Archivi categoria: Locked Room

The last Poirot by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie : Curtain – Poirot’s Last Case, 1975
Styles Court always had a certain importance for Agatha Christie.
Witness the set having 2 important novels in his writing career: The misterious affair at Styles, his debut as a writer’s career (1920), in addition to the character that made universally famous, Monsieur Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective; Curtain – Poirot’s Last Case (1975), Poirot novel farewell.
Curtain – Poirot’s Last Case begins when the first was over to Styles Court. Now Cavendish has become the home of a pension, and Poirot has a room for rent. He is worn out by arthritis, and lives in practice on a wheelchair. But Poirot to Styles is not out of nostalgia, but to prevent a murderess to continue to kill, as he wrote to his old friend Hastings. The show, alone, amazing coincidences, events which, taken individually, are of no value, and then, however, compared to each other and respect each and every one under certain circumstances, take on sinister side dishes.
In other words … there was a very strange series of deaths.
Leonard Etherington, dead apparently rotten food, after the autopsy was discovered to be killed with rat poison with arsenic. Accused wife, she had been acquitted. However the general opinion was unfavorable, and two years after the trial, had committed suicide with barbiturates.
Miss Sharples: died from an overdose of morphine. Insufficiency of evidence against the nephew, Clay Freda.
Ben Craig: Mrs. Riggs assassinated along with a gun belonging to her husband, Edward Riggs, jealous of the relationship between the two. Riggs was sentenced to life imprisonment, after being sentenced to death.
Derek Bradley threatened by his wife for his affair with a girl, was killed with potassium cyanide dissolved in beer. His wife was sentenced to death and hanged.
Matthew Litchfield tyrannical father of four daughters, killed by his eldest daughter Margaret, who would thus allow the sisters to start a new life: interned at Broadmoor because she was incapable of consent, there she was dead then.
Cases that do not appear to have had anything in common, too many to suggest a common matrix, identified only by Poirot. Mr. X is the common denominator of all cases. He too is in Styles Court, became a separate board. And Poirot is there.
He feels compelled to take action, because he suspects, based on all existing connections, another murder is about to take place at Styles Court, where fifty years earlier, had been killed Emily Inglethorp.
George Luttrell, retired colonel is the new owner of Styles Court. He administers the pension and lives there with his wife Daisy. Guests of the board, and so essentially characters in the novel, as well as Poirot, are, at the time when Hastings arrives with his daughter Judith, Sir William Boyd Carrington, Stephen Norton, Elizabeth Cole, John Franklin, the scientist (who has a laboratory ) and his wife Barbara, the waiter Poirot, Curtiss, and Miss Cafres nurse. All the characters, more or less, will have a role in the drama. Between these lies the murderess, Mr. X, and his victim.
Poirot would save the sacrificial lamb, who does not know who he is, and as such seeks the help of Hastings, who ran, together with his daughter, in aid of his friend. But soon there will be a homicide, based on the judgment of Poirot that if one swallow does not make a summer, a murderess makes a crime instead. But first there will be a failed attempt to kill the wife of Colonel Luttrell: he shoots to a rabbit and a bullet grazes his wife.
The bullet was apparently fired from the rifle of Colonel, but is it true or was fired from a rifle similar to the same caliber?
The fact is that, after a death occurs: Mrs. Franklin is poisoned with a lethal dose of physostigmine sulfate. The dose is from the laboratory of her husband, of which both as he as the assistant have a key. It clarifies that the victim suffered from depression, and there‘s more to an eye witness above all suspicion that he swears to have seen come out clutching a bottle: he is Hercule Poirot. The investigation of the coroner’s verdict was suicide. But Poirot has really seen what he has confessed? He knows that the woman was murdered, but since it has no evidence of X is the murderer, Poirot makes the investigation is closed so that he and Hastings are free to work undercover”, we would say today. Moreover, he confesses that he testified, but “not under oath.”
Hastings is afraid that something else will happen. In fact, a second murder occurs, and this time under impossible conditions: Norton is found with a bullet in front of her room, locked from the inside, and the key is found in the pocket of his robe, once the door is forced . The window was found locked from inside. This can only be suicide.
Hastings swears to Poirot that he saw Norton (limping) wearing his robe, closed room. But despite Norton has been found with gun in hand, according to Poirot it was murder.
From who? And how?
Following are just fireworks.
And one of these concerns Poirot. That dies from a heart attack.
Then, four months after a letter delivered to Hastings will explain everything: how are the three deaths occurred, as there was an attempted murder, but two, as until to murder of Franklin, there were two murders and a real potential. After the murder of Franklin, there were a potential murderer and two real. After the murder of Norton, there were two killers. After the death of Poirot, only a murderer there was. However, he isn’t X but…
I do not know how others think, but I think the Queen had read and enjoyed The misterious affair at Styles, when they wrote The Siamese Twins Mystery. Agatha Christie was in fact the story of two brothers and a stepmother, who was then remarried to a younger man, and murder her, of which he is falsely accused one of the brothers, the Queen, the story of murdered a surgeon, and 2 twin brothers are falsely suspected. In both come into the picture two possible murders of spouses.
But, then, just as Christie would probably have read the works of Queen. For the last four words of the novel, Mark of Cain, we refer to Ellery Queen, to many of his works: the radio play The Adventure Of The Mark of Cain, the novel The King is Dead, a chapter of “Once Was a Woman” , which is called The Mark of Cain“. but at the same The Siamese Twin Mysteryto “X.”
X refers us to Dr. Xavier, but also to twice. A Janus-faced: and this, Curtain The Poirot‘s Last Case, is another novel on the double, we could say the novel on double Christie‘s: because there are four murders, and these four until the end does not seem so. One has never killed, but killed many, and another killed one out of necessity, to save lives, but has not been indicted even praised, and now kills still need to save lives, but no one would think that killed and another still kills, but does not know who killed, and the fourth, which would kill another, ends up a mistake, not his, .. to kill himself.
We could call it, as for Ellery Queen, a “Tragedy of Errors“. It certainly seems that those who read the novel, because much more happens, and in this much, many other errors and misunderstandings and characteristic behaviors , that are explained in the cathartic final. Among the behaviors we point out, the “strangeresume the limp of Poirot, who limps as fifty years before.
The limp enters by force in final explanation.
Why to Styles Court, Christie decided to set his first and his last novel in the series of Poirot? I do not know, but certainly Styles Court, had to play in the Christie almost a symbolic value: there he began his fortune, there had to end.
Few people know that when she wrote her first Poirot, the house where she lived with her husband, Colonel Christie, was called Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire. And from the house before her husband went away in 1926 stating that he had a lover, then she ran away (the famous escape and temporary disappearance).
The melancholy of Poirot, in this last novel, is very strong: we see him suffering, and for the first time unable to make reasonable decisions in respect of a murderer who doesn’t dirty his hands ..
That of perfectmurder is a way that comes from afar, and that, through various shades, Agatha has explored several times, also engaging fictional experiments, which were not really peculiar, belonging to other British authors (Heyer, Crispin, Wentworth, eg.). For example, the possibility of spreading hate and resentment through the correspondence. For my part, I see a very strong similarity between these odious systems to bring the evil in the community (the weakest inducing killing or causing others to kill), and the system adopted by the assassin X present in this novel through a psychological sensitivity very strong, and doomed to evil, he causes certain people to kill others, touching the right time “some string“.
In short, a novel that seems to say so anything, but in reality is, in my opinion, a true masterpiece.
Pietro De Palma

