by Otto Penzler
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Vintage Crime / Black Lizard
In this definitive collection, Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler selects a multifarious mix from across the entire history of the locked room story, which should form the cornerstone of any crime reader's library.
Virtually all of the great writers of detective fiction have produced masterpieces in this genre, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh and Stephen King.
The purest kind of detective story involves a crime solved by observation and deduction, rather than luck, coincidence or confession. The supreme form of detection involves the explanation of an impossible crime, whether the sort of vanishing act that would make Houdini proud, a murder that leaves no visible trace, or the most unlikely villain imaginable.
My last square on my bingo card this year that needed to be read for was Locked Room Mystery. I had several books that qualified, but none that appealed, so it was time to pull out my trusty omnibus, Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler. I chose two previously unread stories: one I was sure to like, featuring The Saint, and one completely unknown to me but considered to be a locked room classic up there with The Hollow Man.
The Man Who Liked Toys by Leslie Charteris:
I liked this one about as much as I expected to – maybe a little less. And I probably should have given it 3.5 stars instead of 4 because at its core it’s more a snapshot of a story than an actual story. But the method of murder is ingenious. I have to say though, The Saint isn’t nearly as dashing on paper as he is when he looks like Val Kilmer.
The Two Bottles of Relish by Lord Dunsany:
Well, I can see why this is one of the most re-printed locked room stories. It has a Poe-esque quality to it, as it starts out a very normal, even vanilla, narration by someone who considers himself a Watson, and rapidly escalates towards the end into a mini-horror story. I saw where it was going but now quite, and the ending … ends perfectly. Any more would have diluted the effect completely, even with the superbly done writing.
I read these for 2021 Halloween Bingo, specifically for the Locked Room Mystery square.