#269: The Road Not Taken – Thoughts on Minor Instances in the Thackeray Phin Short Stories of John Sladek

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Thanks to the beneficence of Dan at The Reader is Warned, I have been loaned a copy of Maps (2002), an anthology of short fiction and other reflections by John Sladek which were previously not anthologised elsewhere.  Sladek wrote two impossible crime novels — the excellent Black Aura (1974) and the exemplary Invisible Green (1977) — and Maps contains the two short-form tales to feature the same American dandy sleuth, Thackeray Phin.  Both could be discussed at length, but TomCat’s already done that very well indeed and I’m more interested in looking at small moments within them that don’t actually contribute to the plot.  I know, right, what am I like?

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#266: ‘The Problem of the Emperor’s Mushrooms’ (1945) by James Yaffe – Five and a Half Alternative Solutions

I recently acquired one of the only 175 extant editions produced by Crippen and Landru of the short story ‘The Problem of the Emperor’s Mushrooms’ by James Yaffe, itself originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1945.  And in the same manner of reflection upon Paul Halter’s ‘The Yellow Book’ (2017) from a few weeks ago, I thought I’d have another look at a short story…though this time to suggest possible alternative explanations for the impossible poisoning contained therein.

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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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#247: The Sister Ursula Stories of Anthony Boucher (1943-45)

exeunt-murderers

Having worked my way through Anthony Boucher’s short stories featuring the alcoholic yet still razor-sharp ex-cop Nick Noble, I’m now onto the second section of his collected short stories, comprising those featuring crime-solving nun Sister Mary Ursula of the Order of Martha of Bethany from Boucher’s locked room novels Nine Times Nine (1940) and Rocket to the Morgue (1942).

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#243: The Case of the Surprise Locked Room Mystery – Baudolino (2000) by Umberto Eco [trans. William Weaver 2002]

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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.

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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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#196: The Department of Queer Complaints [ss] (1940) by Carter Dickson

queer-complaintsDepartment 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…

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#174: Adventures in Self-Publishing – The Mysteries of Reverend Dean [ss] (2008) by Hal White

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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…

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