Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Unlocked Room - John F. Suter

Name of the story: The Unlocked Room

Author: John F. Suter
Source:  Crimes Across the Seas – 19th MWA anthology edited by John Creasey
Story Number: 31
This story has two interesting features – it is a parody of Henry Merrivale and has a neat little impossible crime as its puzzle plot. Jon Dickens Carbon is a famous detective-story writer who specializes in writing locked-room stories. He is found strangled at one corner of the room, a corner completely surrounded by still-wet varnish on the floor unmarred by a single footprint. Patrolman Witmer who was on an errand to deliver a ticket to the Policeman’s Ball is on the scene of the crime within a few minutes of the tragedy. He has three suspects to deal with – Jon’s brother & niece (the 2 who would inherit the fortune equally) and the Old Man – Colonel Goliath Perrivale (his motive being that the author outright used his ides without paying him a cent) who helps the police occasionally to solve locked-room murders!
The brush used to paint the varnish is still wet in the hands of the victim, the dead man was spoken to by 2 of the witnesses just five minutes before his death, the experiment to show that the murderer could’ve painted the floor after the murder turns out to be a dead end as it takes Witmer a complete 8 minutes to achieve the task. Perrivale says that the case could be solved between Witmer and himself and he propounds a few theories to explain the impossible murder in a fashion and tone very similar to that of Merrivale. Witmer, not fooled by any of those theories, calls on his experience as an odd-jobs painter in his free time to provide the actual solution which trumps all those provided by Perrivale!

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