Over the past six weeks or so I’ve been working with John Pugmire, a long-time “locked room” aficionado, and the English translator of Paul Halter, the French writer who specializes in the genre, on an article about guess what? Locked room mysteries, of course.

   To tell you the truth, John’s article has been done for most, if not all, of these same past six weeks. What’s been holding up the works has been me. The major part of the piece is a list of well over 100 locked room mysteries. What I’ve been doing in my spare time in the evening is adding cover images to something like 90% of them.

   For more on what this is all about and where the list of books and authors came from, here’s John:

Hoch: All But Impossible.

    “Over twenty five years ago, Ed Hoch asked seventeen authors and critics to rank the best locked room mysteries of all time. The results were published as an introduction to the anthology All But Impossible (Ticknor & Fields, 1981).

    “Early in 2007, Roland Lacourbe, the eminent French expert on impossible crime fiction, decided to ask a group of fellow anthologists and translators to name 99 novels worthy of inclusion in the library of a hypothetical locked room aficionado. The results can be found in this article Steve has just told you about. Also in the piece I offer some thoughts on French Golden Age crime fiction and how it was influenced by the criminal justice system.

    “Monsieur Lacourbe is French and so the original list of 99 was confined to books published in French. However, the article also lists a further 14 noteworthy novels not yet available in French, for a grand total of 113. A surprisingly high proportion – nearly 40% – of the 99 novels are French in origin and have never been translated into English: a great pity and possibly an opportunity for an enterprising publisher. Whether that happens or not, Monsieur Lacourbe will have performed the valuable service of listing, for the first time, the 70 or so best locked room mysteries in the English language.”

   One small but perhaps not so incidental nugget of information that came from the research into the books is that Repos de Bacchus, by French author Pierre Boileau, was used as the basis for a book in English, The Sleeping Bacchus, as by Hilary St.George Saunders. (This was only book under Saunders’ own name. He may be more familiar to mystery fans as Francis Beeding, one of several pen names that he used.)

   Not all of the entries have covers to go with them, but John and I are proud to have come up with as many as we did. Here’s the link to the page:

          http://mysteryfile.com/Locked_Rooms/Library.html

   If you’re a fan of classical mystery fiction, harking back to the Golden Age of Detection, I think you’ll like what you see. In fact, I guarantee it.