Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Horror At Staveley Grange - Sapper

Story: The Horror At Staveley Grange

Author: Sapper (Herman Cyril McNeile)
Book: My Best Detective Stories, The Saving Clause (Available on Project Gutenberg Australia)
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Sapper, the creator of the famous Bull-Dog Drummond, probably created his other series character Robert Standish to tackle the more intellectual puzzles which the former would have felt so pretty unconformable to deal with.
Mrs. Bretherton wakes up one night babbling about a shining hand that had touched her but when her husband and the servants rush to her room, they don’t find anyone. She is so afraid of this incident that she leaves the house next morning refusing to stay in that house anymore which ultimately forces her husband to sell off the house.
Robert Mansford with his two sons has moves in to Staveley Grange and he occupies the same room which Mrs. Bretherton had used. Shortly, he meets an untimely end in the same bedroom – he is found dead sitting up in bed as though trying to reach for the speaking tube, speaking through which would have fetched his butler. Cause of Death: Heart Attack instigated due to fear.
Next to use the room is the elder son Tom. He is also found dead a few days later with his body lying over the rail at the foot of the bed with a pistol still clutched in one hand. Cause of Death: Heart Attack. Tongues start wagging and the general public is of the view that the second son William was responsible for the death of both men. That’s when Ronald Standish is called in to look into the matters and find the murder method as both men were reasonably healthy and there was no reason for them to have met such a premature death.
Robert Standish is known for noticing small things and his first observation of the room reveals several things – the major clue being that the wire holding the headboard is slightly different from the wire holding the footboard. That night a trap is set to catch the murderer with the three men watching the windows (door being locked); the only outcome of this revealing a second clue in terms of the small desk fan which was previously off, is found running without anyone having entered through the door or the window. William who continues to spend the night in that room has a red swollen jaw the next day, which William claims to feel as though he had been bit by a family of hornets. This serves as the third and final clue for Standish to arrive at the solution of this neatly conceived locked room or impossible crime story.
A very interesting story which piques my interest to have a shot at the collection ‘Robert Standish’ aka ‘Ask Robert Standish’ which features 11 more of his adventures.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Swing High - Jack Ritchie

Story: Swing High

Author: Jack Ritchie
Book: Little Boxes of Bewilderment
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Jack Ritchie comes up with a different kind of an impossible crime here: a man is heard hitting the ground hard by several witnesses though nobody saw his plunge; there is only one building from where he could have been thrown out (or he himself jumped) but they just can’t identify a suitable location from that building where he could have been expelled from!
There are 5 floors in this building, the roof is blocked with a locked door and there’s no other means to reach the roof. The first two floors can be ignored as he wouldn’t have met such a violent death at such heights. The 3rd floor window room belongs to a dentist – the doctor never left his duty room, the nurses & the patients in the waiting room can vouch for the fact that there was no one who didn’t come out after keeping the appointment with the doctor. The fourth floor window couldn’t have been used as the doctor has been away on vacation, the doors are locked and there is enough untouched dust in the room to show that no one has used the room in days. The fifth floor window room belongs to the ENT specialist – the room with the concerned window was locked with both the nurse and a patient waiting outside the room for the doctor to turn up and the doctor does turn up after the man met his death and both the doctor and the patient enter the room together!
So the impossible scenario which is hampering the further progress of the police investigation: from where did the man exit the building? The chief investigator does figure out how this clever murder was carried out but he doesn’t bring the culprit to justice. Why? Because he has his own secret agenda, to satisfy his own roguish motive - that is to use this same method of murder on his wife’s lover!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Case of The Ivory Statue - Sax Rohmer

