Archivi categoria: Locked Room

Anthony Abbot : About the Murder of A Startled Lady ,1935

In America, at the time of Van Dine, Abbot was one of his most important followers.He wrote eight novels since 1930 :  About The Murder Of A Startled Lady, 1935, is the fifth.Anthony Abbot (very name Charles Fulton Oursler ) was a knowed writer and pressman: with other writers, connected to S.S. Van Dine, he partecipated to a legendary mystery (legend, certainly not a masterpiece, but more like a curiosity): the novel was born from a bet, in 1935, during a dinner with the then U.S. President Franklin  Delano Roosevelt. The same Abbot was present, which with his real last name was  Director of the New York Newspaper “Liberty”: He thought from the innocent subject of the U.S. President could have derived a novel, and then alerted a number of writers to write the chapters:  The first chapter was the turn of Rupert Hughes, Samuel  Hopkins Adam the second, then came the turn of the same Oursler; then succeeded the comedienne  Rita Weiman, and the famous S. S.Van Dine. Finally John Erskine.

The work was serialized in Oursler’s Liberty Magazine in 1935, and the book was published in 1936. After thirty years Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of Perry Mason) remembered the story and he wrote a final charter, an Appendix in which Perry Mason and Paul Drake pulled the threads of the story. The book was reprinted in 1967 and retitled The President’s Mystery Plot.

But we go back to our novel, to About The Murder Of A Startled Lady .The story begins with a seance: Mr and Mrs Lynn, self-styled spiritualist, refer to Professor Gilman, a scientist who converted himself to parapsychology, had learned from a spirit of a crime happened long before: a certain Madeline would have been killed, dissected and closed in a box thrown in the waters off a popular beach.
Thatcher Colt, High Commissioner and Chief of Police of New York, only for the sake, without believing all the mediums and the like, secretly sends his men and a diver to check the news, and to his astonishment, the case is found , and in it they find a totally decomposed corpse, a skeleton in short, at a lot of pieces: 200 or more bones.
In Colt’s own house is reassembled the skeleton, but are not data that may be valid for identification: the clothes are almost completely destroyed, the case is cheap, the victim’s teeth are perfect.
The victim was shot through the forehead, and in fact the skull is a rattling noise when you shake: is the bullet of a caliber 32. And since it does not appear to have been any complaints regarding disappearance of a young woman, Colt decides to rely to Imro Fitch, a failed sculptor but a genius at the same time that mixing anthropomorphic knowledge and sensibility of an artist basing on accurate anthropometric relationships, reconstructs the face as it presumably would have been.

Fitch makes a true work of art and life to the skeleton. Also, basing on the few remnants of clothing, he find any similar clothing, one that should have been wearing Madeline in his last days of life. From here begins the survey itself: you get to the victim’s identification: Madeline Swift, 22 years.
Close relatives of the girl revealed a strongly suppressed family. Father and paternal grandfather fanatical religious: the grandfather, manufacturer of amulets; the father, a dealer in sheet music and records; her mother, a milliner, enslaved to his father; her sister, Verna, had been hospitalized for exhaustion nervous. In short, an environment that could not stand the exuberance of Madeline, girl described so old too modern for that environment (a reaction?): Smoked, drank and collected stories of love. Until .. until you fell in love with a certain Alfred Keplinger, a university student. And here was derived from a furious argument with his father, who did not want her daughter frequented such an individual .. Well .. the first motives emerge and the first suspect.
Apparently the girl was frightened by whom? It is not known. He said that a mysterious person followed her: policemans find a taxi driver who had brought the girl, but he does not know where she went but he knows from where he had taken her in the car: the house is that of an influential Democratic politician, Daniel O ‘Toole, connected to the District Attorney, whose elections are short term.
Then, interrogating Keplinger, we learn that he was a medical student, who tells how her Madeline was misunderstood. But does not say everything. Colt finds out and put under surveillance, the switchboard of the building where home is here and confirmed his suspicion: the young man talks to his sister he did not say anything. Bottom line: Keplinger is stopped.

From the investigation you transpire that some of his entourage and even a politician, harbored resentment. And that the same seance had been rigged: Colt discovers that the voice had revealed to the medium where to find the chest with human bones, he had not felt in a trance nor had dreamed, but had a presence in her room . The strange thing is that when she heard these things she was alone: there was no one else, not even her husband, and the door was closed by a bolt inside. An inspection is done: if at first you think of a concealed microphone and connected to the antenna cable, it turns out that the branch was covered with a cobweb, a sign that was placed at the corner of the window at an earlier time ‘arrival of Lynn. This leads to looking further at Colt’s room, finding a removable panel and a hole in it that communicates with the adjacent apartment. So as you can see, many suspects and little evidence. Colt understands who the murderess, but has no evidence. Then he tries going for broke: relying on improvisation. Who could he be?

Abbot begins this novel, the same way as “About the Murder of the Clergyman’s Mistress” her second novel, in which a corpse is found not identified. Since the discovery begin the investigation: the atmosphere in both is left with the tips of “macabre” in “About the Murder of a Startled Lady” quite pronounced tones reach. However, if we could say that the beginning is much the same, from that moment on, the two novels differ considerably.
Let’s say that the murderess is imagined long before those who may be: Abbot differs quite significantly from the earlier novels, where the revelation came in the final pages.
It’s common knowledge fact that the Abbos novels follow two distinct ways of conceiving: the first four novels (all written before 1932) are more or less all attributable to vandinian writing (plot very spectacular revelations in the last pages, detailed descriptions, investigations in well-defined structure of the novel in which you give a lot to the deduction of the subject and little scientific evidence): About the Murder of Geraldine Foster (1930), About the MUDER of the Clergyman‘s Mistress (1931), About the Murder of the Night Club Lady (1931), About the Murder of the Circus Queen (1932). Those that are written after 1935, though they differ: plot less spectacular but more complex, the deduction is put into a corner in favor of a survey tighter, the style is less elaborate and more fluid, the scientific evidence are more and more police in the investigation: About the Murder of a Startled Lady (1935), About the Murder of a Man Afraid of Women (1937), The Creeps (1939), The shudders (1943).

The abandonment of Vandinian writing you can clearly also constructive abandonment of the formula of the title, which is typical of both novels greatly SS Van Dine, Ellery Queen both of those up in Halfway House, The House of the Metamorphoses (whose first title was supposed to be The Mystery Swedish Match): if it is visible from 1937, it is equally true that even before Abbot that date had changed his style in the making of a detective story: the police investigation more space (formerly Abbot tends to differ from Queen and Van Dine, when he created his first novel, because the protagonist is not an amateur educated, snobbish, even as the Chief of Police: Van Dine if the Police were represented by the investigator who had shoulder if anything, true deus ex machina of the survey, the figure of the District Attorney Markham, Ellery Queen and the investigator father, an Inspector of Police, and if other authors, born in the wake of Vandinian writing, the first detective was still a detective from the wealthy, educated, and that helps the police (Rufus King, Stacey Bishop, Rex Stout , Rufus Gillmore), we must recognize that the Abbot had opened another branch which shall Vandinian conform other authors, for example, the Lord Lieutenant of King Charles Daly, whose first novel was in 1932, Obelists at Sea and ‘curious experience, but clearly shows a change of taste from the abundant second half of the thirties, the fact that Abbot, both Ellery Queen,  C.Daly King is the same, all authors born in the wake of Vandinian writing pure mutate the way to build title of the novel: in fact even C.Daly King, which we discuss in more detail one day, until 1935, the word “Obelists” follows the noun and identifies the novel, but dating from 1937, the novel’s title changes. In fact, in that year, C.D.King changes the manner to name his novels: Careless Corpse: A Thanatophony.

What emerges from About The Murder Of A Startled Lady, is the investigative action that is not exclusively the investigator on duty, what is the summation of a series of parallel investigations that can be misleading but also tangible results: Abbot opens in essence a kind of Procedural, which alleviates a lot of reading, as though not a Hard Boiled, approaches him greatly, as “acting” is unclear how this new genre in some writers tend to influence the creative outcomes: However, if the reading is much easier, it is equally true that the spectacle of the plot undergoes a decisive blow: the atmosphere is never the same criminal who can be expected and found in his first two novels, or even in the third.
The novel was nevertheless, as we said in the presentation, chosen by Roland Lacourbe for his “99 Novels for a Locked Room Library”: so there is a Locked Room? Yes, but although important for the solution to the developments that follow, however, is not closely related to the crime itself: if I have to express myself, in my opinion the choice of this closed chamber seems to have been a little ‘forced as if it were another story for all of these could be fully inserted in the list. Moreover, the presence of a hole that communicates with the other room, hidden by a removable panel, inside a closet, it seems a particularly pretty laughable, because you can talk about Locked Room: it is as if they would introduce Also amble of the secret passages, ways to get himself between the hook!
However, the manifest impossibility is given by a bolt inside the door that closes, the absence of other people across the medium, that might connect any microphone to the radio antenna cable had not been found and that There was even a cobweb on copper cable outside the box to signify that no one had busy for a long time, long before they got to live there the Lynn. The presence of a web logically remember us a Paul Halter’s novel, that is clearly derived from this: La toile de Penelope in which a spider web on a window, however, is directly connected to the closed chamber.

If, however, I doubt that this closed chamber could in effect compete with all other submitted on that list, however, is primarily a psychological reasoning: Carr, although the U.S. was British by adoption, and the British were behind a whole literature supernatural (Fantasy literature, gothic ghost story) whereby the impossible situation of a Locked Room, if it is subsequently reduced to rational bounds of reason (except to propose a parallel solution Court in The Witches), initially with good reason may have a characterization of the supernatural: it is realized so that clash between opposing natures, which causes an interesting development of the action in the plot. Therefore even a development as that established by Abbot, if it was practiced by Carr, maybe, just maybe, however, could have an excuse. Instead, for Abbot, U.S., too, Thatcher Colt is a character too rationalistic and too contemptuously antispiritualist because a gimmick like “seance” might here, in this novel, could to have an influence on the reader, and on the novel’s atmosphere. So if it occurs a seance in Christie or  Carr, the reader feels a certain uneasiness, if the same occurs in Abbot, at least in these early novels, the reader does not think the slightest possibility that the seance may have been true, it assumes that the voice heard was the product of some device hidden.
That’s because being the same impossible situations, for me is much more interesting as a Locked Room, the one in About the Murder of the Night Club Lady (1931) which, although resulting from the trick invented by Edgar Wallace at The Four Just Men (1905 ), it differs a lot.

Pietro De Palma

Christianna Brand : Heads You Lose, 1941

The first novel by Christianna Brand, with the Inspector Cockrill was Heads You Lose, written in 1941. Before it, in the same year, Christianna, had made ​​her debut with Death in High Heels, a novel who had given her a warm reception and that was served to spur, when she was still working as a clerk, convincing her to continue her career as a writer.

It’s a novel of impossible crimes, subtly macabre , veined by the veil of madness and in any case by the oddity that gives the novel its own special charm.
Stephen Pendrock is the squire of the village. Grace Morland is a painter, who now is talking to him on the terrace of his house. She is in love with him, maybe yes maybe no, but certainly she would like to live the rest of her life with him in Pigeonsford. The fact is that Stephen, so measured, so sober, and also so mature, secretly loves Fran, one of the nephews by Lady Hart that he is hosting in his mansion. Fran, however, is so young, so saucy, that Stephen is in doubt whether he really, fifty, may be of interest for her: his at the moment is a platonic love and does not know if it will ever become something else.
Grace paints at different times of the day, the landscapes that attract the most her: from the Stephen house’s terrace she can paint enjoying the best scenery, but she knows to be tolerated; nevertheless she imposed her presence, that for kindness has not been refused. She immediately has notice that Stephen only has his eyes for Fran, despite also James Nicholl is interested to her, young and wealthy bachelor. And because she is jealous of Stephen, really wants to despise the only thing that Fran has proven to be enthusiastic, a charming hat, that she makes everyone see: to her grandmother, Lady Hart; to her sister Venetia and to his brother-in-law Henry Gold, rich jew; to Stephen Pendrock; and Grace, who is there to paint, which says that not even dead in a ditch, she would like wear on the head a hat like that!

