What could possibly be better, for an enthusiast of locked room/impossible crime mysteries, than a really ingenious, well-plotted story about something that couldn't possibly have happened - but did?
The answer: four such stories, by four masters of impossible-crime fiction, collected into a single volume called "Locked Room Puzzles," edited by Martin Greenberg and Bill Pronzini. It's a collection of four novellas - longer than the average short story, but a lot shorter than a full-length novel. It's the subject of this week's review on our Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review here.
The authors of the four novellas have earned reputations as first-rate plotters and story-tellers, and it's worth noting that they play fair. The leadoff story is from John Dickson Carr. In "The Third Bullet" he gives us the problem of a man who is shot to death inside a locked and sealed room. The only other man in the room is found by police while he is actually holding a just-fired gun. But it is not the murder weapon. And that's only the first impossibility...
Next, Bill Pronzini contributes a story about his "nameless detective" character. No murder in this one - just the problem of how somebody can be stealing books out of a locked room without setting off any alarms.
Then, there's a novella from Clayton Rawson, whose character, "The Great Merlini," is a professional magician. Here, he's confronted with a murder inside a locked room - not only locked, but sealed on the inside by strips of tape. How did the killer get in or out?
The final story comes from Edward D. Hoch, an acknowledged master of the mystery short story form. The story is complex but includes the problem of an empty room which is sealed and locked - but where, the next day, a drugged woman is found inside. She could not have been there when the room was sealed - so what happened?
Four impossibilities. Four delightful novellas. Four authors you should know. If you enjoy this kind of mystery, you'll love these stories.