Paul Halter: A 139 Pas de la Mort, 1994

Roland Lacourbe, years ago, talking, labeled  A 139 pas de la mort  by Paul Halter as one of the minor works of the Alsatian writer. I, while recognizing the indisputable authority of  Lacourbe, take a different view: for me, this is one of the best work, a true masterpiece.
On what basis do these statements?
The novel is a true anthology of bizarre situations, strange. The story is developed on the basis of a plot which seem outlandish and gruesome, most can not. In many novels Halter, are macabre scenes, probably a legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. And, in our case, the “macabre” abounds.
But Halter is also a mannerist. Besides, it could not be so: after Carr (and Rawson) the rest of the novelists who followed in their footsteps, ended invariably to repeat their inventions, only presenting them differently. But even if Mannerist Halter has the major advantage is a novelist born with an overflowing imagination and delusional.
He can merge two situations, which at first sight are absolutely unrelated, in a plot which, while not being able to make people forget Carr (it’s still a Mannerist) at least impresses the imagination that brings into play.
In one night, Neville Richardson, private detective, comes across a beautiful girl who is scared of someone or something. Decides to follow the pick and soon after talking to a guy. From a distance, can not be identified except for one thing that makes him shudder: a voice and a hoarse and shrill laughter. Boarded the girl, and posing like that guy (collar up and trying not to see the face), is able to know that something should happen on April 16. And this is related to a move that has seen him do, in the dialogue between the individual and the girl, a fist with the thumb up. And then the cryptic phrase: “On the 16th, at 21, above the door at the bottom of the bird.” What do you mean never?
The action moves elsewhere. Such Paxton reveals Inspector Hurst and criminologist and detective in his spare time Alan Twist, that such a hired him to do something completely meaningless: wearing clothes and shoes, made ​​available to him (and only those: he can not wear others, for example their own), have to walk all day to deliver the mail, from one place to another, always the same: to deliver an envelope, and deliver the clothes, and then the next day pick up from there another envelope and bring it to his employer, re-wearing the same clothes: always and only two envelopes, always the same clothes .. But the great thing is and is anticipated to own Twist in the revelation that there is nothing inside the envelopes.
What does this strange occupation, with what is narrated above? The fact that the mysterious businessman who hired him for something seemingly meaningless, has a voice hoarse and shrill.
Because of the jewels are stolen, someone thinks of a traffic precious concealed in the heel of the shoes that invariably wear out, since the courier involuntary moves always in the same places.
Meanwhile, the scene shifts to a small village half an hour away from London lives here an ex-cop with his niece. While he is looking for her, finds an abandoned house and laying in ruins, first belonged to an old eccentric, a Fiddymont. It is said that an aura of mystery hovering over the house.
On April 16, arrives and meanwhile you have not figured out yet what that mysterious gesture with his hand. Or rather, you arrive late, in that day: “The Bird in Hand” is the name of a pub near the Covenant Garden. In the attic of the building where the restaurant is found, a man is found slain: he is the messenger which has been talked about before: Paxton.
Why was he killed?
Meanwhile, someone alert the police, the man with the squeaky voice, that “someone” was seen wandering near the home of the deceased Fiddimont. Here is what connects the two parts: the man with the squeaky voice. A coincidence? Twist and Hurst do not believe. And go to this abandoned house, whose front door is locked from the inside. Got into the house, it is a nightmare scenario: in a room, closed to the outside on a chair placed between the window and the fireplace, found the corpse of the old Fiddimont, still dirty from the ground, five years old . How did he end up there, if there are footprints on the floor covered with dust? And how is it that the house was locked from the inside in turn, as if the old Fiddymont had risen from the grave and there he had gone? A bit of time before, someone had talked about noises and voices from the tomb of old, and the earth itself had appeared moved. Obviously, recovered the coffin, buried deep in the earth in short, it will be empty. The thing is that, inside the house, no matter what has occurred, it witnessed countless witnesses: dozens of pairs of shoes, of all shapes, sizes, colors, male and female, aligned to each other a side by side, on the ground, covered with dust. And the dust inside the house reigns supreme, even as it is on the floor.
What does Fiddymont link to mysterious individual with shrill voice?
It has its own importance in the story of the disappearance of a piece of eaves of the house?
The fact is that very soon, a new murder occurs: Professor Lynch is killed, married to Emma Lynch, heir of the old Fiddymont. He is found in another abandoned house, this time near Covenat Garden: but how many abandoned houses! And next to the corpse, always old shoes.
It’s up to nail a Twist evil murderess, not before they killed the old cop Winslow, a friend of Twist and Hurst, who participated with their investigations, and who lives in the village. Why?
The novel is a portentous “divertissement”.
It is full of red herrings (starting with the first murder, another red herring is that of shoes. But then why the old Fiddymont wanted them to stay in his house, that amount? There’s also, the red herring of the desecration of the grave of the old , the unearthing of his body, and his ostentatious house in a hermetically sealed from the inside), false clues (the high-pitched voice), real clues (the adulterous relationships that four people have woven together, and the piece of gutter disappeared).
The novel is full of false suspects and perpetrators of covert, manipulators and manipulated: theft are important, but not a reason or a motive nor murderers. Halter in this, it seems to me that you mention The Siamese Twins Mystery” by Ellery Queen, but reversing the situation. Those who know the novel by Ellery Queen, knows what I am talking about when I talk about theft. There, the murderer is the thief, not here. But the motive of the murder is the same masked. And just as there, even here the murderer tries to blame those who had nothing to do. A series of coincidences that seem to me very little chance to not be remembered.
Halter’s novel is full of quotations from the novels of other great mystery writers, as often happens in his case: intentional and known quotations (He Would Not Kill Patience by Carter Dickson / John Dickson Carr), but also scrolls and unmanifested ( The Siamese Twins Mystery by Ellery Queen). Another quote is The Adventure of the Red-Headed League from “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Conan Doyle (refers to Paxton, taken for a purpose unknown to him, which in this case is also connected to his assassination).
Here I emphasize, one of the common features in the novels of Halter: the fact that often in his novels victims are at the center of machinations, but also that the same killers end up being the victims of events that occur without their knowledge (an another example is in “La lettre qui tue”). In our case, the killer who had premeditated the perfect crime is discovered only because a third person, outside the circle of people in which the killer operates, having suspected that a person is in danger, he causes the police operation. How? Just read the book!
Finally, in addition to the double impossibility (door locked from the inside, with corpse dug up and seated on a chair, without any footprints on the floor covered uniformly by powder), the interesting thing of this novel is a “Locked-Room Lecture” , inserted in Chapter 42 (which enriches the novel, and differentiates it from others he has written), which stands as a Halter tribute to Carr and Rawson, both cited two examples: the second, those strips of gummed paper draws From Another World  by Clayton Rawson).
But the shoes? What about them? It will be the final, a final jaw-dropping, which has the flavor of a melancholy tale, to explain its significance. Especially in light of the attitudes “of madness” attributed to the old Fiddymont, that he was not mad but instead of that childhood nostalgia that had not.Pietro De Palma