At that night her corpse is found, at the property belonging to the mansion, just in a ditch, with the Fran’s hat pulled down over her head , by the old butler Bunsen, who went in bycicle to visit his sister, and was returning to Pigeonsford. The shocking fact, that leaves everyone aghast, is that Grace Morlan has not only been killed, but also beheaded; and that on her head, as a kind of scarring, the reviled hat was pulled down on her head. It ‘obvious that only a few people were aware of what Gracehad said, and always the same people only knew where the hat had been placed, in what place of the house: so it is clear that if an offender must find, he must be found in the house.

The Inspector Cockrill, known familiarly as “Cockie” from the occupants of the house, because inhabitant in those zones, of this he is especially convinced: he was deeply disturbed at the sight of the Grace’s body, also because he had known Grace Morlan in his youth: “a sentimental goat “was for him, and then he had never had any stimulus affective against him although she had on several occasions attempted to be seduced. The sad fate of Grace: although she had tried to avoid being “old maid” for the rest of her life, no one had ever shown affectionate feelings towards her. Perhaps for her acidity that she showed at the first opportunity. The fact is that now she is dead. And too bad.
The firstalarm bellforCockie, isthe phone call thatcomesto policeand which comesfrom the house ofPendrock: to talk about isa woman,who claims to bethe killer, and claims that soonFranalsodie. Cockrillmust find the killer before he/she killsagain; andsince also the summer before, ascullery maid, after saying goodbye toher lover, had been foundin the groveof the estate,with his hands tiedbehind his back andhis headsevered from the bodybya sharp sickle, left thereclosely,thething becomes damnly urgent.. It’very strange thatafter oneyearare foundtwoheadless corpsesin the sameestate.

Another character peeks at the death of Grace: is her half-sister Pippy Le May, actress.
Pippy Le May subtly hated half-sister. When the crime took place she was far away and therefore it’s not a good reason she can be concerned. Pippy who is awake, saw something in that house, and really wants to take advantage. He’s going to blackmail someone? But also she is soon killed in a horrible way, beheaded. Near the tracks. It’s as if someone with an enormous force, he tore the collar from the trunk, leaving no footprints in the snow. If on the severed head from Grace had been put the Fran’s hat, now around the Pippy’s mangled neck the murderer put the scarf of the woman. In short, three people were beheaded, in less than a year. Everything revolves around this house, a cursed house.

Cockrill investigates but soon he finds himself up against a wall of silence: someone must have been in the house, certainly, to kill Grace Morland, perhaps Pippy Le May, and perhaps also the scullery maid killed at the year before. Covering each other the occupants of the house, it becomes extremely difficult to nail down the murderer to his/her responsibilities: in this situation, the virtually unassailable alibi make these last two crimes “impossible” to have occurred. 

Of course it is strange to happen three crimes, all with the same characteristics,at the same place! Cockrill thinks and makes his conjectures, but to remove the wall created from the members of the house around them, each other, is no small thing. It seems they want to believe that the person responsible has come from the outside, but even they are reliable. In fact, as the Grace murder is at least strange, for the detail of the hat, that one hand at the same time mocking and mad, trod on the severed head by the painter, a sign that someone by force, even though all deny it, and no one saw anything, he/she must be returned to the home, stealing the hat from the box where it was put, and have it taken away, even the Pippy murder someone can not say that it is not curious: Pippy has returned to his home, but has forgotten her glasses at Pendrock’s home and then she has reported to her maid she would return there to take the glasses; but she has not returned. This thing reconnect the crime at Pendrock home. In this case, however, the detail that makes it all the more difficult, is that around the body there are not footprints but an expanse of untouched snow: how did the murderer to kill Pippy?

In a whirlwind of blows, Cockrill will nail the murderer, less guilty than we would think, for the murder of two cousins​​, but not for that of the scullery, of which will be blamed another person. Before it will make the name of a lot of persons as the killer: Trotty, the maid; Pippy (for Grace); the true killer; Lady Hart. Why, if did you mention the name of the murderer (by Cockrill, which he considers responsible, and of which he explains the actions and the guilt), then was another person accused? Because here Christianna Brand resorts to a trick she will use other times, for example in Tour de Force: to indicate the real murderer, then to invent another solution that put him in the shade, and then to return on his culpability.
Again, Christianna Brand surprises and charms. And once again, a hallmark of his narrative style, are the multiple solutions, which succeed each other, and the multiple culprits are indicated and discarded from time to time; but also the multiple identities of the same people, as we have already seen in other novels, for example in Tour de Force. But since this is the first novel, it is even more special.

The identification of the murderer comes almost unexpected. I say almost, because the careful reader (who had read the other novels in which a certain particular uses) may have been suspicious for a certain thing (which I do not mention, otherwise it is as if I took the name of the murderer). This thing, however, occurs in other novels: it reminded me Helen McCloy, about his masterpiece about the Doppelganger; and, above all, in the same way, in one of the masterpieces by Paul Halter, Le Brouillard Rouge. In other words, the murderess is not fully responsible, because he’s crazy, and after killing, he does not remember anything: it is as if he had acted in a state of trance, because epilepticus. Now, crazy killers in the novels of Halter, there are several, but, in that novel, the murderer, and his “modus operandi” are shown twice: first mentions about a certain thing he does, and then, in another step of the novel, takes this action in particular juncture that described before, but explaining it in all its horrible significance. Here, the same thing happens.
Another interesting thing, because it will also be used later, is the presence of a prologue: we will see a similar thing for example in Death of Jezebel.

Finally, there is the use of solutions that contemplate the locked rooms : in this case, it is explained by referring to the gymnastic skills by the killer (Carr already had experimented this, for example, in The Footprint in the Sky), in a way specifically, it will be taken verbatim from Joseph Comming in one of his stories; and much later, in a novel by William De Andrea: Killed on the Rocks, at a similar. But the really interesting thing is that in this novel, there are three victims and two separate killers. What does it mean? Christianna Brand that is inclined to the extreme originality, and for not bind the chariot to anyone, already in his first work. Which also reveals a great self-confidence. Moreover, the ploy, let’s face it, is the real “coup de theater” of the novel.

Finally, there is the use of solutions that contemplate the locked rooms: in this case, it is explained by referring to the gymnastic qualities by the killer (Carr already had experimented this, for example in The Footprint in the Sky), in a way specifically, it will be taken verbatim from Joseph Comming in one of his stories; and much later, in a similar manner at a novel by William De Andrea: Killed on the Rocks. But the really interesting thing is that in this novel, there are three victims and two separate killers. What does it mean? Christianna Brand is inclined to the extreme originality, and for not bind the chariot to anyone, already in his first work. Which also reveals a great self-confidence. Moreover, the ploy, let’s face, it is the real “coup de theater” of the novel. If Agatha Christie, on two occasions, had given a shove to the classic Whodunnit (before in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and after in Mrs McGinty’s Dead), also regulated strictly by SS Van Dine, in the case of Christianna Brand, the thing is more remarkable because it is performed on the occasion of her debut: while Van Dine, in order not to confuse the reader had forbidden that there was in an enigma novel over a murderer, here there are two!

I must note at this point that I was surprised by some comments by Christianna Brand when she describes Henry Gold, the jew husband of Venetia (Henry “Gold”, mind you): describes him as anti-Semitic propaganda of the that time described the Jews. The particularly strange is that it comes from a writer of Anglo-Saxon origin, a sign that this cultural setting was not own  of certain individuals identified politically and geographically, but that the same cultural setting was more widespread than you think.

Already in his first novel of the Inspector Cockrill series, Christianna Brand sets up spectacular stagings, in the case of the murder of the scullery maid, and in the case of the murder of Grace and Pippy. But it happens also at her other novels (for example, Death of Jezebel and Tour de Force) and at some of her short stories (for example The Gemminy Cricket Case).

Finally,a characteristic thing:in somenovels byChristiannaBrand,the victims arebeheaded. It does not happenonlyinthis her first macabre divertissement,butalsoinDeath of Jezebel. I believe that this can probably be related also with the fact thatChristianna Brand was born in Malaysia, Borneo, where the dajachi practiced the beheading of enemies: this horrible practice may be stuck in her mind and then reproduced in her “crimes of paper”.

Pietro De Palma

Noël Vindry : Le Piège aux diamants, 1933

Noel Vindry is a historical figure of the French enigma novel to and in particular of the Locked Room.

Born in 1896 in Haute-Savoie and died in Paris in 1954, he, a lawyer and then a judge, created a character in which he transfused his own business, giving it a great calm, reflection and ability to thoroughly analyze a problem; a great culture, combined with a love for good food; and making it a great pipe smoker. In essence, at the character of the judge Allou you can easily notice the letters of at least six great detective, before his appearance. Vindry handed thirteen published novels, with the judge Allou, all locked room. Of these, very few have been reprinted in modern times, and in the market of antiques and collectibles books, the Vindry’s novels being hard to find , they are also quite expensive.

It’s good to anticipate here that the protagonist of Le Piège aux diamonds is not so much the Judge Allou, the protagonist of the novels, as his colleague Dampierre, in charge of the investigation. Allou, appears at a later time, as in the first novel by Carter Dickson with HM, and then becomes the “deus ex machina” of the reconstruction and the final solution.
The main actors in the drama are three members of a company port: Flavio Dancour, his brother Paul and André Caroux. The original owner is Flavio but soon realizing that he had undertaken a task beyond his strength, he is associated with a friend and his brother Paul. The two, to enrich themselves behind the ingenuous Flavio, fraudulently make sure that his business go to hell and longer grant him a loan that they know will never be honored. So, soon, against Flavio is issued an arrest warrant for fraudulent bankruptcy. Only in extremis his brother Paul repents, and also if he is miserly and stingy, he gives his support of seventy-five thousand francs to Flavio and the possibility of escape by speedboat, since for the French law, the domicile was inviolable from dusk until dawn: then Dalcour, unless he deliver him to the police, he will be arrested at dawn, and until that time the commissioner Laurent and agents will surround the house to prevent any person who was in that house, to get out without being they intercepted. During the siege, Flavio will be seen looking out of the window and answer the call to police to surrender and he will be seen by an agent, climbed right under the window, before sitting at a table, then at a second time, on the ground. The fact is that before it is seen on the ground, you can hear clear a gunshot, then saw the body of Flavio is on the ground and then you are inclined to think that he killed himself. Instead, all is not well.

In fact, despite the shooting, the police did not enter at the house because the door is provided with lock detail. However, they see a car approaching more and more: is Dr. Rufare, a friend of the victim, who frightened by the sound of footsteps at the house he asked him to come right away. However, no one can be released, because there is a police cordon around. But when they enter, and they find Dacour lying on the ground, the doctor, visiting him attests that he was killed with a blunt instrument that fractured his skull. While the doctor is visiting the body, the police and the inspector search the house, while the son of the doctor is on the doorstep, unable to bear the sight of a corpse.
They do not find anybody. Neither the gun. Nobody can be escaped, because the output was manned by Pierre, the son of Rufare. So what? How did the murderer to escape?

