#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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#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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#101: Paul Halter Day – I: An Epistle of Paul the Impossible

Paul Halter Day 1

If I ran one of those clickbait-style websites, I would have been teasing this for at least a week now as the tautology of a ‘world exclusive never-before-seen Paul Halter translation’.  I mean, it is exactly that, but that’s not the point.

In order to help with the acknowledgement of Paul Halter’s 60th birthday, John Pugmire — perhaps better known under his stage name of Locked Room International — has, with M. Halter’s blessing, sent me a copy of the letter he received from Halter when mutual friend Roland Lacourbe first showed Halter the English translation John had done of his debut novel, The Fourth Door.  Lacourbe is, of course, the acknowledged overlord of the French impossible crime scene and compiler of the encyclopaedic reference 1001 Chambres Closes, the French equivalent of Robert Adey’s English language rundown of all things fictional and impossible, Locked Room Murders.

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#98: One week until Paul Halter Day!

Paul Halter Day

I have absolutely no doubt that Kate, Rich, Puzzle Doctor, and many others will do jobs far superior to anything I ever could in summarising yesterday’s hugely enjoyable Bodies from the Library and so I’ll leave that to them.

Instead, I’d like to remind anyone still considering it that next Sunday will be Paul Halter’s 60th birthday and so Paul Halter Day will come into effect.  If you’re posting anything Paul Halter-related on that day, put the link in the comments of this post and I’ll do a wrap-up later in the evening.

My thanks in advance to anyone getting involved, really looking forward to what people come up with…!

#91: The Moai Island Puzzle (1989) by Alice Arisugawa [trans. Ho-Ling Wong 2016]

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

Moai Island PuzzleChildren, incarnations of The Doctor, phases of the moon…generally I try not to play favourites.  But if I had to pick one crime fiction conceit above all others it would undoubtedly be a group of people on an island getting killed off one by one.  Sure, isolate them in some ancestral mansion via thunderstorm or on a train via unexpected snow and the effect is arguably the same, but there’s something about the island in itself that renders the idea all the more thrilling to my senses.  And so this Japanese island-set puzzle, the second collaboration between Locked Room International’s John Pugmire and translator and crime fiction blogger Ho-Ling Wong after last year’s excellent The Decagon House Murders, would be just what the doctor ordered if the medical profession ever thought of prescribing books for those of us with the thrill of fictional murder in our hearts.

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