Derek Smith : Whistle Up The Devil, 1953

Legendary novel, as much as the author himself would seem to be.
Very little is known about him. Doug Greene, recently revealed that he had with Derek Smith a sort of correspondence, and even Bill Pronzini met with him. Few and scanty biographical: Smith was born in 1926 in the outskirts of London, and has lived all his life in the house, not ever getting married and staying close to his mother until she died. Smith had amassed such a collection of books, thousands, including many first editions, which would delight those who know me, that when he died, ten years ago, who had been instructed by him to take care of his collection after his death, had major problems seem to access it, because the books were stacked in piles, in the midst of dust and moisture loss from the ceiling. Apparently, according to Pronzini, that even a part of the second floor had collapsed under the weight of books.
Derek Smith wrote only one work worthy of passing into history of the Locked Room, but .. this is enough. In fact, another novel that he wrote Come to Paddington Fairwas never published in their mother tongue, but only in a limited edition in Japan: it seems, however, that this isn’t a Locked Room, but an impossible crime.

Whistle Up The Devil can be considered one of the novels born along the lines of the example given by Carr and Rawson: not only a novel based on Locked Room, but also a symbolic monument to the greatest novelists of Locked Room that preceded the same Derek Smith . So Whistle Up The Devil becomes in itself a novel that transcends even the same plot, becoming part of that trinity of the genus that composes The Hollow Man by J. D. Carrand Death from a Top Hat by C. Rawson, all novels as if to emphasize its uniqueness in the genre of which are examples, have their own  Locked Room Lecture.
The novel is remarkable for the impact and intelligence with which it is built, so that the ingenuity of the idea is somehow obscured by the veil of mystery and atmosphere of the plant. Obviously, since even the small number of suspects, the solution to a suitably experienced player in the genre, does not seem difficult to imagine, contrary to what may seem to a common reader. The fact is that the figure of the murderer is readily detectable only if you have some encyclopedic knowledge of the genre: in other words, those who have not read a novel (and I do not make the name) will not understand right away who it is.

Beyond this, the novel is imposed for a first offense of a show that traces its origins not so much on mechanical tricks of illusionistic as at use of human capabilities in diverting attention from a certain object of attention and direct it to another.
In addition to the original crime, there is a second, more simple in construction but not less spectacular, the explanation of which is identifying the key person, who has been mentioned above.
But the merit of the goodness of the novel is also knowledgeable in the use of narrative tension obtained with false solutions that pave the real ones, no less spectacular, indeed ..
The plot hinges on a family secret” or as the Querrin is passed from father to son (I speak of more son), a month before the wedding of the latter, and that is also linked to a certain room of the family residence, called the Room of Passage“, the story requires, however, that at some point, something has gone wrong and mysteriously the father (Thomas Querrin) that his son (Martin Querrin) are dead, the father later to seizures, son stabbed in the locked room from the inside. And before that he had felt a terrible inhuman scream coming from the room. Since then, he says that the father’s ghost haunts the room in question.