To first mystery , others mysteries add.
The doctor says he saw in Dalcour’s home, 5 wonderful blue brights, estimated three hundred thousand francs, which the victim had apparently hoped to take away with him. But the 5 brilliant are not: they were in a box of iron, which opened with a device to be activated by a secret mechanism. But brights and litter box are not: the crime is the result of a theft? The murderer is the thief?
The police examines the housemaid of Dalcour grown from a few days to service of Caroux: she may have been to steal the diamonds. The police did not believe her words and stops her. The fact is that the police is convinced there are two culprits: the murderer and Janet Arlaud, the maid. Why the fingerprints found on a silver candlestick, do not belong to any of the suspects, nor to Janet ?
A few days later, was found dead Paul Dalcour, brother of Flavio: it was found in his poor room (he was not poor, but lived as a poor man for not spending money) closed from the inside, asphyxiated by gas; on the table a letter in which he proclaims himself murderer of his brother. Only that the fingerprints on the lamp are not his

Raises another important fact now: Flavio, eight days before his death he had sold the diamonds to his brother Paul, in exchange for a check for two hundred and fifty francs. Why then Rufare said to have seen them at the home of Flavio? While the housemaid says he does not see at least two more weeks, the time would coincide with the sale of the same? Flavio not sold them, and then the news is false, or Flavio sold them and Rufare lied. But why? Rufare be unrelated to the crime: it was found the phone call from his friend was made. Why Dalcour would call his own murderer? But then how would he kill him, if he there was not when Dalcour died? No, it is an assumption that does not hold. Rufare must be stranger.
How unusual and a source of doubt is the matter of Paul Dalcour. Why he would be declared responsible for the death of his brother if he had given a check for two hundred and fifty francs, compared with five brilliant? And even more strange is the matter of the murder: why would have been killed if he had not already more diamonds? Perhaps the killer did not know, a killer still unknown in the affair.

A new twist explodes. The police received an anonymous phone call, and listens for two thieves who have completed a burglary in the apartment and the house is of Caroux: they are taking away a litter box, which is recognized by Rufare, like that of his friend Dacour. After having made her break into, there are inside, dipped in cotton wool, five brilliant blue. Possible consequence? If Caroux had the brilliants, it is clear that he is the murderer. It always raises the question: how did he make? Caroux is stopped: thief and murderer are the same person. Or so it would seem.
But a new upheaval happens: the five brightest, analyzed, are fake: why Caroux would kill Dalcour? For five blue false brilliant ? Caroux did not know it? And why had Dalcour 5 fake brilliants, the real ones when he sold to his brother, now missing?
A jeweler presents and spontaneously over to the police a bright, which was purchased by him at the home of an old hag, the housekeeper of Paul Dalcour, Natalie. In short, a new character enters the story: what is her role?

How did she get hold of brilliant? Possible that his master, miserly and stingy even on his deathbed (he went to bed early so as not to consume the light, and saved money about the ink and the nib, and used as letterhead that obtained from other sheets already used) he said this to her, and he trusted her so much?
Caroux before he declares alien to each other, then calls into question Rufare and Janet. Rufare, when pressed, reveals the true purpose by Dalcour, who had “forced” to stay rather than flee immediately: to grope a scam, selling his friend, but also member of Caroux in financial transactions on the edge of legality, the five pieces of glass cleverly counterfeited.
The investigations are at stalemate, because if it is true that Caroux was arrested on charges of theft, there is no evidence that he killed Dalcour, nor the police have evidence to prove it.

Enters the scene at this point the judge Allou, a friend of a cousin of Judge Dampierre, who, not wanting to humiliate his colleague, he prefers to be the one to deduce, after collecting the evidence. Allou is already well known for having brilliantly solved the unsolved cases of Locked Room. After he has asked questions that no one had place (Dalcour had a life insurance? Who made the call to police that he allowed to block the two thieves? Really are the brilliants the motive of the murder?) Allou causes the action of his colleague. The investigations identify the mysterious informant in the person of Dr. Rufare: how did he know that Caroux had stolen the diamonds? Rufare is included in the investigation, the fingerprints are taken, and hi..these fingerprints are those found on the candelabra. Reversal of the situation: Caroux is no longer the murderer, but only the thief; Rufare is the murderer. But how did he make? And why did Paul Dalcour declare himself the brother’s killer?

Allou offers his truth: Rufare would not kill but only attempted extortion. But then who was it? And how did he do? In a succession of pyrotechnic events and revelations, Allou identifies the murderer, the role of an accomplice, the mystery of the disappearing of the gun, of other four brilliant and of the check of two hundred fifty thousand francs.
Pyrotechnical novel, it offers a continuous inversion of roles and situations, coming at the end of the novel to propose a shocking hypothesis: is the murder a murder? Or is it a suicide? And the suicide is real or is it a homicide? The all being able to reconstruct exactly the story and the role of each protagonist. The continuous turbillon of events, revelations and contra revelations that cancel the previous, create a disorientation of the reader who, captivated by events, is unable to understand anything. Truly, an extraordinary novel !
Moreover, the involvement of Rufare in the story is expressed in a sham: the steps that Dalcour had heard, they are just a red herring, for … But why? How is not he the murderer if on the candlestick there were his prints? But did Dalcour die by a skull’s fracture or not? And why did Rufare certify the death by Dalcour? And why did the autopsy reveal the true fracture? A lot of questions !
Let us remember that the novel, the third in the succession of twelve by Vindry, is of 1933.

In 1941, Agatha Christie will give to the story a novel that will be remembered and will affect all the gender: Evil Under The Sun. Do you remember the trick of the novel? Well, I think the basic idea is brought forward in this, neither more nor less. Possible that Christie has adapted the idea by Vindry, modifying her plot? Very possible, I would say, i.e. strangely also that from a novel by Steeman, Six hommes morts, finds itself in her masterpiece, Ten Little Niggers, and in that by Bristow & Manning, The Invisible Host.

In my opinion we should analyze the work of Christie in light of the influence by the French novel. No coincidence that she recognized the enormous influence that gave to her ambition to write novels, Le mystère de la chambre jaune by Gaston Leroux. In fact, the ascertainment of death in the novel by Agatha Christie leads to a series of consequences, because death has not yet occurred; while in the novel by Vindry the death occurred, but the finding of it, it is carried out with a different procedure consequential. However, the basic idea is the same: a false assessment carried out on a dead body and that does the investigating person when he dismissed the present.

And Vindry? Undoubtedly already in this novel we find a theme hewill use in one of his later masterpieces, La Bête hurlante: the fact that the house is surrounded by a cordon of police determines that it is impossible that the murderer was able to escape. But we also find features related to other French novelists of the period: the fact that the center of the plot there is not a psychological characterization of the characters but the enigma: it’s the enigma, the center of everything, around which moves the story. In itself the psychological characterization is almost nothing and also the smallness of the actors of plot makes the action focuses exclusively on the history, a procedure which is also shown by Boileau. It ‘s obvious that Vindry is raised in a manner antithetical to Simenon, for which, instead, the enigma is not the focus of the story but only one piece, and the center of everything instead is the psychology of the characters.

For the specialist in crime fiction Roland Lacourbe, Vindry is the French equivalent of John Dickson Carr.

I think otherwise. In my opinion, Vindry more than to be the equivalent of John Dickson Carr, he is the equivalent of Clayton Rawson. As Clayton Rawson in the atmosphere is not the best, so it happens in the novels by Vindry, where yet the quality of the plot and the solution are of the highest quality, of extreme virtuosity. Almost more than in Carr, as happens for example in my opinion in the novels by Rawson.

If Vindry is close to Carr, his character Mr. Allou is close above to Bencolin and this can be inferred from a fact: Vindry began writing in 1931, while the first novel of Carr is from 1930 In both, the protagonist is a judge, even more juge d ‘instruction: he solves the mystery. The first Bencolin’s adventures among which, the first novel, are Locked Rooms[1]: by which cases does Allou occupe? Locked rooms. Vindry is cloose to Carr and Rawson also for another matter: to arrive to a solution, they (but also Boileau) reverse the situation and the thinking. Gideon Fell, Merlini and Allou have the ability to break away from the real world and look at the sequence of events as if their spirit had soared astrally, breaking away from the materiality of earthly events.

However, when this reversal of perspective happens, it also increases the virtuosity of the investigation. In the moment in which Allou takes into account a different solution, it doesn’t happen that the effects are more linear but the opposite. So in his investigation to prove incontrovertibly a certain fact and arrive at a plausible solution, instead of simplifying things, they tend to become more complex. It follows that the reasoning to solve all should be of the highest quality.

I also get a quote from Chesterton, in the novel of Vindry. In fact, the letter in which Paul accuse himself of being the murderer of his brother is actually a fragment of a longer letter, properly cut, as in The Wrong Shape, at The Innocence Of Father Brown by Gilbert Chesterton.

We must say, however, that Vindry, unlike Agatha Christie and once again as Carr and Rawson, he does not cheat in anything the reader: the framework of the facts is absolutely what is before the eyes de judge, what changes is the perspective from which he is looking at the problem and the ability to imagine, moving away from the real.
And in some ways Vindry, realizes something of his own, a feature very personal, in his to make difficult the easy thing: unlike all the common detectives who seek in every way to simplify the sequence of events, reducing the factors to a minimum, Vindry realizes an absurdum: explain the unexplainable, making it even more abstruse and denser of recondite implications, and at the same time explaining and giving to the whole, a meaning.

Pietro De Palma

[1] Pietro De Palma: La prima produzione di John Dickson Carr : i 4 racconti di Bencolin

L’Ennemi sans visage, 1934


The novel by Steeman tells about automata. Why Steeman did think about this plot for a crime you didn’t know. But it is not so odd to remember that at that time abounded literary stimuli and films, concerning the animation of inanimate subjects, complex surgery, people who perhaps had more to do with the horror with yellow. But so much so that Steeman wanted to give his personal contribution: and what contribution!
So to animated automaton by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis due to an exchange of vital energy and transfer of the soul;  to the Golem, inanimate mud, which comes to life because of a sign that is placed on his forehead; to intervention on Siamese Twins that Ellery Queen ago groped to Dr. Xavier; to the creature that has life force again by Dr. Frankenstein, who in 1931 returned to be popular by virtue of a successful film adaptation, directed by James Whale, with Boris Karloff, still considered one of the most important films of the genre, it also added the contribution by Steeman.
Stanislas Ansré Steeman, when he wrote in 1934, L’ Ennemi sans visage (alsore-published as M. Wens et L’automate, in 1943), however, was already a name in the panorama of Polar.

Born in Liège in 1908, Belgian as Simenon, before turning to crime fiction, was essentially dedicated to comics, and as a journalist from 1928 to 1933 for La Nation Belge. It was his journalistic activity to promote his inclination definitive writer of detective novels: in fact, along with another journalist under the same head he worked for, Herman Santini (aka Sintair), he wrote his first five novels, then publish novels each their own. However, even he collaborated with his friend, in 1930 he began writing alone, publishing three novels: Peril, Le doigt volé, and reaching fame with Six hommes morts, who had won the “Grand Prix du Roman d’Aventures” , in 1931. In the novel, the character was introduced thicker, Vorobeitchik Wenceslas as Monsieur Wens.
Steeman was known for his loyalty to the styles and rules of the police. In fact most of his first production adheres faithfully to the canons of the orthodox crime literature. But his genius could not be stifled. And so the novels are each marked differently: there is a thriller, parody, the psychological novel, the mystery. The story, to see well, is not interesting, if you see it under the eye of originality.  The work by Steeman is more properly an experimentation, a fusion of genres: fantasy and crime fiction .
This can be seen as the very first attempt, even if not perfectly successful: instead we succeed with results imaginative Carr with The Bourning Court. But Carr is Carr, and Steeman is Steeman. Without detracting from the Belgian oestrus.
In appreciation of the past, Steeman intersects his action with that by Mary Shelley, with that by Gaston Leroux, and also with Fritz Lang
Jund is a man who expects nothing from life. He was sentenced to death and he waits for the dawn fatal, in a state of sheer terror.
The beginning of the novel gives us a picture of this man, this criminal, who is afraid that someone will look out the door of his cell because this could mean his death.

“La porte de la cellule s’ouvrit en grinéant et un trait de lumiére courut obliquement sur le sol jusqu’au mur du fond.

– Jund! 

Le condamné à mort, émergeant du sommeil, poussa un sourd gémissement. 

– Jund! redit Clark, le gardien-chef de l’aile ouest, se penchant et le secouant par l’épaule. 

A l’instant l’homme, comme touché par une décharge électrique, se réfugia dans l’angle de la muraille, les traits convulsés par la terreur. 

– Qu’est-ce que … ? Quel jour sommes-nous ? questionna-t-il d’une voix rauque. 

– Jeudi. 

Jeudi ! répéta le condamné”.

