Granted that old Hezekiah Morse was unlucky enough to be a murder victim. But one might argue that his granddaughter Sylvia found herself in an equally unlucky position, given that the police were convinced she must have murdered him. After all, the only way into the room where he was stabbed was through the door from her room - where she was sitting alone, summoning the courage to go tell her grandfather that she was defying his wishes to marry someone of whom he didn't approve. And she was being cut out of his will - being left only a small, apparently worthless statuette of a purple parrot. So there you are - motive, means, opportunity - and a situation where apparently nobody else could have done it.
No, Sylvia's position was anything but ideal. And that's the situation we find in "The Purple Parrot," a 1937 "Golden Age" locked-room mystery by Clyde B. Clason, set in Chicago. It's the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
While the police believe that Sylvia committed the murder, it is worth pointing out that she had a fair number of defenders. Her husband-to-be, a lawyer (and our narrator), was also in the house at the time, and he insists that Sylvia could not have done it. Fortunately, he is supported in that belief by Professor Theocritus Lucius Westborough, an expert on Roman history - and a man with quite a track record as an amateur sleuth who has provided invaluable assistance in the past to Chicago police detective Johnny Mack. Westborough has a reputation for explaining impossible crimes. He also is intrigued by that strange statue of a purple parrot - which, by the way, seems to have disappeared. And it is only when he uncovers the secret of the bird - and a number of other seemingly incidental details concerning rare wines, malevolent gangsters and rare first editions - that the mystery will be explained.
Other American mystery writers - most notably John Dickson Carr - were more famous for their locked room mysteries, but Clyde B. Clason really deserves a wider readership. He wrote ten mysteries between 1936 and 1941, most of them involving seemingly impossible crimes for Professor Westborough to solve. Those of his books which I have read don't have the kind of atmospherics, the touch of terror that Carr brought to his novels. But they were very good, enjoyable mysteries, with some ingenious solutions to the seemingly impossible problems. The Rue Morgue Press has republished "The Purple Parrot" and a few other Clason novels. If you like locked room puzzle mysteries, you really ought to make his acquaintance.