The last two scions of the family are Querrin Roger and Peter. Roger, who is engaged to Audrey, decided to revive the tradition of family and “blow the whistle to the Devil” will remain in the room in question defiantly discrediting the tradition which says that room to be haunted. The point is that the tradition has it that those who agree to spend the night in the room, taking the secret with courage and honor, to be spared, while those who die will spend the night disputing these rules.
Audrey is so apprehensive. And so is Peter, his future brother in law. So that is aimed to Castle, Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, who tells him the inability of police to deal with the matter. However, Castle remembers his friend Algy Lawrence is an amateur detective, who has already worked brilliantly with the police, and he prospects the case.
Roger wants at all costs to spend the night in the room so as to dispel the curse that hangs over it, and then you decide to watch it: Algy and Peter stood in the hallway that connects the room to the rest of the house, while the sergeant Harding parks under a tree outdoors, watching from outside the door that connects the room or outdoors on a garden full of flowers, whose land because of the rain is ideal because it will let anyone trample his prints.
Despite what the impossible occurs and Roger is killed in the locked room, closed by him at the inside, stabbed with the same dagger with which he had been killed long before Martin. Only it seems that it can only be killed by a ghost, as neither Peter and Algy have seen anyone leave the room, nor Sergeant saw someone to enter or to exit from the door-window, nor the dagger with which Roger fingerprints has been killed, even those gloves, nor even the rain has soaked the soil fingerprints. So a puzzle to be crazy. At some point it would seem that the suspects can concentrate on a certain Turner, vagrants seen wandering around the estate, and so he is arrested.
Algy goes to jail for questioning, but before he is able to find anything, although he and the sergeant are in the adjacent room, Turner is killed, in the cell locked by the sergeant before.
Paradoxically, everything seems to turn to the indictment of the poor Algy, although it remains unclear because he would kill Turner.

At this point, for Algy, find the murderer of Roger and the murderer of  Turner (obviously he is the same) is not just a matter of principle but also the only way to convince the police that he was not the killer. And so, after Audrey‘s uncle, Craig Russell, who also lives in Querrin House, thought to nail the murderer with his deductive explanation of events, failing miserably, it will just Algy to resolve the matter and give a face a crafty murderer.
What I want to observe is that in this novel, curiously, is not the figure of the detective, the one that imposes itself on others, as that of a character that should be less than: D. Smith, if gives to the first a vague description, and certainly not attributable to that of a detective who solves mysteries important oddest, connotes instead the round figure of Audrey‘s uncle, Russell Craig, even comic character, swindler, trickster, who loves the good life and the flesh: already more than mature, he bustles with the waiter, with one in particular,  with satisfaction of both. So if Algy is romantic and goofy, and women doesn’t  know, Uncle Russell is even defended by his women. An unabashed Don Giovanni, whose virility is loved by women, is opposed to a moderate Don Ottavio.

However one of the most interesting features of the novel is the Locked Room Lecture, which declares openly be the same novel, a tribute to Carr and Rawson:

Do you remember the Case of the Dead Magicians? A spark of interest showed on the Inspector’s rugged face. “You mean that odd affair in America, round about 1938? Yes, I remember. Homer Gavigan handled that for the New York Police Department. Though I believe most of the credit went to a man calling himself”—the Inspector’s voice held a high pitch of unbelief—“the Great Merlini.”

“That’s it. Merlini solved  the mystery, then wrote upthe case as a novel, calling it Death From a Top Hat. He collaborated with Ross Harte—they used ‘Clayton  Rawson’ as a pseudonym.” Lawrence digressed slightly. ” There have been four Rawson books to date, though only three have been published in England. More’s the pity. Every one is first rate”.

Castle stirred restively. Lawrence said quickly:

“Here’s the point. Merlini devoted the bulk of Chapter Thirteen to a lecture”—Castle groaned—”on the general mechanics of the sealed room murder. He indicated that everysuch crime falls within one of three classes, namely—-“

The Chìef Inspector held up his hand.

“I’ve read the book,” he growled. “And before you go any further, I’m also well acquainted with Doctor GideonFell’s famous Locked Room Lecture in The Hollow Man

‘Published in the U.S.A.,” threw in Algy irrepressibly, “as The Three Coffins. . . . I’m glad you know it. Fell and John Dickson Carr are experts.” (Derek Smith, “Whistle Up the Devil”, Gifford, London 1953, pagg.108-109).

Moreover, the novel retains the same basic approach of Carr‘s novel: the hapless protagonist of the story, Roger Querrin here, there Professor Grimaud, defy the forces of darkness, the underworld and end “apparentlydestroyed by them.
The novel by Derek Smith confesses his addiction, in the construction of plot and dramatic staging, just by the writers mentioned in his dissertation: by each of them, you could say, he is inspired. In particular by some.

“..there was no opening at all in that room. No secret panels, whether the size of a man or a sixpence. And that knife certainly wasn’t shot through the keyhole or a Judas window.”

Not very much. We’ve exhausted nearly every possibility in Class One. Roger definitely wasn’t the victim of any elaborate trickery such as Rupert Penny described” (op. cit. pagg.110-111).

But other authors have mentioned before the dissertation, in the course of events narrated in the novel.
In the dissertation, Derek Smith through dialogue between Castle and Algy Lawrence, examines the three classes about which Carr and Rawson had placed their focus, reaching the final deduction, which does not explain how the murderer has completed his crime, but only where he was at the time of the murder.

“We’ve eliminated Classes One and Three. Therefore the killer’s method must be somewhere in Category Two.”

The Inspector nodded agreement, though he still looked worried.

“You mean that the room only seemed to be sealed because the murderer tampered with the door or the windows.”

“Yes. But,” warned Algy, “be careful. There’s a big headache in store. This room wasn’t just locked. It was also guarded.”

Castle swore. He said :

“Don’t confuse me, curse you. Our conclusion is that the killer was in the room with Querrin. When he knifed Roger, he somehow contrived an escape.”(op. cit. pag.112).

Algy nails the murderer only collecting ideas.
I only say that in my opinion, Derek Smith, if declares that the models are Carr and Rawson respectively, and then he quotes The Hollow Man and Death from a Top Hat, in fact, the elaboration of the idea behind the creation the first Locked Room in Whistle Up the Devil, runs two other novels by Carr: The Third Bullet and The Peacock Feather Murders, both 1937 novels.
Before concluding, I note that among the influences on this novel, there may have been that of Hake Talbot. His Hangman‘s Handyman (1942), written before that of Derek Smith, contains a dark curse connected to a family secret, as it happens in Whistle Up The Devil.
Derek Smith may have taken something also from Talbot?
I leave my readers to be in agreement or not. But I think it is quite possible.

Pietro De Palma

One of the best Locked Rooms ever : The Hangman’s Handyman (1942) by Hake Talbot

Even from the first lines we see projected on a remote island, battered by gales, which has a name that says it all: Kraken, like the mythological monster of the deep sea. And the atmosphere already expresses its first signs of strange and threatening.