In a few lines, Steeman outlines the figure of a man sentenced to death, which is not to die: I emphasize the strength of the phrase with the analogy that contains. It well represents the incisiveness of psychological by Steeman: “A l’instant l’homme, comme touché par une décharge électrique, se réfugia dans l’angle de la muraille, les traits convulsés par la terreur” (translation: “At the moment the man as affected by electric shock, he tooks refuge in the corner of the wall, the features convulsed by terror”).

I thought a thing  while I was posting this article : Headed for a Hearse (1935) by Jonathan Latimer, begins with a man locked in a cell on death row. And Latimer’s novel was published a year later to Steeman. May have used the opening scene of the novel by Steeman reprocessing it for his part, Jonathan Latimer skillful re-user to the things of others? Tuesday is the day of the execution, but also the day of salvation for Clarence Jund. But at what price? To save his life, Jund must agree to undergo an experiment: his vital energy, his mind, his brain will be replanted in an automaton. An automaton, not a collage of pieces of bodies such as Shelley’s Frankenstein, but even here the electricity plays a fundamental role, and Fritz Lang, peeps, in an authoritarian manner. The transfer of life energy, soul, does not take place in Metropolis, his film of 1921? In some ways we Metropolis seems much closer to the novel by Steeman, that‘s Frankenstein by Whaley of 1931!

The fact is that the player for the first time perhaps in the literature of the genre, feels pity for a criminal like Jund, condemned to a cruel death: to live as a larva can do that, deprived of his vital energy, his passions and fears, of his mind.
Before he dies, however, another reference to the past will dawn: Jund tried to escape, a desperate escape, because his supervisor is  Ramshaw, who arrested him and to which was ordered to kill him if he tried to escape. And while they fight, break into a dark room. When the room lit, it reveals full of robots, including the famous Chess-Player, which also talks about Edgar Allan Poe, the automaton Maelzel.
Who are the main characters by this drama? Professor Arthus (a scientist a little crazy), his two sons (Max and Tiburzio), Michele Patiny visitor to the residence of Arthus, Clarence Jund (the prisoner) Ramshaw (the cop), Monsieur Wens (private investigator ). Why .. drama? Because soon, events start to dye red.
The night Arthus must perform the experiment of transfer of the brain, in his laboratory : you can hear noises of struggle, broken furniture and then a gunshot. The door is locked from the inside. When you break down the door, you found dead the professor, murdered with a gun, and only two bodies on the two operating tables: Jund and automaton, ready for the operation. In fact, to tell the truth, the operation must be started already when the murderer killed the scientist, since he has begun to affect the skin of the skull of Jund (who is asleep) and try a bowl full of blood. So none of the two (the inanimate automaton and Jund) may have taken part in the murder. Still .. can not find anyone in the lab. In fact, when they return to the lab, the automaton has gone. On the other hand, by the time he shows up several times in various places of the house, in spite of stalking. Does he use inputs secrets?
Here is another presence of the illuminated literature at french novel by Steeman: Gaston Leroux. Not one of his novels with Rouletabille, but the universally known, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. Who has read it, he knows as the Phantom will be able to appear and disappear within the Paris Opera House. Well, the black man by Steeman, appears and disappears in the same way, and as the Phantom, he is masked.
I will not say more. Who had the good fortune to read this Steeman vintage, so could groped to enjoy them.
However, I want to make a consideration on the Locked Room, considered by Roland Lacourbe as one of the top 99 locked rooms in all: in my opinion, Steeman tried a fusion of two of the three temporal ways of implementing a Locked Room, then expressed by Carr: “before”, “during” and “after”. In practice, he tried the fusion between “before” and “during”. Into which manner? That is the point.
If the death of the professor had been implemented prior to the noise coming from inside the room, you would have to force to find something that had produced those ruins. But do not find anything, or anyone, outside of two bodies: one waiting to be animated and equipped with a human brain, and the other waiting to provide the brain, but completely under narcosis and in such a state ( also determined by Wens) of prostration, as to be close to death, which would have been impossible to kill the professor. And if the death of the professor had been implemented after the noise, one should consider the possibility that the same teacher had committed suicide. But why he would do all that mess inside his lab? Just as he was about to complete his business?
No. The professor was killed. But by whom? The automaton, a being hidden?
The solution is as simple at the same time mesmerizing.
In my opinion, Edward D. Hoch could have read the novel Steeman, before writing his The Frankenstein Factory (1975). I wrote on Mondadori blog:
.. Even Hoch have known Steeman: here the creature has a perfect body, even out here, here is attributed to the atmosphere of blood, even here at the end will be unrelated to crime.”
I now add one more thing that I had not thought of, and that is substantial: in both cases, the automaton would have to have the mind of a criminal. But that has nothing to do.
Clarence Jund will not live as larvae for the rest of his days, but will return to prison in Louisville, and here will be led to the electric chair. But he will die?
Steeman stores for us in the last lines, a promise of salvation, by the only person who Jund would never have thought he was her savior. As if to say that “hope is the last to die.”

Pietro De Palma

Pierre Boileau : Six crimes sans assassin, 1939

A few years ago it seemed that in Italy the crisis of the classic detective novel was irreversible: was created on the Blog by the Mondadori publishing house an acrimonious debate that sometimes transcended , at which soon I became the standard-bearer for those who wanted to read still kind of classic detective novels ( and not necessarily hard-boiled terrorist plots , mafia, espionage , etc. .. ) . After ups and downs , now in Italy we are experiencing a new golden age , but especially thanks also to the initiative of another publishing house, Polillo , who is publishing an amazing number of novels, never before published ( Parke , Berkeley, Betteridge, Wynne, Chambers, Morrah, Sprigg, Penny, Witting, Brady, Rhode, Connington, Adams, Kyd, Snow, Ferguson, etc. .. ) . In these days are published a novel by Paul Halter, never published before ( Le diable de Dartmoor ) and “idem” one by Peter Lovesey , and next month will be published  an unpublished novel , in Italy , by Berkeley, a novel by Charlotte Armstrong and one of Julian Symons . Last month instead was published an unpublished novel by Pierre Boileau, Six crimes sans assassin.
Pierre Boileau is , to most readers, famous because with Narcejac Thomas , he formed one of the most innovative and supportive marriages literary detective genre , signing countless masterpieces , from Celle qui tait plus ne’e  to D’ entre les morts , from L’ Ingenieur aimait trop les chiffres to Les louves and many others. If, however, the novels signed by him and by his friend , probed victims and perpetrators , focusing primarily on personality disorders , thereby generating an intensely psychological narrative and suspense , until he had published under his own signature, i.e.until  the meeting with Narcejac on the occasion of the award of the novel of the latter, La mort est du voyage at the Grand Prix du Roman d’ Aventure in 1948 , his novels were just marvelous examples of classical Mystery. 

He was born in Paris in 1889. After various jobs , he began to write and collaborate with some newspapers , signing for the newspaper ” Lectures pour tous ” his first detective story with André Brunel : Deux hommes sur une piste, 1932. Since that time, he wrote some novels all with this character : La Pierre qui  tremble , 1934; La Promenade de minuit 1934;  Le Repos de Bacchus 1938 (Grand Prix du Roman d’ Aventure); Six crimes sans assassin, 1939; Les Trois clochards 1945. From 1936 to 1942 he published several short stories for the magazine Ric et Rac , and some of them were republished during the Second World War and the occupation of France , under the pseudonym Anicet.. After the war, Boileau published yet ; L’Assassin vient les mains vides , 1945;  La bete du bois sans nom ,1949; Les Rendez- vous de Passy , 1951. The last three novels signed by him individually , however, came after he had formed the association with Narcejac .

He died in 1989 at Beaulieu- sur- Mer. 

Six crimes sans assassin , once again tells about a tragedy within a specific family group and about the biggest success by André Brunel investigator called , along with the narrator his friend, to locate an invisible killer.

A tragedy took place in an apartment building , a woman was seen calling for help , looking out a window, and a moment later, fall back , while a fight scene between two people is glimpsed behind her. People flock , and, primarily, the caretaker of the building which, however , reached behind the door , he realizes to have forgotten the pass- partout : when he comes back on, with the master key , and he opens the door, he  is located in front of a terrible scene : a man dead with two gunshot wounds , one woman dying , who can not hurt herself , the gun is missing, and the disappearance of a murderess…from a closed apartment : the murderer can not be passed to the front door because various other people and caretaker of the building are fumbling behind the door; none is found into the other rooms ; the windows are so high than they can’t have been used for the escape , and for the most they are guarded by many onlookers in the street and in neighboring buildings; the only door that opens on the scale of service, it is locked from the inside by a bolt. So where did  the murderer escape?
The question that arises after examining the crime scene , is this : she lacks the maid of the couple, Adèle Blanchot, whom was supposed to be there but there is not. Commissioner and the gatekeeper go to the sixth floor of the building , where are the servants’ rooms , but in the room of Adéle they don’t find the woman and anything that serves to give a track. However, they leave a policeman on guard .

An hour later Brunel , the narrator and Charasse go to view the room of Adéle looking for rogue elements to the Commissioner, but Roland , the first to enter the room is faced with a terrible scene: Adéle dead on the bed. After an initial moment of dismay , the other two reach the companion and found the maid , killed by a gunshot to the heart.

The policeman on guard swears that he didn’t move even a moment from his seat and in the meantime , however, a corpse has materialized : obviously no trace of the murderer . Also in this case there is no output to the outside of the door .

You believe at this point that if the maid was killed , the same fate could happen to Julien Blanchot , the husband , the butler , who is at the villa of Vignaray . They phoned him and tell him to barricade himself in the house, not to open to anyone, as long as they will go to find him the day after. The next day Charasse does not show up : Brunel and the narrator, alarmed, go to look him and find him dying in his study, poisoned. So with a taxi Brunel , the narrator and the Special Brigade Brigadier Girard go to the villa but some warning signs put them in alarm : a telephone cable cut , scratch marks of the heavy door of the study. The door is closed inside ,  and also a heavy desk was pushed against the inside. No one is responding to their calls . When with great difficulty they manage to open the door , they are faced with another corpse:  on a couch the poor Julien lies. He was killed by a pistol shot , and there’s no trace of the murderer . And also in this case there are not outputs which may have allowed the escape.

Now we are faced with a catastrophe : the two domestic and Marcel Vignaray dead, Simone Vignaray in a coma with a bullet in the liver, and Roland Charasse poisoned. At the study of Vignaray they found traces of a possible blackmail: receipts of  many payments for substantial fees and an address, which you think be bt the mysterious blackmailer : his name is Alfred Rupart .

They place the house under surveillance , but just when there is no cop in the vicinity, the narrator-friend of Brunel assists , entered in the house of Rupart, thanks to the pass- partout provided by the concierge already been contacted by the police, listening at the door, to conversation between Rupart and a mysterious another individual, probably the murderer , whose Rupart must have known somehow the name : the two are going to meet in a villa on the outskirts of Paris.

The narrator tries to warn his friend and goes to the meeting place where he finds Brunel and a little time later , Charasse, recovered thanks to the care of doctors : the three men agree to keep the three outputs of the villa, but at some point he feel shoot: after entering , they find Rupart dead and the murderer again … disappeared. It ‘s too Brunel ! He thought he had finally found a track and now it is in his hands a handful of flies . After yet another murder, Brunel will be able to give a name to the killer and to explain everything in the last few pages , thanks to his little gray cells .

The common wisdom that the critical reserve for this title is extremely flattering, especially on the part of critics of the French language. But I want to emphasize that if the virtuosity of the plot is very important ( especially for the time) , presenting no less than 5 Locked Rooms in the same novel and therefore a very high level of difficulty , we must also say that the 5 situations do not present the same degree of difficulty ( the first , the second and the third are considerable , the fourth and the fifth .. puerile ) . For more, among the top three , only the first Locked Room is really spectacular , while the third is very good and the second seems to me to have the defects found in the degree of difficulty, really high : in fact , the explanation would convince the reader that there was the time to make the illusion , but it is very little compared to the action to extract the body from the place where it is inserted , lift her up ( this is a 40 year old woman , not a girl! ) and then lay it on the bed, all in a matter of seconds. It seems to me that here Boileau climbs on mirrors , while the third explanation is quite convincing (somehow approaches the explanation by Carr in He Who Whispers ) . In addition, in the case of  poisoning , not describing the nature of the poison, but simply to say that ” the coffee was poisoned ” , it just means deliberately cheat the reader , removing clues concerning the poison , as the murderess procured it, and who sold it to him . 

