HAKE TALBOT – Rim of the Pit. Bantam, 1965. Originally published by Simon and Schuster, hardcover, 1944. Reprinted several times in other editions.

   This book was chosen by Anthony Boucher for Bantam’s “World’s Great Novels of Detection” series, along with such classics as Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger and Ellery Queen’s Cat of Many Tails. Like those two, this is an excellent book that should be far better known than it is (it was not mentioned by Barzun & Taylor).

   The detective in Rim of the Pit is gambler Rogan Kincaid, who tries to determine a rational explanation of seemingly supernaturally caused murders.

   Many years ago Grimaud Desanat froze to death in the North Woods of New England. His wife Irene, a supposed medium, holds a seance to ask him about some trees he owned. During the seance Desanat appears and terrifies Irene, who is later found inside a locked room brutally murdered

   The question is, who murdered her? Was it another member of the house party or the spirit of Desanat himself acting through another’s body?

   More and more inexplicable events pile up that seem to favor the latter theory, including a second murder that seems to clinch it, but Talbot makes it all come clear in a brilliant ending.

   Talbot wrote only two detective novels, the other being Hangman’s Handyman (1942), which may help to explain why he is so little known today, but Rim of the Pit is a classic of the genre that bears out Boucher’s comparison with such more noted masters of impossible crime as John Dickson Carr and Clayton Rawson.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 5, September 1977 (slightly revised).

Editorial Comments:  Both of Talbot’s detective novels have recently been reprinted by Ramble House. Puzzle Doctor, on his/her blog, suggests that Talbot wrote a third, one that was never published and is now presumed lost.