Nancy Garwood, actress and showgirl, is found lying across the bottom of the bed, still wearing the evening dress and and then she doesn’t how she arrived  to be in bed. She remembers when she arrived in the afternoon along with Jackson Frant and dinner: as you say later, she knew Frant “intimately perhaps” but certainly not good .. (it means that he had sex with him, but as a person he knew little). Also remembers the heavy atmosphere of that house and palpable; servants, silent and without an identity as  if they were shadows, the strange and the guests seated around the table, eight including the host and five empty seats to form thirteen places, omen of doom. She remembers the salt dropped in error on the tablecloth, she remembers the broken mirror, remembers the frightened faces. She doesn’t remember anything.

When Nancy falls in the living room, by candlelight, the clock strikes ten o’clock p.m.. She remembers that she was at dinner at nine. Must have been unconscious at least one hour. The guests should be there, playing the piano, playing cards .. Instead, there is none.
Nancy increasingly tense, the show turns to the dark and threatening, by candlelight.
We observe the scene: Hake Talbot, with consummate skill we would like to say (but this is the debut) introduces the story as if it were not a detective novel, but a fantastic novel, a gothic novel : it would seem one of Radcliffe or Walpole. The candlelight, instead of decreasing the voltage for the dark, it increases it, because it illuminates what is directly in front, but leaves the rest in darkness. And while Nancy advances frightened, scared and tense, the sound here is powerful and unexpected: someone knocks at the door.
She goes to open, because not even the servants made him, as if the house was empty, and she founds Roger Kincaid, a professional player, with an ambiguous past, but who knows human nature better than others, and above all knows how to go down to things, even to those who apparently are not seen.
Talbot reserves entrance leading to Kincaid, with which we can understand that we are facing the deus ex machina” of the situation.
The nature of the character is also entrusted with the clothes she wears: a heavy raincoat and a hat from the wide brim, which remind us instantly (at least on those familiar with the detective genre) the most famous character of Carr, the Dr. Fell. It a way as any to tell the reader: it is the investigator, there are the typical conditions of carrian novels, that are impossible crimes or closed chambers.
The impossible crime is what distinguishes the novel, and is also the event that caused the amnesia of the girl.

Nancy recalls that the number of thirteen invited (but a family of four was not reached) had provided an opportunity for Jackson Frant, industrial chemicals, could make fun of her brother, Lord Evan Tethryn enormously superstitious.
The mockery that was continued in a crescendo of tension, before reading an ancient document which indicated an unspeakable family secret, that the brother had thrown into the fire, then causing the breaking of a mirror, powder, and then causing the deposit of salt on tablecloth, and at the same time emphasizing the ensuing seven years of trouble. The effect of this series of events is the curse cast by Evan at Jack, the real secret unspeakable: to kill the recipient immediately, and let him rot in a short time.
So did the exasperated Lord Evan against the brother Jack Frant. And hearing the curse Od rot you!” Jack was struck by lightning fell, dead: apparently Od, the sea goddess whom Evan had turned, was briskly to oblige. The body was then transported to his room and left there.
But we have before pointed to a crime impossible: what ever it would be impossible in instant death as surely falling into a pure coincidence, a man cursed by his half-brother? It could very well be a heart attack! So far nothing indicates manifest impossibility: there is only a coincidence also if strange. The impossibility instead will be realized before our eyes, when Kincaid will travel to see the corpse, whose memory causes fainting again of Nancy. While Kincaid her aids, a new character materializes, Arnold Makepeace.

I note that the expedient of heightened tension, we have already seen both in the wake of Nancy (who finds herself in a strange house and darkness), and in the verbal confrontation between the two half-brothers, reappears now in the brief dialogue between these two characters: Arnold if at words he confirms as told by Nancy and tries to be as objective as possible, speaks almost shouting, in a tone that suggests to Rogan, as his partner is terrified.

Well, he obviously present in the stroke, he is hoped in his heart that even Dr. Braxton defines it such. And the tension grows, and continues when the first Rogan rummaging through the ashes of the fireplace, he founds almost intact the loot of pages that had been thrown on the fire (which is a series of reports showing old black magic powers given to the family of two brothers by Od, an elemental spirit of sea) and then when he himself, in the library, founds a series of books specifically occult character, read and reread, especially one with such a famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe: The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. Do you remember that case? No? It talks about the mesmerism, animal magnetism made in the case of a man at death, which remains in a state of suspended death, until awakened from this state of decomposition in a heartbeat. Because Talbot refers precisely to this story by Poe? Why Kincaid will find Frant, wearing the dress evening, died not from a few hours, but died at least a month, in decomposition so advanced that the only way to assign him the identity, it’s a ring that could not have been imbedded after died.
Here is the manifest impossibility that would legitimize a supernatural intervention, to Od.
That’s it?
No. Someone tries to kill Kincaid strangling and yet manages to leave the room leaving her locked inside, with mosquito nets and intact old-growth, impossible to disassemble and assemble outside. Carr would say vanished into air.  Only Od in person could have been!
But why Od would want to kill Kincaid?
Nothing I will say more, except  that the ending of novel is amazing.