Story: Case of The Ivory Statue

Author: Sax Rohmer
Book: The Dream Detective (Queen’s Quorum Title)
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Paxton has been asked by a rich man to create a very fine duplicate of a rare statue of Nicris. To make the statue look even more resplendent, it is adorned with some of the most rare and antiquarian ornaments.
Paxton is carving the sculpture based on a beautiful model and the inkling of impending problems start when the model complains that the statue moved on its own and uttered ‘Nicris’ when she was alone (only once) with the statue. The statue is being given the final touches in preparation to be displayed at an exhibition before it is whisked away from the public eye to the hidden chambers of the rich man. Paxton invites three of his friends to dinner (which includes the narrator Mr. Searles) to display the almost completed statue which is intricately connected to the throne on which it is sitting. When asked as to what security arrangements have been made, Paxton confesses that there is no need for security as he is always present in the same room along with the statue.
Later that night, Paxton hears a voice outside the house chanting the lone word ‘Nicris’. He takes his gun outside, finds no one, the policeman who is keeping guard at the end of the road is still at his post who confirms that nobody entered the house nor left it and when Paxton returns back to his house, the throne is empty and the Ivory Statue has disappeared! He has spent only 30 seconds outside the house; he should’ve surely seen a person coming out if that person entered the house and surely such a big statue couldn’t have disappeared into thin air – dismantling it from its throne alone would have taken half an hour for the most skilled worker!
Moris Klaw, who is called in by Mr. Searles decides to spend the night on his customary vigil in that room to get the psychic photograph. Klaw reveals the next morning that his psychic photograph shows the Statue to have walked out on its own! Based on this knowledge, Klaw pursues his investigation - he uses his knowledge of the history of the antiques involved to good effect to add to his wonderful deductive capabilities to bring the culprits to justice.
The trick of the impossible disappearance is quite neatly done though the mechanics involved to pull it off seems a bit stretched – but who cares as long as the author can put forth an ingenious puzzle and back it up with an equally ingenious solution, one can only sit back and savor the delight of another grandest game unfurling before you!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Case of The Greek Room - Sax Rohmer

Story: Case of The Greek Room

Author: Sax Rohmer
Book: The Dream Detective (Queen’s Quorum Title)
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Sax Rohmer is most famous for the creation of Dr. Fu Manchu and has a number of other creations to his name - Paul Harley, Gaston Max, Red Kerry, Morris Klaw and The Crime Magnet.
The first story in this collection introduces us to the Occult detective Moris Klaw, an old antique dealer who has been fancying his chances as an amateur investigator by hanging about the Criminal Court. He has the eccentric habit of applying a scented spray (verbena) upon his bald brows from a cylindrical container hidden in the lining of his flat-topped hat.
The night attendant of the Menzies Museum is found dead in strange circumstances in the Greek Room: there are only two entrances to the Greek Room – one leads to the private quarters of the curator and is kept locked at all instances and the other through which the general public use to enter the Greek room and this has been locked by the guard with the key on him and all the doors of the museum are bolted from inside which would make it impossible for anyone to even enter the Museum even if he had a duplicate key. Cause of death is determined to be due to broken neck, after being in the last stages of exhaustion - as though there was a great fight and he was hurled upon by an opponent possessing more than ordinary strength. Further investigation of the premises brings to light the unlocked state of the glass display containing the Athenean Harp.
Enter Moris Klaw – he requests the curator to allow him to spend a night alone in the Greek room – upon the very spot of floor where the poor attendant fell – so that he could from the surrounding atmosphere recover a picture of the thing that the dead man had at the last! He says the Odic Force, the ether carries the wireless message – it’s a huge, sensitive plate – where the supreme thought preceding death is imprinted on the surrounding atmosphere like a photograph and he has trained himself to reproduce those photographs! And he has his beautiful daughter Isis to assist him in developing the negatives for these photographs. The next day Klaw declares that his psychic photograph is that of a woman dressed all in white; the attendant died with this picture in his mind and great fear of the Athenean Harp which she was playing! He makes his departure as quickly as his untimely entrance to carry out more research.
A few days later, the replacement attendant meets the same fate in the Greek room, the only difference being the presence of the Harp on the floor right next to the fallen man. A few other peculiar features come to light but none that can help them solve the problem – until Moris Klaw comes back on one fine day (after completing his research abroad) and elucidates the secrets of the Greek Room. An impressive debut for Moris Klaw!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Calico Dog - Mignon Eberhart

