#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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#280: The Man Who Wasn’t There – An Unseen Side to Sexton Blake in Model for Murder (1952) by Derek Howe Smith

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A year before the publication of locked room masterpiece Whistle Up the Devil (1953), and possibly just to get his eye in for the writing of a detective story, Derek Smith wrote a story featuring the popular pulp character Sexton Blake.  It was never published, and only came to public awareness when John Pugmire compiled the Derek Smith Omnibus in 2014 which comprised Smith’s two novels, the Blake novella Model for Murder, and a short story entitled ‘The Imperfect Crime’.

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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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#264: Death in the Dark (1930) by Stacey Bishop

Death in the Dark“There is no suspense in a bang,” said Alfred Hitchcock, “only in the anticipation of it.” This applies to Stacey Bishop’s sole detective novel because, well, it wasn’t a book a sizeable proportion of GAD readers were aware even existed until Locked Room International conjured this reprint fittingly out of the ether — when John Norris at Pretty Sinister hasn’t read it, you know it’s rare.  As such, the gleeful anticipation of its release was undercut somewhat by the fact that we hadn’t even heard of it, and so there’s no weight of expectation: we are free, in this connected age of everything being on demand and everything being remembered, to come into this entirely without preconceptions.

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#242: The Ginza Ghost [ss] (1932-47) by Keikichi Ōsaka [trans. Ho-Ling Wong 2017]

Disclosure: I proof-read this book for Locked Room International in March/April 2017.

The Ginza GhostAfter two wonderful shin honkaku novels in The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji and The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa, John Pugmire’s Locked Room International now brings you this honkaku story collection from early pioneer Keikichi Ōsaka.  The introduction by Ashibe Taku, author of Murder in the Red Chamber (2004), does a great job of putting Ōsaka in context, since this was a nascent form of mystery writing that allows a fascinating and at times hugely inventive take on a genre we thought we’d seen everything in already — no mean feat when some of the best here are over 80 years old.  And some of these solutions have to be read to be believed… (in a good way, that is).

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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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#148: So, Like, What Is an Impossible Crime or a Locked Room Mystery?

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Recent experiences of reading Darkness at Pemberley by T.H. White and What a Body! by Alan Green  — oh my days, I’ve only just noticed that they’re both named after colours… — have made me wonder on the above question.  See, both are listed here, on a compendium of the best ever locked room mysteries voted on by an international collection of people who know about this stuff, and both are listed here, on a rundown of the favourite locked room mysteries by resident blogosphere expert TomCat…yet personally, in the face of public opinion from such well-informed and respected sources, I’m reluctant to consider either of them as locked room mysteries.  Even taking my famously contrary nature out of the equation…what the hell?

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