But all the plot is affected by a specific intent : to reject the British novel, and: the search for the excuse (because it is never mentioned in the novel) , the search for a person to which  was interested the death ( the so-called “Cui prodest” ) for a his profit, the search for a physical evidence , fingerprints, etc.. 

And all this because in the end, the search for the culprit is obtained only solving the puzzle : only understanding how the murderer managed to kill, Boileau says you will be able to nail the murderer. All against the backdrop of a Paris completely estranged from the contingencies of war, in an a-historical dimension , as if we wanted to take refuge in the dream to escape the grim reality of every day, and recognizing an absolute value to the figure of the murderer , revaluing him in moral terms , taking away all evil ambitions , and instead , assign the license of murderous necessity. It’s as if the survey were substantiated in a game of chess between the murderer and the detective, and the victims were nothing more than pieces sacrificed necessarily.
Moreover, since every murder is different and contributes to the capture of the murder only in terms of its resolution , the absence of any transition element , if not indeed the only murderess , the number of Locked Rooms is directly proportional to the length of the story: if there had been not five Locked Rooms  and related murders , the story would lasted not so many pages and would have been reduced to a long story. Magistral therefore more than anything else it seems to me the ability of Boileau to guide the reader through the journey that extends to the end. 

However the intent of Boileau is distinctly reactionary: he eschews all the literature until it had been produced , branded English , referring specifically to the narrative strand – adventurous Leblanc , Allain & Souvestre , Ponson du Terrail , but perhaps in a manner even more closed : in fact, Leblanc , while presenting always – enigmatic narrative of the adventurous type , creates a great atmosphere lacking in this novel by Boileau . It ‘s like the French author had decided in 1939 to refuse to lock everything up to that point had been produced , recognizing only the absolute value of his myths . Moreover, even sometimes incidental phrases and interjections , hark back to a time much earlier than his own, and lack both psychological insights , both the suspense though present in other major French writers of the period ( Steeman , Aveline , Simenon ) . The thing that surprises me is that , reasoning in such a manner , Boileau, at Narcejac meeting , decided to radically change the style.

On the sidelines it seems interesting to finally see how the merit of Boileau is have reversed the sequence logic that anyone who is led to the establishment : by creating a logical trend opposite to that which had followed until then , Boileau through Brunel shows how his author of reference , even more than the writers mentioned previously , Jacques Futrelle : without the aid of anything outside of his own brain , the true investigator is able to solve the rid.

Pietro De Palma

Fredric Brown : Death Has Many Doors, 1951

Fredric Brown, was born in Cincinnati, October 29, 1906. As a young man, he held various jobs, working in an amusement park (in fact one of his most famous novels, The Deep End, it is set in such a place), before finding a job as a proofreader, after he had entered the university without graduating. Published some short stories in pulp magazines and in 1947 he attempted the paper of the novel, writing The Fabulous Clipjoint: the novel, rejected by many publishers, it was eventually published by Dutton, winning the year after, the coveted Edgar Allan Poe Award for outstanding first mystery novel. Since then he began to also publish novels Fiction, as What Mad Universe or Martians, Go Home.
He died in 1972.
Brown was one of the greatest writers of Mystery and Science Fiction: his plots are full of inventions, and the finals are always of great workmanship.
In the field of mystery, Brown wrote several novels, some of which with the pair Ed Hunter and his uncle Ambrose, star of the hit novel, The Fabulous Clipjoint: for many years considered a minor novel in the bibliography of the author, it was only few years ago revalued, becoming one of the great crime novels of the twentieth century, and putting its author alongside other more celebrated as Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald.
Fifth novel with Ed and Am Hunter, Death Has Many Doors (1951), is one of those novels that may well frame the multifaceted personality of Brown.
The novel tells of a pair of detectives, uncle and nephew, employed by a client at least strange, Sally Doerr, a shorthand typist, who, convinced of the existence of aliens, states that they, hidden in disguise human, they want to kill her. The two investigators make every effort to dissuade his commitment to making investigators, because, honest to the core, they think that the girl is a little unscrewed, and therefore does not intend to take advantage of her, nor would like to see other people as less scrupulous of them, I took advantage. However, if only to reassure the girl, Ed Hunter promises that he will watch over her, and, accompanying her at home, will stand near. Winning attraction rather than legitimate, since the girl is very beautiful, and she would to fuck with him (because she thinks  would be better protected so), and he wanted to be as professional as possible, Ed sits on the couch while her, completely naked, sits on the bed, the bedroom door ajar, so that at any time he can run. The fact is that Hunter falls asleep, waking up at two o’clock, when the phone ringing the alarm: he answers, but has no answer. However, still seeing the light on in her room, he goes to see, realizing that the girl, naked on the bed, inexplicably died. There are no marks on her body or injuries that may suggest a murder. However, the girl was found with his arm in a strange position as if she was taking a book, including those posed close to the bed.
Ed calls his friend, Homicide Bureau Captain Frank Bassett, with whom he has already worked a few times, and tells him about the events. The police visits, the corpse is taken away and autopsied, reveals that, in case there was still some suspicion that the girl died of a heart attack: she was suffering from heart and then, probably for the stress derived from its fears she wad dead.
Case closed. Or rather, no. Because he has some suspicion about it, or rather he wants to remove all possible stones, before they ended the matter, especially since she died while he was in the next room. And, because of this thing, he asks relatives. He can not find any possible motive that could justify the murder of the girl. She and her sister belong to a family of modest conditions: orphan son was bred by Gerard and Eve Stanton. Her uncle lives in the house, Ray Wernecke, which exceeds with alcohol and the stories of Martians: he communicated to the niece these absurd fears.
The fact that she was sleeping naked, poses no possible reason to investigate Ed, especially as he turns out, interviewing family members, as this was a habit of the girl. And the parents and relatives of the girl, recognize as Ed and his uncle behaved more honestly that against her. When it appears that you could put a lid on it, a mysterious phone call get the two investigators: the girl was murdered. The mysterious caller qualifies as a Martian eager to prove perfect strangeness of extraterrestrials in the affair. He makes sure that the two discover, in their study, their reward: a thousand-dollar banknote.
At this point the two on the basis of the pharaonic remuneration, they decide to take an excellent typist, Monica Wright, who will fill the post left vacant by Sally farm where she worked (and they will pay the difference in more about his paycheck ) to find out there, talking with her colleagues. And both Ed and his uncle, the first will discuss again with the Captain of Homicide Bureau, and then with a series of people, work and family entourage thereof. And in particular, Ed knows Sally’s sister, Dorothy, a beautiful girl. Ed and Dorothy will fall in love. The strange thing that happens then is that this girl believes she can die like her sister, and who killed Sally could kill her too.
At this point, the two investigators, discuss with each other: Ed would not deal with the matter, but his uncle convinced him instead to deal with, not least to prevent another murder may be repeated, if absurd that the fears were well founded . Ambrose convinces his nephew to go with Dorothy, and spend the night with her in a secret and do not disclose to anyone where they are. Nevertheless, at night, while Dorothy and Ed, naked, are bathing in the lake, she dies.
There is no one beyond him, and that there was no one else around, attest the Auslander, a family living in a house on the lake. They were at the scene, they saved Ed, and they swore to the police as he was alien to the girl’s death. However, do not tell, for decency and not to harm it, that he was naked, and when he found the girl, they bathe her clothes in the lake and wear her so that no one could imagine that Ed and Dorothy were both naked before.
Also this time, it may seem absurd to the matter, it would seem that the girl died of natural causes, an accident. And once again, the Stanton and Wernecke, destroyed by adverse situations, do not impute anything to Ed for girl’s death.
However, Ed and Uncle investigate, and do not give up in front of the simpler explanations. And although the types that surround them seem harmless, among them discover the killer, who kills using sneaky scientific knowledge notch. And he will find out after even thought that he may be dropped from some balcony above and he was able to enter through the open window, but Ed then will reject this possibility after a complex series of conjectures, he will identify the weapon and the motive more oldest in the world: money. But, the two sisters were not poor?  And two adoptive parents didn’t pay the university to Dorothy ? The fact is that things are never as they seem. And it shows the final, ending, totally unexpected, in the wake of the many designed by Brown.
The novel is, among other things written in a style that captivates and much fascinating light and fluffy, the novel could be said to be a handled mystery. Nevertheless, it is written with great intelligence and is necessary for two impossible crimes. The beauty is that, unlike what normally happens, the inability of the two crimes is only assumed for the entire novel and confirmed only in the final pages, where it is explained in the light of the identification of the weapon (that would make the happiness of John Rhode) and the motive. Which in turn, as the two weapons used to kill the two girls brings back to the Cold War atmosphere that it was breathed in years when Fredric Brown delivered his audience his best work, and to secret weapons and to not secret weapons used at those years.
Pietro De Palma