Why the novel did impress me so favorably?
The first, we are dealing with a crime so impossible that it can not be more impossible, and even a beautiful Locked Room. Talbot, in short, to create his debut novel, in honor of Carr and Rawson, and fills it impossible crimes and locked rooms, in a supernatural tricks illusions (the same Hake Talbot dabbled in magic) and centers the target , expecting to an established pattern of classic mystery (island battered by storm, secluded villa, curse, crime impossible and even more in a closed chamber, substitutions in person, continuous plot reversals) and creating an atmosphere dense and palpable able to fascinate.
Also it wouldn’t seem to be a debut. It has not flaws in the final by Rim of the Pit, though a lot of persons still consider it superior to ours. The fact is that the ending can not hold the tension accumulated up to that point and Rim of the Pit seems to be missing something, because, summingimpossibilitytoimpossibility, and concentrating the explanation of all the mysteries in the finale, “with an effect of complexity a bit too exhausting”, as would tell someone I know, Talbot can not answer all the questions, to satisfy them completely, and leaving a sense of something unresolved.
This leads us to consider how, instead, the first novel, with some humility that is lacking in the second hand, tends to solve the puzzles, each time, leaving only the final identification of the murderer (which is not easy). In fact, the first Talbot/Kincaid addresses the Locked Room, and then he explains the crime impossible.
Beyond this there are similarities between the two novels.
First, the mythological allusions: here is an elemental deities, Od, a demon of the deep sea while there another demon is, an Indian demon, a Windingo. In addition both novels, show magic tricks performed and explained by the guests.
Here and there you notice any mistakes, you may notice that only after reading the novel several times: first it says that an examination of the fingers of the corpse decomposed by Kincaid, Sergeant Dorsey, the police photographer and Feldman Medical Examiner Dr. Murchison, we note that had been removed the skin of the fingertips; then at the end of the novel, we read that the corpse was that of Frant because Feldmann had taken fingerprints: inconsistency perhaps be explained by a previous draft of the novel different?
Beyond this, even Talbot, as Halter, may have used, to wrap the plot of his novel, a series of references to him earlier: the guests present at a villa on an island, reminiscent of And Then There Were None 1939, by Agatha Christie; the 13 dinner guests, another novel by previous Christie, Lord Edgware Dies, 1933; and finally, I would be even tempted to believe that the same misfortune Rogan on board the vessel in the middle stormy sea and its landing on the island where the other guests are waiting, could refer to Careless Corpse, 1937, by King Charles Daly.
Well … an extraordinary novel, which takes engrossed until the last page.

Pietro De Palma

P. S.
The device by Talbot, also was used by Bill Pronzini and  Paul Halter.

John Dickson Carr : The Plague Court Murders, 1934

Not everyone knows that The Plague Court Murders, Carter Dickson’s novel (John Dickson Carr) published in 1934, has a pretty revealing subtitle: “A Chief Inspector Masters-Murders”. It means, that Carr at first, probably, had decided to create a series of novels (including the aforementioned novel would have been the first) not based on the character of  Merrivale but on Chief Inspector of the CID, Masters. Besides the fact that in this first novel, Humphrey Masters should have at first a much greater role than that of Henry Merrivale, it also follows from the structure of the novel: it is much more Masters dropped into the mystery, he is interrogate several witnesses including you find the culprit, Merrivale and the same appears on the scene of the crime after at least a good half of the book.
It would suffice, however, only the characterization of the character Merrivale to understand even the most doubtful that, in this first novel in the series, the figures of Merrivale and Fell, morphologically, are not very much different. Carr, the beginning is not that he had already given a well-defined characterization to his character. In contrast to Masters, which is presented to the reader on two separate occasions: the first is when it is presented as a hunter of fake mediums and false occult scholars saying that during the period of spiritualistic mania that had invaded England after the end of the war, he was a sergeant whose main task was to unmask the false medium, and that his interest in these practices had never died out, so that he “had actually turned into a hobby, by constructing sophisticated tricks and sleight of hand, in the workshop of his house, “surrounded warm approval of the children”; and the second is when it becomes a physical characterization of Masters: tall and stout, expression inscrutable, wrapped in his dark overcoat and a bowler hat to his chest as if he beheld “the passage of a procession”. To emphasize the fact that at the beginning Carr (but not to inflate more his name, he adopted with all the Merrivale novels in the series, the pseudonym Carter Dickson) had not fully characterized the figure of Merrivale, you can see how the Old as it is also called, was presented as a man of law, but also a doctor, and especially in the early novels such as Head of the Military Intelligence Service (also known as MI6), although, when it is presented for the first time, is said to be was previously head of the Military Counterintelligence (also known as MI5). Being at the head of “Intelligence” Military, could explain the title of nobility that we often see prefixed to his name: Sir, though in his case the noble title is not acquired as a function of its operational excellence rather than by descent.

Conan Doyle’s influence on Carr is detectable, in many cases: in the case of the duality Bencolin investigation, represented by Holmes and Watson, is masked and not clearly visible and if anything it is only understandable in the pair Bencolin and Jeff Marle, in two other major series, those of Dr. Fell and HM, the influence is much more visible, if not canonical. In fact, Dr. Fell is apparently opposite, but in reality it goes, the Inspector Hadley, and if HM in a sense embodies Holmes, Dr. Watson is represented by the unfortunate (which makes tenderness in some way) Master Chief Inspector. That seems to me to identify one of the most characteristic and brilliant of Carr’s writing: the characterization of the characters. Since it is an indisputable fact, that the pair of investigators, but in general the pair of players, attract most of the individual (Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers; Starsky & Hutch, etc..), Carr invented the characters , we can say that he has often used them.  Although it’s undeniable that the shoulder reinforcements support and finish to put under the spotlight the protagonist, the deus ex machina of the novel, it is also undeniably true that the “shoulder”, when it is broken so as to soften, become very sympathetic to readers, because in some way all of them tend to identify with him. Indeed, in this case, Masters becomes, with his bad luck to run into impossible crimes and locked rooms, a character almost more fun than the same HM looks. The fact isthat bothappearin ThePlagueCourtMurdersand theircombinationwill featurethe best ofCarterDickson’s production.

The first of the novels in the series, sees the entrance of HM not at the beginning but when the crime has already consumed: in fact the entrance of HM follows the lines of an entry into the scene with great fanfare of the protagonist, such as during a theater play, after a sort of introduction, here represented by everything that happens before HM appears on the scene to solve the riddle. And H.M. appears for the first time just because Major Featherton think about it, by contacting Ken Blake (who is the narrator), to put the investigation in the hands of that who is, a true expert, in the hands of Henry Merrivale. And by doing so Carr speaks for the first time about Merrivale, and does so, looking at Fell: garrulous, always lazy, lawyer and physician, vain, fat jokes and talk about pressures.

