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Old 12-04-2002, 06:06 PM
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Good *modern* locked room/impossible crime novels?


I've always loved mysteries, more specifically the kind that actually make you exercise your brain a little, the whodunnit and such. My favorite is a good locked room/impossible crime tale. I, of course, love John Dickson Carr for this, but most of the authors who've tried this subgenre (such as Ellery Queen) are fairly old. This is, of course, because of the incredible difficulty of trying to come up with something cool that hasn't been used before. I mean, there are so many neat tricks that I've read that, of course, can never amaze me again once I've read it:

SPOILER:
Falling corpse of the victim used with string to bolt the door? Done. Locked cabin with a roof that's not attached to the frame, liftable with a jack? Done. Building a wall that wasn't there before to create a locked room? Done.


Of course, when done well, it's particularly satisfying. Hell, even TV and cartoons (Banacek and Clue Club, respectively) have tried their hands at revolving entire series around them, with varying success.

So, can anyone suggest works in the last twenty or thirty years or so where I can get my fix? Spoilerless (of course) advice appreciated!
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Old 12-04-2002, 06:58 PM
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I can't, but would you mind recommending some good older ones to me?
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Old 12-04-2002, 07:05 PM
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Try reading John Dickson Carr; he was the best known in the genre (Queen was better known for the "dying clue" story).
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Old 12-04-2002, 07:44 PM
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I haven't read enough JDC to know this: Did he also write locked-room stories under his other name, Carter Dickson? If so, another name to look for.

I have an anthology of locked-room stories published by Barnes & Noble Books titled Death Locked In, eds. Douglas Greene and Robert Adey. Mostly older authors, but a few current ones. I enjoyed them.

Scarlett, hopeless Ellery Queen fan
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Old 12-04-2002, 10:13 PM
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Yes, Carr wrote many locked room stories under the Carter Dickson name, featuring Sir Henry Merrivale, one of the most delightful sleuths in mystery history. Dickson specialized a bit more in locked room stories, while Carr did a few more "impossible crime" books. Many of the Dickson books have been reprinted in paperback under the Carr name. Sadly, most of them are now out of print, according to Amazon, but there must be millions of them around on the used market.

I am both a Carr and Queen fanatic, having the complete run of both men's works. Queen did do a couple of true locked room mysteries,l but they are hardly his best work. The King is Dead is near the bottom of his works and The Chinese Orange Mystery is such ridiculous trickery that it never would have worked in a thousand years.

Entering locked room mystery into Amazon yields a titanic two books that are in print, a two-in-one by Dickson, Merrivale Holds the Key: Two Classic Locked-Room Mysteries: The Plague Court Murders/the Red Widow Murders, and The Locked Room: The Story of a Crime, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Here's a good page listing the best locked room mysteries of the 20th century.

Edward D. Hoch, the short-story writing machine, has written a slew of locked room mysteries. Some of them are collected in Diagnosis: Impossible: The Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne.

Peter Lovesey has his armchair sleuths the Bloodhounds solve a locked room mystery in the book called Bloodhounds.

Washington Deceased, by Michael Bowen; Escapade, by Walter Satterthwait; Murder in Montparnasse: A Phryne Fisher Mystery, by Kerry Greenwood; and even science fiction/mystery - A Quantum Murder, by Peter F. Hamilton are all recent locked roomers. All should be in print.

But you're right - few writers bother with trying to come up with a fresh variation on the locked room mystery. Readers just don't seem to like the game, either, as a rule. Pity.
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Old 12-04-2002, 10:22 PM
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In the short novel 'The Patchwork Girl' Larry Niven did an inverted locked room mystery set on the Moon - all the characters are locked inside, while the attack came from outside. It's answer was tricky but fair - all the evidence was provided to the reader, as well as the necessary background info (important in SF mysteries).
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Old 12-04-2002, 10:29 PM
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Isaac Asimov did a sf locked-room mystery, too -- The Brazen Locked Box, or something like that. More than 20 years ago, of course.

The original Locked Room Mystery, AFAIK, is the Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of Four, where the first murder is apparently don i a locked room, bolted from the inside. There's also a locked room murder in the Judge Dee novel The Chinese Maze Murders.

All of these are fairly old, though. Afraid I don't know any recent ones.
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Old 12-04-2002, 10:35 PM
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Missed a few recent impossible crime novels:

The Floating Lady Murder: A Harry Houdini Mystery, by Daniel Stashower; Impossible Bliss, by Lee Sheldon; and McNally's Folly, by Vincent Lardo. Again, all should be in print.
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Old 12-04-2002, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Badtz Maru
In the short novel 'The Patchwork Girl' Larry Niven did an inverted locked room mystery set on the Moon
He did a couple others also. One set in an L.A. high rise IIRC, and a variant to the genre set in the known space series.
The victims were in a spaceship orbiting a neutron star(I think). It involved the puppeteers and a problem with their
impenetrable hulls.

Off to the bookshelves to look.
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Old 12-04-2002, 11:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Etherman
He did a couple others also. One set in an L.A. high rise IIRC, and a variant to the genre set in the known space series.
The victims were in a spaceship orbiting a neutron star(I think). It involved the puppeteers and a problem with their
impenetrable hulls.

Off to the bookshelves to look.
The one in the LA high rise was not so much a locked room mystery as a 'How the heck did the killers get away without anyone seeing them' mystery. The one with the 'human circulatory fluid' splashes inside the impenatrable hull would qualify, I guess, though the 'murderer' was a combination of a force of nature and characters who didn't know something that every space traveller should be aware of.
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Old 12-05-2002, 09:26 AM
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Leaper, slight hijack on your thread, but in your OP you mention (using spoiler tags since you did)
SPOILER:
Locked cabin with a roof that's not attached to the frame, liftable with a jack? Done.

What novel/story was this and who wrote it? I read this one years ago and have tried to explain it to others but no one recognizes it and I haven't been able to track it down from that one detail. TIA.
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Old 12-05-2002, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
The one in the LA high rise was not so much a locked room mystery as a 'How the heck did the killers get away without anyone seeing them' mystery.
FWIW, Isaac Asimov included Gil the A.R.M. (the high rise story) as an example of a locked room mystery in his anthology The 13 Crimes of Science Fiction.
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Old 12-06-2002, 12:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by tanstaafl
Leaper, slight hijack on your thread, but in your OP you mention (using spoiler tags since you did)
SPOILER:
Locked cabin with a roof that's not attached to the frame, liftable with a jack? Done.

What novel/story was this and who wrote it? I read this one years ago and have tried to explain it to others but no one recognizes it and I haven't been able to track it down from that one detail. TIA.
Dangit, it was in a collection of short stories I have since gotten rid of... It was called "The X Hundreth Locked Room," I believe, in which X is a number I can't remember. It was about a mystery author who has a colleague who has written hundreds of locked room novels. The colleague is himself murdered in a locked room fashion, and the author tries to figure out how it was done so he can steal it for one of his own novels.

Can anyone help me remember the damn title and author? I'll try looking it up online, but no luck so far. I'll let you know if I find anything else.
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Old 12-06-2002, 04:25 AM
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Not a film or a novel, but what about the BBC tv series 'Jonathon Creek' ?
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