Story: The Calico Dog
Author: Mignon Eberhart
Book: The Cases Of Susan Dare
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Idabelle Lasher has inherited millions of dollars from her husband which she needs to pass along to her long lost son who disappeared along with his nurse some 20 years back. First to turn up is Dixon with a very convincing story about how he remembers playing with the house pet - the Calico dog – a fact which no one else other than the Mother knows. Next to turn up is Duane – with exactly the same story about the Calico dog and an additional story about a rare family heirloom to prove that he is her son. The widow has her friend Major Briggs to seek advice from but his choice of Duane as the legitimate heir doesn’t convince her. She has no other choice but to call in Susan Dare to help her identify her real son.
Both the gentlemen have been thoroughly investigated and no evidence exists to suspect foul play. With nothing much to go on, Susan Dare requests her host to declare one of them as the legal heir and that she would transfer the title with immediate effect. This announcement, she expects, would bring out some disturbance in one or both men and would help in revealing the true identity of the heir. The party on the next day would turn out to be the climax to this drama. Susan & Mrs. Lasher part the company of the three gentlemen near the soothsayer’s door and but they quickly return back to the room where they parted when they hear a shot being fired. Major Briggs is found shot to death with no weapon nearby and no sign of the two gentlemen. The young men left the room at the same time, none was seen entering the room and none was seen leaving the room after the shot was fired. Susan Dare has to do some quick thinking to stop further catastrophe, the impossible trick as to how the major was killed is explained by the murderer himself but it is the lady detective who reveals the true heir.
Identifying the real heir forms the major plot element for most part of the story and is fairly and most skillfully clued. The impossible crime scenario comes in as a bonus towards the fag end of the story and is very quickly explained away – neither too complicated nor extraordinary in its conception.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Scapegoat - Christianna Brand

Story: The Scapegoat
Author: Christianna Brand
Source: Brand X, The Mammoth Book Of Great Detective Stories, Buffet For Unwelcome Guests.
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Christianna Brand, who has been compared to John Dickson Carr for plotting and fair play clueing in her novels, was also very deft with the short story form. This story is a wonderful example for that!
The story begins with 8 people enacting a courtroom drama where two people are being tried for an unsolved murder committed fifteen years ago. The reason: the son of the policeman who was suspected of murdering Tom believes that his Father was innocent and he wants to identify the real culprit. The men being tried: The young man in place of his Father (the policeman) and the Photographer Mr. Photoze.
The Crime: Mr. Mysterioso, a great magician and a cripple, has been invited to lay a cornerstone for a new hospital. He cannot do without his manservant Tom, on whose strong arms he balances himself while walking and standing. And the magician has been receiving threatening letters. There has been a policeman placed on the first floor (the hospital is still under construction and the top floor rooms doesn’t have doors or any other furniture in them) to keep an eye. A photographer has been allowed to take pictures from the roof of the building opposite the stage. During the function, a shot is heard; Tom goes down uttering that he is glad that they killed the wrong man, the photographer has captured everything – Tom going down & Mysterioso looking up towards from where the shot must have been fired, the policeman runs towards the first floor room where the shot was heard only to find a rifle neatly arranged overlooking the cornerstone and no sign of the murderer!
The Witnesses: 3 patients who were in the balcony and would have seen anybody escaping down the stairs (nobody did), Photoze who has been on the roof - exactly above the room where the rifle is found with the door to the roof being locked with a deadbolt and the policeman who was on the site from where the shot originated in such a short time that no one could have escaped from the room.
The Evidence: A small hole in the door between the roof and the room, a string tied to the rifle which could be hinged on a nail on the opposite wall (but wasn’t) and the charming clue in terms of a bag overfilled with apples placed right next to the rifle!
The Possibilities: A lot of theories are propounded as to how the gun could have been fired but each is disproved by the current chief inspector (who was a constable at that time and who came on the scene on the heels of his superior, the policeman on duty)
The Case: Unsolved – Photographer has a solid alibi, the policeman was seen outside the room when Tom was shot – so he couldn’t have been in the room and there was nobody else!
Repercussions: The Photographer becomes famous. The Policeman is discharged from duty and he dies a slow brooding death.
The Verdict in the fictional courtroom: Not guilty for both men.
Conclusion: Well, the young man has his own theory which he tries out with the great Magician after the case has been dismissed and the court emptied of its occupiers. The coup de grace comes from the chief inspector when he reveals to one of the witnesses the actual solution. A scintillating performance!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mr. Bovey’s Unexpected Will - L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace

