Here is a book with one of the most compelling, atmospheric, and yet ultimately fair "impossible crime" situations I've ever encountered. It's by an author who only wrote two novels in his career - Hake Talbot. But "Rim of the Pit," first published in 1944, is one of the best impossible crime stories I've read. It's the subject of this week's Classic Mysteries podcast review, and you can listen to it here.
This book grabs you right from the first line: "I came up here to make a dead man change his mind." The speaker, a logging company owner named Luke Latham, means it literally. He has come to a remote lodge in northern New England, quite near the Canadian border, to try to call back the spirit of his former business partner through a séance.
What appears to happen at that séance, however, is that the spirit of that partner returns - and reveals itself as an utterly malevolent, evil spirit. We then get apparent cases of possession, impossible escapes from locked rooms, trails of footprints that start and end in the midst of fields of unmarked snow, a horrifying flying monster called a wendigo - and a couple of very bloody murders.
Note, however, that I said "what appears to happen." This is no "paranormal" mystery or ghost story. It is, rather, a brilliantly told, carefully plotted classic mystery, with more than a few seemingly impossible twists and turns. The new edition published by Ramble House even includes a back-cover map showing the scene of the crime, the location of the impossible footprints, etc. Amazing. I would have to rank it alongside the very best of John Dickson Carr's mysteries. Hake Talbot's "Rim of the Pit" shouldn't be missed by anyone who enjoys locked room mysteries.
This book is another entry in the Vintage Mysteries Reading Challenge at the My Reader's Block book blog.