Umberto Eco is an author who has been on my radar for positively decades now, and I decided to start not with the far more famous The Name of the Rose (1980, trans. 1986) but instead the Middle Ages-set, wandering storyteller tome Baudolino (2000, trans. 2002) because, well, it’s probably not a common starting point (yes, I am contrary; it has been noted). So imagine my frank surprise and delight when about 300 pages in it suddenly — after lots of vignettes and philosophical off-shoots about, crikey, all manner of things — transformed into a legit locked room mystery.
Disclosure: I proof-read this book for Locked Room International in March/April 2017.
After 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).
Department D3 of Scotland Yard houses the gargantuan form of Colonel March, investigator of the absurd and apparently impossible whose “mind is so obvious that he hits it every time”. It’s a shame March never got a novel of his own, because he has a lovely and direct way of dealing with the problems brought to him, but then he’s not exactly dissimilar to the Gideon Fell chap about whom Carter Dickson wrote so much under his real name of John Dickson Carr. So, yup, it’s impossibilities ahoy as we go through ten cases of the inexplicable thoroughly laid to rest by Carr’s own brand of chicanery and misdirection; it’s true: life is good to us sometimes, and we just gotta enjoy it when it happens…
As the saying goes, man plans and God laughs. In last week’s Tuesday Night Bloggers post I offered a tantalising glimpse into a possible future with the line “Next week, if all goes to plan: France,” and has all gone to plan? Of course not. So repack your bags, everyone, because this week we’re off to…
Continuing the grand old tradition of crime-solving clergy — I refer, of course, to The Father Dowling Mysteries — Hal White’s collection of impossible crime stories featuring the retired octogenarian Reverend Thaddeus Dean gives us six takes on vanishing murderers, no footprints in the snow, impossible alibis, and more classic staples of my most-beloved of sub-genres. And, no small praise, it bears the stamp of approval from Bob Adey…so, are the stories any good? Well, as part of my continued trek to find something in the realms of self-published detective fiction that’s actually worth your time, let’s have a look…
Nearly 3 months after being announced, running to 15 stories and 115,421 words, Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums is finished, and this post is here to announce that it’s ready for you to download for free!
And, yes, you read that correctly — all 15 of the original stories are included, thanks to a frankly amazing intervention by John Grant (he of the massively entertaining Noirish blog) who offered his help in sorting out the two stories I wasn’t going to have the time to get into shape…and then managed to do them in, like, zero seconds flat.
William Anthony Parker White, under the nom de plume Anthony Boucher, is widely considered to have been one of the most influential voices of his generation when it came to matters of detective fiction. As an anthologist and reviewer his opinions counted greatly for their insight and fairness, but as well as talking the talk he also walked the walk in a series of seven novels and over 70 short stories published in the most highly-regarded detective and SF magazines of the day.
And yet for all his output, and in part on account of his genre-changing, it’s difficult to know how Boucher’s fictional writing should be remembered. His novels cover no fewer than three different “series”, with the longest-running — centred around Irish PI/Gentleman Detective Fergus O’Breen — comprising only three of them, and the most famous — locked room murder Nine Times Nine (1940) — featuring the marvellous wannabe-detective nun Sister Ursula but succeeded by a follow-up (1942’s Rocket to the Morgue) so inane that most people have probably never picked it up based on reputation alone (which is a shame, because Sister Ursula is one of the most wonderful characters to come out of this era).
Believe it or believe it not — though in all likelihood you’ve actually forgotten about it — Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums is nearly ready. Version 1.0, containing 13 of the intended original 15 stories, should be available by the end of the month, missing two stories because the process of wrangling them into shape when it’s just me, TomCat, and our spare time is proving rather more long-winded than previously thought. A v1.1 may be available at a later date once I’ve got these two remaining stories edited into readable form, but I figure most of something is better than all of nothing.