Story: Mr. Bovey’s Unexpected Will
Authors: L. T. Meade & Robert Eustace
Source: The Mammoth Book of Great Detective Stories
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
This story has two interesting strands – the very peculiar terms of Mr. Bovey’s will and the strange disappearance of the gold sovereigns from a guarded store.
Mr. Bovey, a miser, was in the habit of hoarding his wealth in his safe deposit box with gold sovereigns. A clause in the will states that there are three claimants to this property, and that the one whose net body weight is nearest to the weight of these sovereigns is to become the legatee. The safe containing the property is not to be opened till the three claimants are present; the competition is to take place, and the winner is at once to remove his fortune.
To witness this competition along with the three claimants are Miss Florence Cusack, her Doctor and her Sister who is the fiancé of one of the claimants. Cusack suspects that if her sister’s fiancé wins the competition, his cousin Graham might do something evil.  The winner and the servant (who is also one of the claimants who ends up on the losing side) drive away with the gold to deposit them in a bank and on the way, they are intercepted by thugs. The truck is later intercepted at the famous Higgin’s shop due to the deductive skills of Miss Cusack. The police know that the gold was taken into the shop and since then the shop has been under constant observation from all sides. Yet when the police raid the shop, they fail to find the big bulk of gold (weighting 180 pounds). The gold seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth and again the clever lady sheds light on how the gold could have been whisked away right under their noses without them getting any inclination of it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bird in the Hand - Erle Stanley Gardner

Story: Bird in the Hand
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner
Source: The Adventures of Lester Leith
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Erle Stanley Gardner is not a name that we normally associate with locked room mysteries but he has four such stories to his credit as per Robert Adey’s Locked room bibliography. 2 out those 4 feature Lester Leith, the Robin Hood of detectives who solved baffling mysteries in order to crack down on cracksmen. Instead of robbing the rich to help the poor, Lester robbed the crooks “of their ill-gotten spoils” and gave the proceeds to deserving charities – less “20 percent for costs of collection.” Gardner wrote around 75 stories featuring Lester Leith and 5 of these novelettes are collected in this volume including the 2 locked-room or impossible crime stories. The locked room puzzle of “The Exact Opposite” was featured in the locked room anthology ‘Tantalizing Locked Room Mysteries’ and here is the second one.
An international gem thief has smuggled in a rich booty inside a big trunk with a secret compartment. He clears the customs and enters a very reputed hotel where each guest’s luggage is given a tag and is verified while it’s checked out. One without a tag can’t go out the hotel and the one with the tag has to verified and cleared before checkout. The gem thief is followed in by the police a few minutes later to arrest him but he is found dead inside a locked room (quickly explained - the murderer got in through the fire escape) with his big trunk missing! The trunk is so big that it couldn’t have been taken out of the window, it’s not inside the room and it’s not found in any of the rooms or for that matter in any part of the hotel. And it’s not of the type which could be dismantled and taken away.
The police spy who is undercover (to catch Lester red handed) as a valet to Lester Leith requests him to apply his mind and provide an ‘academic’ solution as he has done before on numerous occasions. Lester’s mode of operation generally is to device a con job in such a way that it provides both a solution to the case and pulls a fast on the police in helping himself to a part of the booty! The scam in this case is not only extremely elaborate but it is diabolic and wickedly funny. He goes in for the combination of a kleptomaniac & bloodhound-canary. What in heaven’s name is a bloodhound-canary (BC) one might ask. Here is what Lester gives as an answer: “The chief trait of BC is that it can trail things through the air – other birds, or airplanes, or falling bodies – anything that goes through the air. That’s due to its wonderful ability to recognize scents. We have canine bloodhounds that trail things across the ground. The rare BC does the same thing in the air a bloodhound does on the ground.”
With these two elements to work as his gargantuan con, he traps the murderer and identifies the invisible location of the trunk. It doesn’t end there – there is another impossible disappearance to contend for - just before the police is about to apprehend both the criminal and the booty, Lester has the chance to pilfer some of the best gems and it disappears as smoothly as the trunk had in the previous instance. Though the police know very well that some of the gems have been robbed right under their noses, no amount of search (including x-raying the canary!) yields them the goods and they have to let him go! The reader is in for a tremendous joy ride in this wonderfully constructed story.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Sealed Room - Vincent Starrett

