Locked Room Mysteries Omnibus

The Locked-Room MysteriesThe Locked-Room Mysteries
by Otto Penzler
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780307743961
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Pages: 941
Genre: Mystery
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: four-stars

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: five-stars

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.

2 more short stories from The Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries

The Locked-Room MysteriesThe Locked-Room Mysteries
by Otto Penzler
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780307743961
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Pages: 941
Genre: Mystery
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.


 

The Black Lizard Big book of Locked-Room Mysteries claims, on its cover, to be “The most complete collection of impossible-crime stories ever assembled.”  Whether this is true or not, clocking in at 939 pages of small, two-column print, it’s definitely a monster and one I’ve been chipping away at slowly for years.  For this year’s Halloween Bingo, I needed Locked Room mysteries, so I turned to my Big Book and chose two from the same author: The Wrong Problem by John Dickson Carr, and Blind Man’s Hood by the same author writing as Carter Dickson.  I’ve read two of this author’s full length novels so far, one as Dickson Carr (The Mad Hatter Mystery) and one as Carter Dickson (The Skeleton in the Clock), both of which I enjoyed.  The short stories though, were a mixed bag:

The first, The Wrong Problem, was frankly, weird.  I gave it 4 stars for the sheer ingeniousness of the murder method but the rest seemed pointless.  To mention anything about the story, I think, would be to spoil it.  It honestly doesn’t deserve 4 stars but that murder method was diabolical.

The second, Blind Man’s Hood, made up for the first in spades.  This one turned out to be a perfect – absolutely perfect – short story for Halloween.  Yes, it takes place at Christmas, but ignore that, it’s irrelevant.  So. damn. creepy.  I read it before I went to bed last night and when I realised what I was reading, I knew two things:  no way I was going to stop, and that I’d have to stay away long enough to read something else before going to sleep.  The locked room solution isn’t particularly clever or even surprising, but the rest of the story, for me, was.  5 stars.

As I mentioned at the start, I read these for the Locked Room Mystery square on my 2020 Halloween Bingo card.

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy ThompsonShifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 0425265005
Series: Alpha and Omega #0.5
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Pages: 450
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

You know how anthologies are, there’s almost always a gem or two, a handful of mediocre stories, and a few complete duds.  Stories the authors must have phoned it because they barely qualify as stories.

Not this one.

This is the best anthology of short stories in one book I’ve yet read.  A collection for Mercy Thompson and Co. fans, and every one of these stories is outstanding.  Nothing here has been phoned in: the writing is excellent, thoughtful – it feels like the author spent time getting these right.  Even the outtakes at the back are, while definitely not stand-alone stories, vividly written scenes that instantly transported me to time and place.

I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite or not, but Silver and Roses in Winter certainly were stories I enjoyed immensely.  But I find myself far more intrigued by Bran, Charles and Asil than I am about any of the characters in Washington State, so that bias might lend a bit of weight to these stories for me.  But mostly we’re talking about small degrees of difference.  Every single story was good – great even.  There isn’t a single one I’d rate less than 4 stars, so I’m just going to go ahead and 5 star the whole book.

Thanks Ms. Briggs for the wonderful stories.