The investigation concerns a supernatural story from surveys, that of a dwelling, a bit far-fetched in London in the ’30s (but often Carr knows how to make plausible situations that at the hands of others would laugh chickens), which says hotels a ghost, that of Louis Playge Executioner: it’s Plague Court, originally the seat of a tribunal. This home is owned by Dean Halliday and his family. Halliday has called on stage Ken Blake, his old friend, to preside at a seance, which will evoke the restless spirit of the Executioner, because you find peace, to manage the session will be a student of the occult sciences, Professor Roger Darworth, and Joseph Dennis the medium. In fact, the spirit is one of those wicked and devilishly clever, and could take over the body of a certain person to make him do what he wants: Plague in fact life was not only the executioner for activities, but also to the vocation took pleasure in hurting . So he had become the terror of those who were near; until the plague pecked too him, like all his countrymen. His brother, drove him from home, and the executioner, before dying, threw a curse on that house.

On the site of the seance there is also the Chief Inspector Humphrey Masters, whose presence is explained by the unusual fact that Darworth suspected of being a fraud, a fake scholar of the occult. The night of the séance, Darworth closes himself in Plague Court, while the séance proceeds, and there he is killed.
The fact is that crime is a classic Locked Room: in fact the door is closed and locked from the inside and the windows also, to complicate the story is the fact that Darworth was stabbed with the dagger that had been used originally by Executioner, and around the little stone house is an expanse of mud, where there aren’t footprints: it would therefore appear that the supernatural is the only possible track. In fact there would be a centenary tree, with its branches reaches the roof of the house, but its wood is so addled, that would not hold the weight of any person who climbed up there, as evidenced by good police Sergeant Bert McDonnell.
The protagonists of this drama, that is, Lady Benning, Marion Latimer, his brother Ted Latimer, and Major Featherton, astonished and frightened to attend events, the more that comes a cat found with his throat cut and a large stone vase is launched overhand: these facts show that all the spirits in place does not grant to any discounts of any kind.

At this point, and here ends the introduction to drama, enters H.M. It is a dramatic entrance. H.M. is presented as a bald, fat, smoking bad cigars (which Carr model runs is Winston Churchill), who prefers to wear hats of any kind, that is not taller than five feet seven, and always wears white socks, and who knows an industrial quantity of dirty jokes. From this point, Merrivale will remain  until the end. But not before he had probed the past Darworth, because that’s where you hide the origin of the drama, and that a second crime, even more terrible than the first, upset everyone will be killed Joseph, medium, Darworth mate. Not just killed, but also full of petrol and thrown into the boiler of a house. The explanation of Merrivale, a real masterpiece, will leave everyone with his mouth open.

Actually, as any first novel, this one is structured almost like the first and only, or that the same Carr hadn’t clear ideas on the continuation of the series: in fact, not only the fact that, after almost 150 pages , Merrivale appears in the novel, is a test of a different construction gained during the course of the novel, but especially that mysterious expression which appears after Merrivale’s apparition and about it you can not find any next justification. Why Carr feels the need to say that you are violating the rules of the detective story? And why right after he says that the person who premeditated the murder, she conceived just as a detective story?
In my opinion, is the affirmation of who (precisely Carr), not knowing yet whether the smile on the success or otherwise after the publication of this novel, claiming for himself the authorship of to have created a perfect novel, maybe the solution to most brilliant moment he had thought: who could premeditate a crime, conceiving it as if you were writing a detective novel, if not a writer of detective novels, and particularly one who wrote the novel in which we find these reflections? Only a writer who sets up the plot, and  invent an ingenious crime that works on paper and of which he, speaking by the mouth of Henry Merrivale, can reveal the explanation, could premeditate the crime, and he should conceive it in a frame mystery novel.
In short, John Dickson Carr could do it, only!
Because, despite the explanation leaves at open mouth, this is one of the many crimes whose explanation can be accepted only in the pages of the greatest inventor of locked rooms, in a literary context and invention, taken to the maximum expression.
Pietro De Palma

A wonderful Locked Room by Christianna Brand

Christianna Brand 

The Gemminy Cricket Case aka Murder Game, 1968

Released some months ago, the Special N°69 of “Il Giallo Mondadori”, entitled The Detective of Impossible, as always cared by stainless and forward MauroBoncompagni, presents on this occasion, The Four Just Men by EdgarWallace, The Kennel Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine and, finally, The Cricket Gemminy Case by Christianna Brand.
We must say, in all sincerity, that never before in this case,we are faced with three works of excellence, united by a common denominator: a Locked Room.
Wallace and S.S. Van Dine are known as their novels, of the milestones in the genreand very well known. However,  if you ever want to some howen courage the purchase of this volume, I would use as an example the legendary story by Brand (published in 1968), for the aura that surrounds it: surely one of the best Locked Room short stories ever.
Thomas Gemminy is a well-known criminal lawyer based in London, assured himself a great personal wealth from his law practice, he has dedicated himself to philanthropic activities in favor of children from highly disadvantaged family situationsin essence children relatives of known criminals who, remaining in the same bad environment family of origin, they could develop the same germs delinquent of their relatives. These children were from him and his wife, as long as it is lived, bred, educated and protected, starting them to be sure;  sometimes he also made sure that those in possession of hereditary defects, migratedso they lose the basic references and thus be freer create a life with out knowing anything of his past. We distinguish these individuals from having two surnames together: their surname associated to surname of their stepfather.

A three boys Gemminy was most fond of: Giles Gemminy Carberry, Rupert Gemminy Gemminy Chester and Helen Crane, the two males are both in love with Helen and work in the law firm of his stepfather. However there is one inconvenience: a third “cricket” (as they were called his boys by Thomas Gemminy), that the two men do not know, it seems too in love with Helen.
The story begins with Giles going to find, at a nursing home, an acquaintance of his, old age, particularly paid to the resolution of puzzles and give a very daunting subjects one: Thomas Gemminy was found strangled, bound and stabbed in the shoulder in his study, almost unadorned, with the desk on which it is collapsed, engulfed in flames and a broken window in the middle. The door was locked and bolted from the inside, through the broken window to the sidewalk below were no more than fifteen feet overhang, and the weapon with which he was stabbed (and still comes out of the blood when the cops burst), a letter opener , has disappeared from the desktop. The police, whose Central is located right in front of the house of the lawyer, were alerted by a phone call, came from the study of Gemminy, in which the lawyer in a desperate voice had spoken of “something that disappears into thin air.” “Of” something strange to the window, “and” two long arms. ” Arriving at the door of the studio after less than two minutes, found that Rupert is trying to kick down a locked door; manage to break two panels of the door, one of them put an arm and slide the 2 bolts horizontally and vertically, then everybody can to open the door and find yourself in front of the horrible sight: the dead lawyer, the corpse in the process of burning, the broken window that still vibrates, fragments of it on the sill and, of course, no one in the room, and the desk burned by the flames. In the smoke that chokes and burns the eyes, Rupert finds a message that speaks of Helen and runs away, a policeman comes running out to go and call the fire department, but all the others are there to look for evidence, non-existent.