Story: The Sealed Room
Author: Vincent Starrett
Book: The Casebook of Jimmy Lavender
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Vincent Starrett has written 6 detective novels and around 500 detective stories for the ‘pulps’, out of which around 50 of them feature Jimmy Lavender and his assistant Charles Gilruth. 12 of these cases were collected in 1944 in ‘The Casebook of Jimmy Lavender’. Recently, The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box has published 3 more volumes in addition to the original: The New Adventures, The Memoirs & The Return of Jimmy Lavender (which features 13 novelettes) and republished Casebook with 3 extra early stories.
The story Sealed Room opens with the door to a locked room being broken in by the patrolman. He is carrying out this task based on Miss Jane Howard’s request who suspects that there is something wrong with her rich politician employer Harper Wolgate when she comes in at 8.30 in the morning.  Sure enough, when the library door is broken down, Wolgate is found dead due to a bullet hole in his chest with no sign of the murder weapon. He is wearing his overcoat though it’s extremely warm inside the room and his silky hat is still perched on his sunken face. The two windows are securely fastened from the inside and there is no other possible entry into this room which is on the 8th floor of the building. Fearing that she is the one who is gone be suspected, Jane calls her fiancé who in turn calls in Jimmy Lavender. A cursory glance at the library is all that is needed for the detective to remark that he knows the solution to the locked room conundrum (so did I and so will the reader familiar with the genre) – he says he knew the solution some twenty years back and he was just waiting for a case to present itself! Thus ends the first of the five chapters.
Rest of the story is devoted to finding the motive behind the murder (by the police) and to confirm the locked room solution that Lavender has in his mind. The motive becomes clear when it comes to light that the mysterious red diary is missing from the library safe. The other clue turns out to be a bloodied handkerchief (found in the overcoat) with initials ‘J.H’ which looks too big to belong to a woman. The scene shifts to a gambling den during the second half of the story and after two more deaths Lavender proposes his solution to the district attorney and the police investigator. Not a superlative locked room problem by any means but a worthy addition to the genre nonetheless.

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.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Tea Leaf - Edgar Jepson and Robert Eustace

Story: The Tea Leaf
Author: Edgar Jepson & Robert Eustace
Source: Tales of Detection edited by Dorothy L. Sayers. The story is available online here.