Stacey Bishop (George Antheil ) : Death in the Dark, 1930

George Antheil (Stacey Bishop)
Stacey Bishop (George Antheil) : Death in the Dark, 1930 – Title of italian edition : La morte nel buio. Preface: Mauro Boncompagni – Translation: Giancarlo CarlottiShake Edizioni, Nnoir Sélavy, Milano, 2009, pag.188                                             
To celebrate the first 1000 visits to my blog, I dedicate to my readers a novelty, the analysis of a legendary novel, published only in Italy, after seventy-nine: Death in the Dark, 1930, by George Antheil.
Death in the Dark hadn’t the success that he thought to have, for a strange reaction of the public, at least in the opinion of Antheil’s who expected a very different reaction, from which came the decision of the same, to abandon the ambition of all light literature, and spend his brain energies on other things.
In truth, the noted British critic and novelist Julian Symons said Antheil would write a second novel, in addition to this published at the time by Faber & Faber, the publishing house founded by Elliot, but this second work, when we only his comment and nothing else. So, unless you are one day buried in some private collection, the only detective wrote and published by Antheil, isDeath in the Dark.Why was it the only Antheil’s attempt ? Why the public did not accept him as he would have expected that it had happened?
First we say that the novel is super-vandinian. At the time, in which Antheil wrote, Van Dine was the champion and the archetype to model if you do not copy, especially for an American author who as Antheil, albeit temporarily transplanted in Europe (after the First World War had created a community of Americans (Ezra Pound, Antheil, Hemingway, Miller, etc. ..), especially in Paris, which had become familiar with European authors: Elliot, Joyce, Miro, Picasso, Stravinskj, De Chirico), deeply resented of Nietzsche’s influence in Van Dine.  Philo Vance detective is a bourgeois, but very rich and cultured, who despises the vulgar, and for which has value only  “the murder committed by a fine art” like wrote Thomas De Quincey. In short, a detective that the theories of Nietzsche on the birth of Superman
(which in the German writer, beyond the post-mortem manipulation of Nazism, however, has a more philosophical sense) had a symbolic value. However, this Superman’s philosophy , also had a deeply irrational soul, which is well married with the yearnings of those who wanted to awaken the conscience from the torpor in which they were sunk.
So then Antheil could only create a detective who was largely tributary to Van Dine. And so  Antheil, who took it as a pseudonym Stacey Bishop, created his Philo Vance who called Stephan Bayard: as Philo Vance is an esthete, a passionate lover and critic of contemporary art (such as impassioned and art critic is Philo Vance), and as Vance music fan, it’s just that Bayard of contemporary music, he has a friend Attorney: the Philo Vance’s Markham is the Antheil’s Wayson. And Antheil’s novel is based on a Van Dine’s novel, in a manner so obvious, from being almost a quote.
A chain of murders takes place in a house, in New York: at Denny home, wealthy family of the rich bourgeoisie, Dave Denny was found dead from a gunshot wound in the forehead. What’s wrong? The fact that at the time of the shooting, the house was in darkness: how did the murderer in the dark to recognize his victim and shot him exactly in the middle of the forehead, in his bedroom? The beauty is that all the suspects were at the time of the shot together in same room: Frieda Alvinson was sunk in an armchair to read, Dr. Stein and John Alvinson were looking out the window, while another, adjacent, or nearly so, was Gertrude Denny, the victim’s wife, and finally in his bedroom sleeping the matriarch of the family, the mother of Denny and Roscoe Denny’s widow. And there is also a half brother, Aaron, born from his first marriage to Roscoe Denny,  but at the time of the murder, was out of the house.
The surveys seem at first sight more than difficult: who killed took advantage of a fortuitous distraction of the present (the wailing of the sirens of fire that passed under the windows of the house), or was knowingly premeditated everything? And who Gertrude expected to see into the bathroom, when Captain Jules opened the door? And who wrote a mysterious book in which crime is described in detail a story that fits a glove that just happened? And especially why the door key was inserted from the inside, when it was customary that when a belonging to the family was out (Aaron) it was hung on a hook? And why the gun did fire twice and the second bullet was blank?
The fact is that the investigations would lead to Aaron, accused even by his stepmother and whose part in the affair seems to be dangerously established, and the police can not help but stop it, because just as the old mother is about to pronounce the name of the murderer ( him?), someone among the present shoots. Except that no one saw who fired, and, even more strange, the gun that fired it, is found on the bed of the first victim: in practice alone would mysteriously crossed the aisle that divides the room from the Denny room where the second crime occurred.
Everything solved? No, not at all. Because the suspect is in turn found dead in his cell, killed by a gunshot fired almost point-blank. The strange thing is that no one has seen come in room who killed him, let alone get out and  no gun was found inside the cell.
So a more insoluble the other three crimes.
In the midst of this jungle of suspicion, false leads, more or less convincing evidence, clues solvers, analysis and other weird at all weird, artistic and musical considerations, endocrine Criminological Research, Stephen Bayard will able to trap a murderer of higher mind, smart , vengeful, and evil.
It ‘clear that the false line on which Antheil builds his novel, as we have said before, is a novel by Van Dine. Considering the year in which it was not merely writing and publication of his novel (1929), Death in the Dark, she could have just as an example of  vandinian novels are written until that year. Among these is chosen that is still considered perhaps if not “the masterpiece” one of his masterpieces, and one that certainly has affected more than any other, the detective novel tout court: a chain of murders that occur in a family.
Antheil from Van Dine had taken some of the characteristics we have mentioned above. I will say that the same first-person narrator Stacey Bishop, the pseudonym of Antheil, is modeled on S.S.Van Dine, who appears in novels and that is the pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright.
There lies the Greene family, hence the Denny family. In both there is a stepmother, a widow. In both, she is killed. In both there is a library, where there is a particular book, revealing the murder (the first), in both cases there is an evil mind that plans the massacre, in both cases there are artistic considerations, in both cases there is a doctor there, Von Blon, Stein here, but in both cases there is a crime committed with a gun that is not (the third murder), in both cases there is something that is open and that causes death. Too many similar elements not to mention an example of super-vandinian writing.
The thing that intrigued me most, however, is the fact that in a novel built (perhaps) as a tribute to Van Dine and his way of building the novels, there Antheil had entered his thoughts on art (Miro, Picasso) and on music (Stravinskj, Schumann, Raff), giving it the title character, and especially his remarks (which won him, as recalled in the preface Boncompagni, the consideration of the Paris Police) Endocrinology of the nature of the crime: in particular about centrism thyme. Considerations that he – in the discussion of the novel – assigns to Dr. Stein. But what particularly struck me is how Stein speaks of the phenomenon and how he intends to cure him: and for that, among others, expressed their thoughts on the fact that, using certain scientific devices, you can turn a mass of deficient a series of bright minds. The creation of a super race? The description that makes Stein is a well-educated scientist, but also that blindly believes in his project. The laboratory with all its appliances, and the aura that manages to get around the human body, make me think to  Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”. But the consideration that making a radical change of  centrism thyme he is able to transform a criminal into a bright brain man, a superman, as he says, reminds me  Nietzsche, but also to the studies of genetics that came after it and spotted the chromosome of crime.
Beyond this, the novel, despite being a triumph of pure deduction, it is too difficult for the average reader, because it can be thoroughly understood, requires a reader who knows certain issues, and certainly this may have affected the success of the novel . Perhaps the striking similarity (and I am silent on other similarities even more direct) with The Greene Murder Case, had its importance. Who knows ..
It is certain that Antheil was expecting a great recognition of the public, and instead the reception was not what was expected. What resulted was a great interpreter of American musical modernism, tried without much luck detective work to deliver wide-ranging history of the genre.
It almost seems like the story of another American musical performer, Blanche Bloch, also she vandinian writer, which gave the story a single novel worthy of note: The Bach Festival Murders (1942).
But that’s another story.
Beyond this, an extraordinary novel, published for the second time ever, only in Italy, after the first publication in 1930.
Pietro De Palma


The Edward D.Hoch Locked Rooms List




In 1981, Ed Hoch, who had published an anthology of short stories with Locked Rooms titled Diagnosis: Impossible. The problem of Dr. Sam Hawthorne, wanting to effect complete with an introduction, summoned the 17 best crime novels authors of authors and critics of America, so that would create a ranking of the best novels with ideal impossible crimes.
Here, below, the list of the 15 best Locked Rooms, as it was drawn up on that occasion:


  1) John Dickson Carr –  The Three Coffins

  2) Hake Talbot – Rim of the Pit

  3) Gaston Leroux – The Mystery of the Yellow Room

  4) John Dickson Carr – The Crooked Hinge

  5) Carter Dickson – The Judas Window

  6) Israel Zangwill – The Big Bow Mystery

  7) Clayton Rawson – Death From a Top Hat

  8) Ellery Queen – The Chinese Orange Mystery

  9) Anthony Boucher – Nine Times Nine

10) Carter Dickson – The Peacock Feather Murders
11) Ellery Queen – The King is Dead

12) Helen McCloy – Through a Glass Darkly

13) Carter Dickson – He Wouldn’t Kill Patience

14) Randall Garrett – Too Many Magicians

15) John Sladek – Invisible Green 


As reported by John Pugmire in his excellent article titled “A Locked Room Library”:

 They were each invited to name their favourite works, up to ten in number, ranked in order of preference. ( ).

John Pugmire added that, in spite of numerous French authors had written large Locked Rooms, only a French novel was included in this list (at the 3rd place): Gaston Leroux The Mystery of the Yellow Room.

The novel, which had been appointed by Carr himself as the greatest novel of Locked Rooms that had been written (Carr was very modest: in fact, when someone asked to name novels that somehow he had considered having to be reported, he did not fit ever his works, despite being the largest in number and quality of novels), oddly enough was the only Frenchman to be inserted. The reason given by John (that very few French novels were translated in America) does not honor American publishing, and the same critical, since it is clear that no one had heard indispensable also read works that were not only written in English: if one loves a genre, and wanted to extend his range of readings, he could obtain other works are not translated into his own language. Of course should also know other languages, which leads us to other obvious considerations (!), when we learn that no one had done, in their rankings, the name of French authors and their works, except just Gaston Leroux, and Pierre Boileau (The Repos de Bacchus), but only because the latter was probably served to Hilary St.George Saunders as the basis for his novel, very similar, The Sleeping Bacchus.

Now, this lack seems to me very strange: it is possible that no truly great American authors and critics, who were invited at that occasion

( Robert Adey, Jack Adrian, Jacques Barzun, Jon L. Breen, Robert E. Briney, Jan Broberg, Frederick Dannay, Douglas G. Greene, Howard Haycraft, Edward D. Hoch, Marvin Lachman, Richard Levinson & William Link, Francis M. Nevins, Jr., Otto Penzler, Bill Pronzini, Julian Symons, and Donald A. Yates ), did they read other novels by French authors? Possible that none among they had read La Maison Interdite by Michel Herbert & Eugene Wyl ? Or La Maison qui Tue by Noel Vindry? Or Les Quatre Vipères by Pierre Very?

Not with these reasons, but basically, also John Pugmire questioned himself about it and he made ​​known it to his readers:

“This was scarcely surprising for – with the exception of Leroux’s work and Pierre Boileau’s “Repos de Bacchus”– almost none had been translated into English.  By contrast, a great many English-language works had been, and still are, routinely translated into French, which gives French readers a far wider range of choice than that available to Anglophones”.                                  ( ).

I do not understand why no one in America had felt the need to fill gaps related to foreign novels: in this, I believe that we Italians are more open to new, perhaps because, unlike the French or the Anglophones, churned out novels of absolute relief, we have produced little, and then we have assimilated by others; they instead, churning out a lot, perhaps, hadn’t the same need to know what others had written abroad (not denying that someone still this urge not hear it!). Thus, both the French and the Americans among Anglophones do not know that even an Italian writer, Franco Valiati, back in 1939, he published a novel, The Mystery of the Seaplane, which contained a Locked Room quite interesting.
Possible only with us, these authors and these novels in a lot of years, before the Second World War, had been translated and published, while elsewhere, i.e in America, they did not know who these writers were?
It’s no doubt that anyone who was aware about this, he would ask himself if he had any insight. (!)
An American blogger friend of mine, and among other things bookseller, John Norris, he voiced his thought about the issue, pointing out, that :

“Pietro, these are only my opinions and not actual facts”.

Ok, John. It ‘s just a comment, but it seems very interesting, and for this, publishing,it,  I use it to make a more general my reflection about the theme.

“The obvious answer is that those critics cannot read the original language in which the book was written and published. Not everyone cannot read French or German or Italian. Most of us have to wait for a translation to come out.

Why so few translations? I think it has always been about sales.  Long ago US publishers wouldn’t invest in a translated work unless it was proven seller either in the original language or in English translation in the UK.  Also, England has always been the leader in English translated works because of being part of a European marketplace. The US is a huge country and publishers have always ended to think of US books intended for US readers only.

I’d love to read the mystery novels of Noel Vindry, Jean Alessandrini, Gensoul & Grenier.  Waiting for someone to translate them into English, however, and then publish them is almost pointless.  Unless John Pugmire turns his translating talents to these books as well as Halter I don’t think I will ever see those books in English.

I think also some books do not translate well for a foreign audience or are so tied to a particular culture that a US publisher didn’t think the book would appeal to a US reader. They tended to look for universality in content.  In other words: can the US reader relate to the characters, find something similar in the story that will make them want to read the book?  Luckily, times change and we have a much larger readership in the US who are eager and curious to read about other cultures. It’s only fairly recently that US publishers have bothered to think more globally and recognize there are indeed readers who hunger for stories from outside the US simply because they are foreign”.


In the comment by John Norris , I read, however, also a kind of critique of American editorial policy, which has influenced the choices of that group of critics. What John says , in my opinion, is that in America until some time ago ( not now that you have moved on a market is global , but nevertheless the trends remain ) was published in American language something alien who had been previously translated into England.
So if anything, we should ask ourselves why in England the works of French are not been so translated. This could also be explained by a certain mistrust that existed between the French and English cousins ​​, always willing to each other to establish themselves in Europe, and also culturally to prevail over each other . So you might think that this trend was more English than French, if it is true that several British and American works have been translated into French ( and included in the list by Lacourbe ) , while no French work has been translated into English ( missing except Leroux and Leblanc ) and therefore absent in that by Hoch .

