So you like puzzles with impossible crimes? Consider this situation:
A man named Patrick Latimer - whose wife is said to be a psychic medium - decides he will confront a malevolent ghost apparently haunting the house where he lives. So he has himself sealed into the haunted room - the only door sealed with wax, which has been stamped with the image of a rare coin, chosen from several hundred different coins just moments before its use, and never out of the possession of a trusted witness.
When the room is opened, though, with that wax seal still intact, Patrick Latimer has disappeared. Instead, an unknown man is found dead - stabbed in the back inside that locked and sealed room.
My kind of mystery, to be sure - and not a "Golden Age" mystery, but a relatively new one (1985), the first book of a French author who is still turning out first-rate "impossible crime" stories today. It is "The Fourth Door," by Paul Halter, and it is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to my full review by clicking here.
Paul Halter is a living rebuke to those of us who read John Dickson Carr and other classic mystery writers and sigh, "They don't write them like that any more." That's not true. Paul Halter is doing very nicely with his new locked room novels. A few of them, in first-rate translations by John Pugmire, are available now, either as "regular" books or as an e-book available for the Amazon Kindle.
"The Fourth Door" has other puzzles besides that main one about the murder in the sealed room. There is a second murder - committed in a house surrounded by freshly-fallen snow, meaning no murderer could have escaped - and yet the victim is alone in the house. There are all kinds of eerie trappings; for example, that medium I mentioned earlier manages to read a message that has been sealed inside a closely-watched envelope. There are seances which may or may not be real. There is an apparent case of "bilocation" - the same individual being seen at precisely the same time in two, widely-separated, locations. And there is a heavy atmosphere of evil and madness - the sort of atmosphere that John Dickson Carr was particularly adept at producing. Halter plays fairly with the reader, too, providing clues which will challenge the reader to find and use them. Carr would most certainly have approved.
Halter is a devotee of Carr, and the book contains some nice homages to him - including a key character who says he is a mystery writer named "John Carter." I came to Halter through mystery-loving friends, who recommended him quite highly. They are right. If you want to read an author who can make the old form of the impossible puzzle mystery appear fresh and new, you will certainly enjoy Paul Halter's "The Fourth Door."