Theme for the Month: Locked Room & Impossible Crime Stories

The two friends Arthur Kelstern & Hugh Willoughton are known for their bad temper. Hugh gets engaged to Arthur’s daughter only to cancel it a year later. And from then on it’s a downhill ride for their friendship with especially Arthur tormenting Hugh at every opportunity that he gets. They are such bitter enemies now that everyone thinks that it’s only a matter of time before one would meet an untimely end. And that end comes in peculiar circumstances in the same Turkish bath where they had met for the first time.
In spite of throwing daggers at each other at every instance they meet, they still maintain their routine of visiting the Turkish bath on a bi-weekly basis – on the same day at the same time. On this last occasion, both are seen entering the hottest room, they are heard quarreling within two minutes, Hugh comes outs of the hottest room in a foul mood and enters the Shampoo room, a few minutes later when another patron enters the hottest room Arthur is found stabbed to death.  Hugh is kept under constant observation till the police arrive and arrest him. Nobody has entered the hottest room or the shampoo room and nobody has left the bath. Seems like an open & shut case against Willoughton but the police have just one problem: there is no sign of the murder weapon! They carry out the most rigorous search; it’s not on any person, it’s not in any of the baths (even when the water is completely drained out), it’s not hidden among the clothes and it’s not found anywhere outside the bath. The autopsy shows that the fatal wound was caused by a long circular weapon (like a pencil) which would need at least a 4 inch handle to inflict such a deep and ghastly wound. The only other anomaly being the tea leaf found deep inside the wound, split exactly in half by the tip of the weapon! Arthur was known to have been in the habit of having tea after his bath without fail and the same bottle is found in front of the body with spilt tea and tea leaves jutting out from the bottle.
They decide to try Hugh in court anyway requesting the jury to discard the fact that the murder weapon wasn’t found. On the witness stand, Arthur’s daughter provides the explanation for the missing weapon and how her Father must have met his death. Though the reader might have seen the same trick being used multiple times before, it still might come as a surprise and it makes for a fascinating reading nevertheless - with a detailed scientific explanation provided for the means and principles of the murder weapon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Persons or Things Unknown - John Dickson Carr

Story: Persons or Things Unknown
Author: John Dickson Carr
Book: The Department of Queer Complaints, Fell and Foul Play.
Theme For The Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
It has been a habit with me for quite some time to always begin the New Year by reading a novel written by my favorite author John Dickson Carr. This year, I decided to go with a short story collection which is like shooting three birds with one stone: I’m still beginning the New Year with Carr, I’m covering a Queen’s Quorum title and I get to read a few high quality locked room/impossible crime stories.
The original edition of ‘The Department OF Queer Complaints’ is supposed to have consisted of 11 stories; my 1940 paperback edition has 10 stories – 7 featuring Colonel March and 3 standalones. The Colonel March stories have already been reviewed by my fellow blogger Tomcat here  and hence I decided to pick one of the non-series stories.
This is a historical mystery in which an unnamed host, who is hosting a few families for Christmas in his newly acquired house recounts this chilly tale of impossible crime which took place in that house centuries ago. The story is recounted from the diary of a Squire who was a witness to the actual murder and corroborated by a few facts catalogued from the inquest held at that time.
Oakley & Mary are engaged and are to be married shortly but Gerard wants to marry Mary and the first step towards it has to be the murder of Oakley. One fine night, Gerard enters the house when the couple are sure to be found in the ‘little’ room, the servants know for sure that Gerard was without his sword on this occasion, Gerard requests a few servants to join him and keep vigil outside the door with plenty of candles lit when he goes inside the room to converse with the couple. After a few minutes, the candle lights are extinguished inside the room and the servants posted outside hear some strange cries which finally end with a big thud as though someone has fallen on the ground. When the servants barge in, they find that Mary has fainted and Oakley is dead with deep and multiple stabbings but there is no sign of a murder weapon in the vicinity. The door was locked from the inside, the room doesn’t have any windows through which the weapon could’ve been discarded and every nook and cranny in that room is searched but the police fail to find any sign of the knife that must caused the deep and brutal wounds. A man hacked to death, with thirteen stab-wounds in his body, from a hand that wasn’t there and a weapon that didn’t exist! The verdict at the inquest: “Death due to Persons or Things Unknown.”
The solution is pretty simple and pretty clever - the host provides the secret of the ‘invisible knife’ as he calls it – probably the atmosphere and the historical setting aid in the non discovery of the weapon which probably wouldn’t have been possible in the modern settings but that doesn’t take away anything from the puzzle plot aspect – the reader has all the clues fairly laid out in front of him to figure out the solution.
Last week, I went through Robert Adey’s bibliography of locked room mysteries and shortlisted all the stories that I could lay my hands on from the collections that I’ve. Hopefully, I should have enough stories to last for the complete month!