At this point I make my reflections on the provision of the first list , announcing that after this article will be followed other two: the first will consider the list by Lacourbe and the second that by Scott. Then , I shall make a my Locked Rooms shortlist , which I consider essential reading for any lover of this genre.
What you notice ( not only thing that I notice , but anyone can do it ) is that a list of 15 novels, is a bit  skimpy , in practice should be the best of the best . However jump out that some by the participants were famous writers : Dannay ( Ellery Queen), Boucher (even critical ) , Pronzini , Hoch; the others were also crime ficion critics : Nevins (critic by Ellery Queen), Greene ( especially critic by Carr ) Symons ( critic who did not particularly like the classic mystery ), and then a varied number of critics : Barzun , Robert Adey ( author of the most important study ever on Locked Rooms ) , Jack Adrian ( curator along with Adey of a fundamental anthology of short little known stories) , Levinson & Link ( classic TV detective series producers, as Columbus, Mannix, Ellery Queen, for example) , Howard Haycraft (famous critic) .

All, however, leaving out Adey, and perhaps Greene (who, as biographer and maximum connoisseur of Carr still had to be practical about Locked Rooms), were extemporaneous connoisseurs of Locked Rooms and then only at some of them: I do not think, in fact, that Symons, who also was one of the most important critics of all times, or Boucher, were experts Locked Rooms. If anything, they were well aware of some authors of Locked Rooms.
In fact, the list is made ​​up of works by well-known authors, and repetitions of works by some of them, can be ascribed in my opinion, rather the real and undisputed quality of the same, than to a tendency to exalt those who were considered the cornerstones of American Crime Fiction.

The only repetition of which I would not have objected, i.e. that of works by Carr, would have been untouchable only in the case where the list had included all the authors and works really fundamental in the genre. And then, in the amount, certainly more titles by Carr would have been legitimate. Here, instead, would be sufficient only two fundamental novels by Carr: The Hollow Man and The Judas Window.
In fact I do not see among the works, some American Locked Rooms very important, even historically, but not very well known (because their authors are not) among the general public:

The Thinking Machine (1907) by Jacques Futrelle [1]; Into Thin Air (1928) by Winslow & Quirk, and the novels by vandinian writers: The Canary Murder Case (1927) and  The Kennel Murder Case (1933) by  S.S. Van Dine; Obelists Fly High (1935), Careless Corpse: A Thanatophony (1937)  and  Arrogant Alibi (1938),by Charles Daly King;  The Man from Tibet (1938) by Clyde B. Clason; The Red Right Hand (1945) by  Joel Townsley Rogers 

We therefore aren’t surprised if there aren’t novels as The Shade of Time (1942) by David Duncan, or The Devil Drives (1932) by Virgil Markham!

Then there aren’t and this is, together with the lack of French authors, the data that immediately jumps to the eyes – major works by major British authors, New Zealanders, Australians, etc.. i.e. authors by the British Commonwealth:

The Woman in the Wardrobe (1951) by A. & P. Shaffer; Whisle Up The Devil (1953) by Derek Smith; The Gilded Fly (1944) and The Moving Toyshop (1946) by Edmund Crispin; Suddenly at His Residence (1946), Death of Jezebel (1948), Tour De Force (1955),by Christianna Brand; Off With His Head (1957) by Ngaio Marsh; at least, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1935) ,  Murder in Mesopotamia (1936), Murder for Christmas (1938), by Agatha Christie; The Layton Court Mystery (1925) by A. Berkeley; The Rynox Murder Mystery (1930) and  The Polferry Riddle Mystery (1931) by Philip MacDonald; Policeman’s Evidence (1938) and Sealed Room Murder (1951), by Rupert Penny ; at least, Murder of a Lady (1931), The Case of the Green Knife (1932),  The Case of the Gold Coins (1933) , The Toll House Mystery (1935), by Anthony Wynne; Sudden Death (1932) by  Freeman Wills Crofts.

Not to mention those other British authors less well known but whose works (sometimes only one) still enough to remember them: for example The Death of Laurence Vining (1924) by Alan Thomas, or Darkness at Pemberley (1932) of T.H.White.
In other words, with the exclusion of Zangwill (initiator of this genre, could be said) and Leroux (accredited by Carr), the list appeared only formed by the works by American authors, known. It is suspected that those critics and writers who extended their list of preferences, did not know several other works. This resulted in a basic idea completely misleading: that only in America were written decent Locked Rooms. And for more than a few known authors: an absurdum!
So,  we are faced with a list of works by American authors (with two exceptions) which by its nature could not aspire to be referred to as the reference list.”

Nothing to complain about the first place awarded to The Three Coffins / The Hollow Man by Carr : for the atmosphere that is contained, the complexity of the puzzles and the famous Conference by Dr. Fell, a good reason may deserve the top spot. However, if a few years ago the position of this novel was clear supremacy , currently other critics ( including myself ) propose , for the same genius enigma , for the atmosphere and the sheer simplicity of explanation of a done absolutely impossible, another novel by Carr (aka Carter Dickson ), which figures in this list at fifth place : The Judas Window .
At second place it is Rim of the Pit by Hake Talbot:  also about this novel, I would observe that in my opinion ( but I’ve found that other reviewers think the same way as Mauro Boncompagni and Philippe Fooz ) a place would had to earn The Hangman ‘s Handyman by Hake Talbot, the first of two novels written by the author , and instead blatantly missing . In my opinion you would have prefer it to the other, because of the very dense atmosphere of the novel , as Rim of The Pit , but also for of the Locked Room, absolutely brilliant , which inspired many other later, and the impossibility of the curse ( a corpse decomposes in a few hours ) explained with an eminently hallucinatory and yet absolutely simple to understand, unlike the other novel, which in the face of so many problems accumulated during the reading, can not give them a logical and understandable explanation , often climbing on mirrors. The reason because was entered Rim of the Pit and not the other novel, lies in the fact that his literary quality was sponsored by none other than himself Carr , who had dwelt in its quality . Since Carr was number one in the consideration of those critics ( and he truly is , to date , the largest ever in my opinion) , it follows that his judgments were accepted without question.

About the novels put in positions from 3^ to 7 ^ ,  I do not put your mouth, except that in my opinion , perhaps it would be more just an exchange between the 4th and 6th : the novel by Zangwill , historically is much more important than the novel by Carr presented there, also because for the era in which it was written , the solution was absolutely revolutionary; and novel of the same Rawson , whose Locked Rooms , are absolutely extraordinary , on the same level of imagination of those Carr’s most renowned , also if they lose something only on the level of atmosphere, in my opinion I would have added it to the 5th place, while The Judas Window by Carr , as mentioned earlier , I would have joined to the novel put at the first place, The Hollow Man.
We arrive at Ellery Queen: in my opinion, the two novels proposed , The Chinese Orange Mystery and The King Is Dead could have been well not be there !
I understand that someone will consider me crazy, but to me those novels never seemed significant in the group of Locked Rooms : first, to want to be picky , The Chinese Orange Mystery , Locked Room just is not because the door of the antechamber is not closed : if anything, are the situations that introduce a puzzling situation ; also The King is Dead , is not really a big Locked Room . If you really had wanted to include an emblazoned novel , one would have to mention The Door Between, the only proper Locked Room by Ellery Queen . But you know, at that meeting attended Dannay ( the most imaginative member of the two authors hidden behind the brand Ellery Queen) and Nevins ( author of the most celebrated work of criticism about Ellery Queen) and Symons : it could be argued then because could be been selected precisely those two novels : the first belongs to  phenomenal ten novels, the second belongs to phase which so pleased to Symons: novels with a more psychological rather than deductive .
Ditto for Boucher, huge critical and remarkable writer. However Nine Times Nine is still a very nice Locked Room , also for references to the Locked Room-Lecture by Fell . However, I would point to the same quid Boucher valid for Dannay : to be truly impartial that group of critics would not have included inside two authors whose novels would have figured in the list.

About the novelsat positions 10and 11I have nothingto say.In fact, I want to add thatI would haveaddedanother greatnovel byCarr,strangelyabsent here: The WhitePrioryMurders, the grand Locked Roomfor the firsttimeputinto be the bigtrickof thesnowy meadow, almost become arecognizable traitof the production byCarrand thenchangedmany times(sand, soil, clay courts,a tennis court, etc. ..).
HerethenHelenMcCloy. HerThrough a Glass,Darklywasconsidered by many a lockedroom:in my opinionis a novelto fantasy, whose locked roomis also quite simple, and has nothingspectacular to beconsideredone of the best15lockedroomsever!I would havedefinitelyreplacedwithatrulyepochalnovel, unfortunately absent inItaly, The Woman in the Wardrobe by the BrothersShaffer.
About HeWould NotKillPatience, nothing to complain.
Ditto for Garrett.

Finally, sincethe candidacy byJohnSladekseemssacrosanct, I would have preferredtoInvisibleGreen, thenext novel,BlackAura,ahigher quality novel which containstwomajorproblemsreallysolvedwith greatnonchalance.

Before concluding, I feel obliged to make a reflection about the novels of Carr, also urged by a comment posted by a friend, Stefano Serafini , on Italian blog where I published this article in the first place .
Stephen emphasized among other things , the presence of a value judgment attached to the novels on the list , which “can give space to harsh criticism and controversial : in fact, he has not been repeated ,” and as a list of 15 novels, was quite restrictive . Also remarked one point about I also told my thinking about Carr :

“The Master here has basically 5 slot , otherwise there would be no race: in fact, in the first draft of the list by Lacourbe (The 99 Chambres Closes, 1991) Carr does not appear , nor he doesn’t appear in the 15 best mystery of all time chosen by Adey . Because it would not make sense . Therefore to create a compromise , as in this case , between non to insert Carr and to add him at will , inevitably becomes restrictive”
I would then bring back my reflection in the wake of the comments by Stefano, although it could go beyond the discourse about the subject.
The comments by Stefano gives me the opportunity to expand , albeit in this area  the terms of the issue. Stefano understood what I was getting :


Carr is the cornerstone of the building. If you take Carr, it will be reflected about the lawfulness of his exclusion , and if you don’t include him, it will be reflected about the weight that it should have had, about which novel to insert and which to remove . That’s because creating a list is always a question mark : the best thing for me, it would create a list not susceptible of ranking, and do not put Carr in this general list , reserving him a sort of preferential roadway , a container in which novels by Carr with meritorious Locked Rooms could be remembered.
The list by Hoch inserts  5 novels by Carr among the top 15 .
About the lawfulness of choice I don’t discuss . However in my opinion , four titles are sacrosanct , while the fifth ( as the solution to come as a slap ) , in the light of the novel by Zangwill, before Carr, present in the list , it would seem  to be a kind of illustrious citation. I’m speaking about The Peacock Feather Murders.

I would add The White Priory Murders or even The Problem of the Wire Cage or The Case of the Constant Suicides or even He Who Whispers or The Witch of the Low Tide .
As you can see , enter 5 titles by Carr it is strongly limited . Do not put it , even if it is a bold act , has led to a welter of criticism. As you can see .. the solution is obvious : removing Carr and inserting him at the same time .
Stephenalso asked mewhatwas the bestnovel by Sladekbetween the first his novel (Invisible Green) and the second his novel (Black Aura). I respond with a statement in which deeply believe, because I wrote short stories ( I wrote another recently , the development of a more ancient,  not yet published):

the best Sladek is not Black Aura, and even Invisible Greene, but … By Unknown Hand.
The Locked Room , it can be the great engine around which the novel runs (for example The Judas Window by Carter Dickson ) or it can be one of the engines of the novel ( Arrogant Alibi by C.D.King ) ..
But the novel is , by its very nature , highly dispersive : the novelist rarely succeeds , with the sole locked room to keep standing throughout the novel : very often he adds more locked rooms , or he creates subplots . This is because the history of the Locked Room and its solution , is by its very nature, more often than not mechanistic , deliberately restricted : it is an issue , which puts in place mechanisms logical- mathematical , disinclined to be regimented in a literary style .
That’s because I believe that the best way to illustrate a Locked Room is that by the short story : short, concise , detailed , who proposed the problem, gives the framing, a brief overview of the human environment on which it stands , and then . . gives the solution .
A short story with thirty – forty pages it is the best.
That’s because I controversially say that By an Unknown Hand by Sladek ( included in the collection Maps, edited by David Langford ) is the best I could find : an extraordinary plot , which comes on a solution equally extraordinary , but yet extremely simple. Although in its basic simplicity it seems bizarre .
In the novels by Carr there is plenty ofchoice. It’s in the case of others, that imposes the choice !


