When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Not content with our original challenge, I have decided to take on another (much smaller) one for myself. This one only consists of 10 books, all of them locked-room mystery stories. This is the list published on the Guardian website and complied by Adrian McKinty.
I am a big fan of detective fiction and have already read big favourites such as Murder on the Orient Express and The Murders in the Rue Morgue, a tale recognised by many as the first detective story, which features C. Auguste Dupin - a character who later became the model for Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. While this list includes writers already known to me, it also has lesser-known authors and some which have been on my reading radar for some time.
The ten is as follows:
10. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The only one on the list I have read and one which also features on our 100 novels everyone should read. Incidentally, this is not my favourite Collins novel, but I have forgotten a large part of the solution, so it definitely warrants a re-read by me.
9. The Case of the Constant Suicides by John Dickson Carr
Carr is a very prolific writer in the detective genre, so I have a feeling that if I love his work, it will be another writer I can gorge myself on and then feel devastated when I finish the books. And then re-read them.
8. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
It is inevitable I would have reached this book, as I consider myself a Christie-ite (if that’s not a term, I am willing to claim this moment as the coining and attempt to make it popular) but inclusion in this challenge just bumped it up my reading list by quite a large margin.
7. Suddenly At His Residence by Christianna Brand
I had never heard of this writer before this list and now feeling rather idiotic, as she has 31 titles to her name – most of them crime fiction, but some for children. Perhaps I’ll enjoy her work as much as Christie’s?
6. The Big Bow Mystery by Israel Zangwill
The one-sentence summary of this on the Guardian’s list makes it sound great: “Mrs Drabdump’s lodger is discovered with his throat cut, no trace of a murder weapon and no way a murderer could have got in or out.” And ‘Drabdump’ – what a fantastic name!
5. The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux
Apparently this tale comes with floor plans and maps which demonstrate how someone couldn’t have entered or escaped the room of the title. Tactics like this really appeal to me, as the reader becomes less of a bystander and more of a detective, guaranteeing I will feel even more idiotic for missing the clues for the solution.
4. The King Is Dead by Ellery Queen
Another writer previously un-read by me. This plot features two brothers, one who swears to kill the other, the intended victim in a sealed room, an empty gun in a separate room which matches the bullet, but never fired it. Confused? I suggest you read a fur-superior summary. Damn I’m excited about this one…
3. La Septieme hypothese by Paul Halter
Apparently ‘Although strongly influenced by Carr and Christie, [Halter's] style is his own and he can stand comparison with anyone for the originality of his plots and puzzles and his atmospheric writing‘. High praise indeed.
2. The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada
This one is set in Japan, making me all the more eager to read it, as all of my crime fiction reading so far has been western-based. All the clues for the solution are apparently set before the reader, in a story which spans four decades. I am already certain I’ll miss the important hints…
1. The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr
So we come to Carr again, this time with a tale of a murdered Professor in his study and people in the hall outside the room. At the moment this is sounding a lot like an episode of BBC detective drama Jonathan Creek, which I hoped did not borrow from this tale for inspiration or the ending has been ruined for me.
I am going to set limitations on the physical versions of these books:
- They must be paperback (in my mind crime fiction should be read in smaller, paperback versions)
- Ideally I will buy them second-hand (again when I picture a crime novel, I see a pre-loved edition)
- A Penguin edition (as in the picture in this post) would be the ideal one, but I do not know which publishers have the rights to each of these authors.