An hour later he was found dead a policeman on patrol, Dinkum Cross, in the same way lawyer: bound, strangled and stabbed. He, too, before he was killed and later found in the old cistern on a farm near there, had spoken from a phone booth where he had taken refuge, about “Long arms” and about “something that had vanished into thin air.”
The old man is the investigator, here.
Based on its own acumen and his own deduction, he reconstructs the stages of the murder, working for three types of crime, each for each of the three young men, who had been the murderer. Then draw a fourth hypothesis, borne by the fourth subject, assuming that he could be a policeman killed and in that case then he was killed by one of the three for some reason related to revenge for the death of the old criminal lawyer, who essentially was opposed that one of the protected males marry Helen:  could be to the detriment of hereditary taint of Rupert Giles or Dinkum, or be borne by the girl. The fact is that this is the motive, the love between Helen and one of the three males, since the track linked to the heritage is discarded immediately because it was entirely devoted to the Foundation for the benefit of underprivileged children. However alibis seem to exclude the three friends: Giles that he had an appointment with the lawyer has seen at 14.30, arriving at the house where he is living together with Rupert, he had watched his friend who was going away in advance (having him the appointment at 16 with Gemminy) his great-coat to the arm: in those moments the reconstruction of the police showed that the lawyer was dying, then the two young people are protected by alibi of being away from the scene of the murder; Helen would remain, but Giles says that there was a verbal misunderstanding with her, not having gone she to a place called Bell but Dell. Basically would be to examine the position of policeman.
But then the old man retraces his steps, taking into consideration Rupert with another hypothesis, and here the story ends. Indeed it would end, if it were not the real end, with two twists ending, one more overwhelming than the other, that indicates the true murderer and the identity of the old “detective”.

The quality of the plot is very high. The voltage and intelligence in creating the situations is miraculous. By creating the plot, Christianna Brand elaborates the ideas of other writers to her earlier: thus, in essence, she is a mannerist, but a very high quality mannerist and very smart, since when she uses her ideas, creates completely new situations, which in some way to make them the new model to be imitated: I mean the reason why the policeman is killed. When I read the story years ago, venturing in solving the riddle (because essentially there is also this in this novel, a sort of challenge relates to Ellery Queen: the race that pits the reader to the writer to explain the performance of facts), I realized several things which were then covered later. And one of the solutions that I wanted to give, in part, coincided with the final solution by Brand: I realized I had figured out the trick. But if you see well, even the “great find” by Christianna Brand, despite being “original”, is at the same time a variation of a “great revolutionary idea for the era in which it was conceived” by another author, French, of which I will not name, then widely exploited: who guesses the name of this great French author? The idea of ​​Brand and the idea of ​​this great author are essentially two sides of the same coin: the original author was based on the use of a distorted identity, Brand using the same procedure uses an object, which in a sense is its symbol. Found a really brilliant idea!
“Detective” lent to the story, the old man whom Giles goes to see , in what I call “a challenge with the reader”, discards the various solutions one at a time, and in that Brand has historical references: The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Berkeley, where each of the participants in the meeting elaborates his own theory into something different from the previous ones, and The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen, in which there aren’t several explanations associated with different subjects, but only one, Ellery, which processes 4 different solutions, and discarding three arrives at the final one: a little ‘what happens here.

The story is called “warm white mist” in Italian, referring to mental confusion of the murderer: when will escape the hot white fog that invades his mind, he will able to remember how the facts are. This “warm white mist” reminded me “Red Mist” by Paul Halter who has close ties with our title: the murderer is insane, the beginning of the end finds its explanation in ours in the end, almost in the end in that by Halter, and Red Mist dims the mind of Jack The Ripper when he is taken from the murder rampage. In this case, of course, Halter could have taken something from the story of the Brand!

I would add that the story of Christianna Brand is linked to The Finishing Stroke by Queen. The writer, in a sense, the reference ranges, clobbing it. Who read the novel ’58 by Ellery Queen understood me (but of course after reading this story), who is not,obtains thebook andread it.

One last observation seems relevant: the modus operandi of the murderer seems to me akin to that of the murderer in Death From a Top Hat by Clayton Rawson. In fact, in both works, the succession of events, the two murders, is not that effective, what appears at first sight. 

In addition, the Locked Room proposed by Christianna Brand seems to have been designed after reading the crucial addition by ClaytonRawson, in the LockedRoom Lecture of his main character “The  Great Merlini”  turn in Death from aTop Hat.

 Merlini said that Fell at The Hollow Man mentions basically two classes of Locked Rooms:
 “.. He mentions two major classes: (A) The crime committed in a hermetically sealed room Which really is hermetically sealed,and no murderer has escaped from WhichBecause no murderer was actually in the room, and (B) the crime committed Which in a room only Appears to be hermetically sealed,and from Which there is some more or less subtle means of escape
And then unexpectedly he adds  there is also a third not covered by Fell:
 “…There is, “he unexpectedly announced basis,” one more class of locked-room  flimflam.  Class C.
What is Class C?”
“It’s something Dr.Fell did not mention, as I remember. Superintendent Hadley was always interrupting him in the most interesting places.
“If this person Fell always had to work up a lather of suspense On His listeners before he flesh out with itI do not blame the SuperintendentGet on with it!
Class C includes Which Those murders are committed in a hermetically sealed room Which really is hermetically sealed and no murderer escapes from Which, not Because He was not there, but Because He stays there, hidden-
But-Gavigan and  I both started to protest.
Stays there hidden until after the room Has Been broken into, and leaves before it is searched.”
In essence, the Locked Room used by Christianna Brand.

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