Pietro De Palma

[1] It isn’t a novel , but a series of short stories among which it’s  The Problem of Cell 13, one of the best locked room before Carr

Edward Dentiger Hoch : The Frankenstein Factory, 1975

E.D. Hoch (1930-2008)

Edward Dentiger Hoch (writer well versed in classic whodunit, who wrote nearly a thousand stories, including many Locked Rooms), who had previously written four other novels, two mystery (The Shattered Raven, 1969, The Blue Movie Murders, 1972 with the name of Ellery Queen) and two science fiction disguised (The Transvection Machine, 1971; The Fellowship of the Hand, 1972), wrote The Frankenstein Factory, 1975, which would seem to derive directly from Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein.
The novel tells about an island where capsules of hibernation are stored, where many people have ordered that their bodies are kept waiting for breakthroughs in medicine make it possible to treat with surgical techniques and drugs still unknown. Dr. Frankenstein of the situation, here called Lawrence Hobbes, tries an unprecedented surgical intervention: in a man’s body about thirty, died of a brain tumor), he will try to implant the brain, heart, the kidneys and liver of other human beings. The operation is somewhat secret, because the scientist “use” some bodies just to pick up bodies, bodies thus unusable or almost .
The novel is in some ways quite similar to one of Steeman which has also been discussed in this blog space: there is also a doctor who tries a never attempted thing before, that to revive a body  no longer alive through electricity , after having inserted into the skull another brain. In both cases, surgical intervention is on a criminal: criminal for love, at novel by Hoch (before he killed himself jumping under a train, he had killed his wife, who had cancer) but in this case the brain of a murderer is placed in a body of a boy who died of a brain tumor; at Steeman’s novel, the killer is criminal rather pure state: into him, the brain of a normal person should be transplanted into the skull of a murderer.

Both have obvious points of contact with Shelley’s novel, but even more Hoch inserts a quote that clears any doubt, in the second chapter of his novel : he refers to the Factory of Frankenstein, as does Dr. Armstrong to tell he and his colleaguesare the equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein, because as was Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s novel, he and his colleagueswould put the brain and organ in the body and would create a new individual.

If it’s a detective story, there must be a detective. And in fact a detective there is: Earl Jazine, the same detective at “The Transvection Machine” and at “The Fellowship of the Hand.” It is an agent by Computer Investigation Bureau, a secret section that reports directly to the President of the United States.
What is Earl doing here? He works undercover: he apparently is a video engineer in charge to take back the audio and video phase of a revolutionary to be held in secret island, but in fact he should investigate cryogenics research and its funding, not all under the light of the sun . Exits coverage when Vera Morgan, a chemical researcher, reveals the true identity of Earl. And this happens when disappears Emily Watson, a philanthropist who lives in the center and that subsidizes with his money and when is killed Dr. MacKenzie, one of the surgeons of the team, strangled. Also disappears “the Creature”, and then it is expected he is the murderer. Then are killed all except Vera Morgan, Dr. Armstrong and Earl: Tony Cooper (lover of Vera), Freddy O’Connor, Lawrence Hobbes, Philip Whalen, Emily Watson.
There is a battle in the halls of the capsules between Earl and the Creature (called Freddy from them), and then again there is an ambush on the beach: the surgical intervention failed  and so the brain had a trauma. The creature does not speak, has his left arm is not working but the other, as a whole being, has superhuman strength. Yet succumb opposed to the three survivors: Jazine, Armstrong and Vera.
Was he who killed the scientists? Or he has nothing to do, and the choice is between Armstrong and Morgan? Jazine will select and will provide the solution, after drinking a cup of coffee, which could be poisoned if his trainer was indeed the murderer.
The fact that the location chosen for the operation and then .. for the murders in the novel is an island, and that several people agreed there for the completion of surgery all die, calls to mind the novel by Agatha Christie , And Then There Were None: an island turned into a trap. A similarity blatant, so brazen, you have here the person believed dead, who she is not; and what’s more, a character present among those of the christian novel, which is also present here among scientists on the island. There is also a person with a double identity, and a voltage not indifferent, that Hoch established with wisdom, misrepresenting readers with red herrings: the first, that of the missing person, and the second, that of the Creature, and the third, that of the true murderer.
“This situation reminded me of a novel by British writer Agatha Christie, a work of seventy years ago. He spoke of ten people who have to stay on an island are killed one by one, just like here … In the end it turns out that one of the alleged victims is still alive “(Edward D. Hoch, chapter 14).

Needless to say, the culprit here, as in Christie’s novel, is one of these, but if in the original work of Christie was one previously considered dead, here he is not so: the novel by Hoch has an identity and a change, interesting. There is who is supposed to be dead by virtue of blood found in his bed but she is not, but that really she dies, then.
Even in the solution Agatha Christie enters by force, because it learns that the killer was inspired by her novel. However, the similarities end there: in fact, the ending is not cathartic, do not die all at the deserted island; and while at Christie’s novel we ask: “Who is the murderer?” tick here one of those who was thought to be dead, who was not dead and had killed the other.
The ending of the novel Hoch, is reminiscent of the final of René Clair’s “Ten Little Indians”: two of the defendants (but one is here the investigator) are able to escape and take out the murderer.

Pietro De Palma

From New Zealand, a J.D.Carr emulator : Norman Berrow


Norman Berrow: Le orme di Satana (The Footprints of Satan, 1950) – traduz. Giancarlo Carlotti, prefaz. Mauro Boncompagni – ShaKe Edizioni, Collana Nnoir Sélavy, 2010, pagg. 224.  
Norman Berrow is a name unknown to most people: from New Zealand, like Ngaio Marsh, but less known to the public of the lovers of the classic yellow, however, he retains his place in literature of the detective genre, having tried to challenge John Dickson Carr: proposing, in his novels, crime impossible and, several times, Locked Rooms.
Although born in England, in Eastbourne, East Sussex, September 1, 1902, from British parents (but his father was born in India), the third of four children, emigrated with his family of origin, then in New Zealand, where studied at the University of Canterbury New Zealand. But beyond the fact that he was married and had lived in Gibraltar for some time, since some of his novels are set there, and had fought in World War II, beyond the picture, which is incorporated, not more is known. What is known is that, in certain environments, Berrow and his novels were very popular: The Bishop’s Sword, Ghost House, The Three Tiersof Fantasy, The Footprints of Satan, are some of the most representative stocks of the twenty total that until the year the ’50s were published. About his death date, there are important concerns: according to great majority of sources, his date of death is unknown. But from a friend of mine, who was one of the drafters of the Italian edition of the Dictionary Maspléde, I learned long ago that the date of death might be 1986.
It must be said that The footsteps of Satan is not the first title ever in Berrow to be published in Italy: in fact, in 1958, at “Gialli del Triangolo”, was published by Norman Berrow, “La belva of San Roque” (The Claws of the Cougar), a novel late, having a cut more adventurous than those with closed rooms, but belonging to the years’ 50. Currently all the works of Norman Berrow, are available from Ramblehouse.
Norman Berrow tried to emulate Carr, creating a series of situations that often call him back: the disappearance of a road, in The Three Tiers of Fantasy, brings to mind the same disappearance of a street in The Lost Gallows by Carr;  the disappearance of an ancient sword from a sealed casket (The Bishop’s sword), may recall the carrian disappearance of a cup from a room (The Cavalier’s Cup) and so on.  It’s to say, however, that the inventive step of Berrow can not be said that it was just poor. Several themes found in his works are bizarre: one inch giant who kills (The Spaniard’s Thumb), the room singing (The Singing Room), the killing of a demon called “The Black” (Oil Under the Window).
The novel The Footprints of Satan, has the berrowian explanation of an event actually happened in 1855 in some remote places of England, when goats were found footprints imprinted in the snow, and in inaccessible places, such as the steep roofs or above the high boundary walls of the estate. If they occupied the illustrious British newspapers such as The Times, while noting that timidly position to do so, they admitted the possibility that Beelzebub himself, no one knows why, he wanted to visit the remotest lands on the same night.
Norman Berrow from the historical fact, builts his history: in the town of Winchingham, on the slope of Steeple Thelming, in a winter night, while all the townspeople are there huddled under blankets and warm, are left the unmistakable footprints goat’s foot in the snow: that Satan may have decided to take a walk? The fact is that the thing to explain is associated with the discovery of a hanged man. The local community is calling the police to ensure that it is not a joke in bad taste, and the cops say, photographing them, ones are just footprints goat. The strange thing is that the prints that at first seem random set, however, follow an order: it is like a procession. From house to house, the tracks wind their way across the country: here and there disappear, to appear in a few steps away, on roofs and walls (in places inaccessible), until notice footprints are human, followed by goat up the hill, where a clearing desolate, found hanged comes to a dead tree, Mr. Mason, dressed in a double-breasted gray suit with a flashy tie (even here we find carrian references: for example, the man found stabbed dressed in black, with a cylinder, a false beard and a cookbook,  in Arabian Nights Murders).
The hardest thing to explain is that there are around the tree only human fingerprints and those of.. a goat, and no other. To resolve the arcane mystery, is caledl the Inspector Lancelot Carolus Smith, who must struggle between real goat tracks, apparitions of a supernatural being called “Lady Blue”, queer characters like Jake Popplewell and his old ass Boomer, Miss Forbes , Greg Cushing (grandson of Jake), Croxley spouses, spouses Maltravers
At one fine day they find Mr. Croxley, who had been away from home telling his wife that he went to the police station, in the middle of a field, killed by a blow of his hoof: even here there are no other footprints that his and those of the goat . Lancelot Carolus Smith already groping in the dark after the first offense and after the discovery of footmarks on the window sill of the house of Mason, the window closed and locked from the inside, now he is in danger of collapsing. Until … suddenly he sees the light.And het identifies the murderer.
Let’s say that the main dowry of this novel is the atmosphere: heavy and looming, gripping the reader, at least until the crafty player and broke every type of solution (the minority) understand what Berrow has hidden, and when he know what, inevitably you understand at which circle is to be found the murderer.
What is lacking, however, in my opinion, is the perfect fit between complexity of plot and complexity of the atmosphere: if the atmosphere is very effective, by virtue of a skillful mix of various elements, it does not match up to the end the complexity of the plot, I might add, that the fact that he remakes Carr, also identified another flaw, which is of type character-psychological:  Berrow in my opinion should not be to the end very pleased with himself, literarily speaking, and then always tried to relate to the others, those who had success beyond Carr: as  in the preface Mauro Boncompagni  says… Quentin, Wallace, Oppenheim, Woolrich (and I would add Downing).
The atmosphere by Carr introduces a mystery that is so real, and that unfolds throughout the novel, and that is the answer at the end, and this is because Carr has a relatively large park of characters; Berrow, at least, in novels I’ve read,  presents less characters. What if on one hand allows him to focus exclusively on the staging of the crime, the other, presenting a small park of suspects , ends up making the reader understand very shrewd (the average beginner and are not at risk), long before what happens in Carr, who may be responsible of murders. This happens because it changes the perspective of the general layout of the staging: Carr looks at 360 °,  Berrow at 180 °. The first writes a story and weaves a novel broad, the second implant a story but even if it is enormously inventive and quality, however, can not or doesn’t  want to manage a large fleet of suspects. And then the novel in my opinion loses in intensity, especially the ending where the reader would expect an exploit and it all ends up instead with a deflation of tension, not with a bang.
Moreover, the character of Norman Berrow, lacks a characteristic way of speaking that identifies him (the blasphemies by Fell or Merrivale, literary allusions refined by Appleby, frequent French expressions by Poirot) and the same name can be anything but a sum of the famous names of other investigators (Lancelot Priestley by John Rhode and Carolus Deene by Leo Bruce).
Beyond this, the novel only for an atmosphere of rare quality, and a surprising explanation of the two impossible crimes (although I guess the murderess). Discovering the motive and the explanation of the locked  room instead are more difficult (here Berrow prevails on reader).
 Pietro De Palma