walks by Night and predict The Problem of the Green Capsule or Till Death Do Us Part?  Does The Mysterious Affair at Styles in any way prepare you for The Moving Finger, or for Crooked House?  Often it’s a challenge to look back on the opening salvo of a career that would go on to become notable and find any vestige of that in those first few hundred pages, and it can be even harder when — as in the case of Noel Vindry’s The House That Kills — you’re waiting 80 years to read it in your native language and are told up front of the author’s own huge contribution to the genre.  Frankly, it needs to be The Usual Suspects mixed with The Mystery of the Yellow Room (spoilers for that in this, incidentally) as rewritten by David Mamet…and even then it probably won’t match the hype.

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#112: The Howling Beast (1934) by Noel Vindry [trans. John Pugmire 2016]

Disclosure: I proof-read this book for Locked Room International in April 2016.

Howling BeastAfter many years reading, talking about, reviewing, and now blogging on the subject of detective fiction I am presented with a real difficulty here: I honestly don’t know quite what to write about Noel Vindry’s classic The Howling Beast for fear of giving anything away.  It is a balancing act of a book that, while probably not completely successful by today’s standards, is hugely enjoyable and absolutely something that those who count themselves as puzzle fans or lay claim to an interest in the emergence and development of detective fiction really should read.  And I’m not just being vague here because I don’t want to criticise it — I really enjoyed it, and there’s one key thing it does absolutely brilliantly, and I’m especially keen to preserve that for those of you who should experience this pure.  So, with that out of the way, here goes.

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#103: Paul Halter Day – III: The Round-Up

Paul Halter Day 3

Well, as 60th birthdays go, I hope mine is this much fun.  And so as Paul Halter Day comes to an end – and given that you’ve already checked out my two posts on the beginning of the Locked Room International enterprise and then some unapologetic fanboying on Halter’s impossible crime mantle-bearing – here’s the round-up of what others who were generous enough to get involved had to say.

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First up, and with thanks for his not taking legal action over me stealing his Crimes of the Century round-up idea for this post, Rich at Past Offences  tackled The Demon of Dartmoor, his first toe into the Halter Pool (see what I did there?), and liked what he found:

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#102: Paul Halter Day – II: The Impossibility of More Impossibilities

Paul Halter Day 2

Declaring that the detective novel was the only form of literature that put the reader to work, [S.S. van Dine] argued that “a deduction game emphasising fair play within a limited setting” would be the story structure with the best potential to result in masterpiece mystery stories […] But when the elements of the game are too severely limited and the building materials are all the same, only the first few builders will get all the glory and there will be an over-abundance of similar novels…

—Soji Shimada, in his introduction to The Moai Island Puzzle

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