Friday, January 11, 2013

The Mystery of The Child’s Toy - Leslie Charteris

Story: The Mystery of The Child’s Toy
Author: Leslie Charteris
Source: The Saint Intervenes, The Mammoth Book of Great Detective Stories.
Theme For The Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
George Kestry, the Homicide Squad’s toughest case-breaker and Andy Herrick, the detective story writer are dining in one of the richest New York hotels. Their topic of discussion: how the police actually break the case by arresting someone and making him sweat the truth. The next topic of discussion happens to be about the strange behavior of the Wall Street brokers. And to drive home the point, Kestry points to Lewis Enstone, one of the richest men in New York enjoying his night with his two associate brokers Abe & Hammel. They notice the three men dispersing in a very jovial mood with Lewis looking especially animated. While Abe & Hammel leave the hotel, Enstone goes past the two dining men to his penthouse on the top floor of that hotel. A few minutes later, Lewis’s valet announces that his master has shot himself.
There is an empty paper bag (brought in by Abe & Hammel), there is a child’s toy on the desk and the gun is in Lewis’s hand with his thumb on the trigger with a bullet hole through his eye. There’s nobody in the house except Lewis, his secretary & his valet and the latter two were together when they heard the shot and they both entered the room simultaneously. So looks like a simple case of suicide and Kestry wants to wash his hands off the case as quickly as possible. But the writer detective thinks that it’s a very clever form of murder!
The secretary or the valet committing the murder: too easy for a good detective story. The business associates certainly had the motives but they were nowhere near the dead man. No mechanical devices inside the room, the gun was indeed close to the body when it was discharged. So Lewis must have shot himself? But then was it murder? Sure! The Child’s Toy provides all the clues required for Andy to solve this impossible crime.


  1. Did Leslie Charteris write other true detective stories? I'm completely ignorant here.

    1. This is only my second story by this author - the first one being the Saint’s “Paris Adventure” included in 101 years of Entertainment. That was his usual ‘Robin Hood’ adventure. In Adey’s locked room bibliography, he cites 3 other short stories from Charteris as locked room mysteries (one of them being just an incident in the story). I’ve come across a couple of his stories collected in various anthologies and Charteris has quite a few short story collections to his name (The Brighter Buccaneer being a Queen’s Quorum title) – so probably I would guess there could be a few more genuine detective stories like this one. I’ll be reading ‘The Saint at Large’ shortly - this is a collection of 14 short stories culled from three of his earlier collections & selected by the author himself as the best Saint stories, post which I’ll be in a better position to shed some more light on it.

  2. I have a Saint Magazine with one of Charteris' locked room stories -- "The Impossible Crime" which according to Adey also appears in Alias the Saint (1931). As Arun mentions above there are two other stories listed in Adey's book but only one, "The Arrow of God", is a detective story with a true locked room mystery. It appears in The Saint on the Spanish Main (1955) and an anthology Homicidal Acts (1971). There may be other short stories with non-impossible elements. I'm planning on reading several of my Charteris books this year. I've never read any of the novels.