Published by Penzler Publishers on July 19, 2022
Genres: Anthology, Vintage Mystery
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For devotees of the Golden Age mystery, the impossible crime story represents the period’s purest form: it presents the reader with a baffling scenario (a corpse discovered in a windowless room locked from the inside, perhaps), lays out a set of increasingly confounding clues, and swiftly delivers an ingenious and satisfying solution. During the years between the two world wars, the best writers in the genre strove to outdo one another with unfathomable crime scenes and brilliant explanations, and the puzzling and clever tales they produced in those brief decades remain unmatched to this day.
Among the Americans, some of these authors are still household names, inextricably linked to the locked room mysteries they devised: John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, Clayton Rawson, Stuart Palmer. Others, associated with different styles of crime fiction, also produced great works—authors including Fredric Brown, MacKinlay Kantor, Craig Rice, and Cornell Woolrich.
All of these and more can be found in Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries, selected by Edgar Award-winning mystery expert and anthologist Otto Penzler. Featuring a delightful mix of well-known writers and unjustly-forgotten masters, the fourteen tales included herein highlight the best of the American impossible crime story, promising hours of entertainment for armchair sleuths young and old.
I love collections like this. These stories are all “locked room” mysteries, where a murder is committed in circumstances under which it was seemingly impossible either for someone to commit the crime or to evade detection. The list is a who’s who of Amerian mystery authors from the era.
Anthony Boucher — Elsewhere
Frederic Brown — Whistler’s Murder
John Dickson Carr — The Third Bullet
Joseph Cummings — Fingerprint Ghost
Mignon G. Eberhart — The Calico Dog
Erle Stanley Gardner — The Exact Opposite
MacKinlay Kantor — The Light at Three O’Clock
C. Daly King — The Episode of the Nail and the Requiem
Stuart Palmer — The Riddle of the Yellow Canary
Ellery Queen — The House of Haunts
Clayton Rawson — From Another World
Craig Rice — His Heart Could Break
Manly Wade Wellman — Murder Among Magicians
Cornell Woolrich — Murder at the Automat
Some I enjoyed more than others. Surprisingly, Carr’s The Third Bullet was my least favorite – too long, and rather boring compared to the others. My favorites might have been the ones involving magicians, something about the mix of magic and murder.
Overall, the stories are clever and satisfying.