SZU-YEN LIN “The Miracle on Christmas Eve.” First English translation published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May 2016. Reprinted in The Realm of the Impossible, edited by John Pugmire & Brian Skupin (CreateSpace, softcover, August 2017).

   The Realm of the Impossible is an anthology of — guess what? — locked room mysteries and other tales of impossible crimes, both new and old, written by authors from all over the world. If you’re a fan of the genre, as I am, if you don’t have have copy already, don’t hesitate. Put it on your Christmas wish list right now.

   Szu-Yen Lin is a young author from Taiwan with one detective novel already translated into English, that being Death in the House of Rain (2017), which I have not seen, but from the description, is filled with impossible crimes of all kinds.

   In this particular story, though, a father helps his young son stand up to the ridicule of his friends who do not believe in Santa Claus. Inviting them all for a Christmas Eve sleepover, they close up the boy’s room by sealing up the door and single window. Then all the boys and the father go to sleep on mats in the narrow hall just outside the locked door of the bedroom.

   They are awakened to the sound of music in the room. Entering the sealed room, to their wondering eyes they find: a Christmas tree, a dozen gifts in wrapping paper and a music box still playing. Even the non-believers are now convinced that, yes, indeed, there is a Santa Claus!

   While there certainly is no crime involved in this story, it certainly is a mystery story. One could only wish that the spooky magic of this cleverly contrived tale did not disappear as quickly as amateur detective Ruoping Lin comes up with his explanation, but that is totally mitigated by the secondary story of the relationship between a father and a son he loves (or a daughter, equally well).

   There is no instruction manual that hospitals give out to new fathers, but if you know of any such, this story will serve that purpose like few others I can think of.