PAUL HALTER “The Yellow Room.” Short story. Dr. Alan Twist. Published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July/August 017. Translated from the French by John Pugmire. Collected in The Helm of Hades, paperback, October 2919.

   Paul Halter, as some of you may know, is the present day master of the so-called “locked room” or impossible mystery, Falling closely in the footsteps of John Dickson Carr, Halter has written numerous such mysteries, both as full-length novels and in the short form.

   Since his native language is French, he’s so far reached only a niche market here in the US, but fans of “impossible crimes” are always on the lookout for the next one of his tales to be published here. It’s a small niche, but Halter is filling it well.

   Dr. Alan Twist is probably his best known character, a renown British criminologist whom the police of several countries call upon when they’re stumped by cases that seem to have no solutions. “The Yellow Room” takes place in 1938 near Verdun, France. A man has been stabbed to death by a ceremonial dagger in a small cottage surrounded by several inches of snow in which no footprints can be seen. The local commissionaire of police needs help.

   The solution, which I obviously will not divulge here, is both exceedingly clever and yet very simple, once explained. It is the atmosphere of such a story, written and set up in meticulous detail, that makes the crime seem so impossible.

   Halter may be skimpy on bringing his characters to life, but he has other ends in mind. It’s both the the mystery and the challenge to the reader that he hopes to create, which once again is what he does here, just another notch in his belt. Nicely done.