Bob Adey’s book Locked Room Murders And Other Impossible Crimes was published by Crossover Press in 1991.  The book was an revised and expanded edition of an attempt to list all stories in this sub-genre, with a separate section detailing solutions.  In  Geoff  Bradley's magazine CADS (details at the end of this page) I soon after contributed a series of columns, two per issue, suggesting items that might be included in any future volume.  Alas, there has not been one, nor was I able to continue my own additional entries beyond the eight installments here.  One day!

Except for one or two parenthetical inserts, the format and text of what follows remains the same as when it first appeared in CADS.


                       IMPROBABLE CRIMES

    by Steve Lewis                                                                           


Instalment 1

      Marv Lachman’s review of Bob Adey’s magnificent book, Locked Room Murders (Crossover Press), in the latest issue of CADS (#19) is right on target.  If you don’t own this book, you should.  What I’ll be doing in this and future instalments of LRAOIC is listing and annotating some of the additions I’ve found in recent months.  I won’t be following Bob’s format exactly—no solutions in the back, sorry to say—but I am passing these discoveries on to him.  When he writes them up, he’ll be doing them his way.


William Britain: “Mr Strang And The Purloined Memo” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, February 1983)

      A memo worth millions of dollars disappears from a room that is both sealed and watched.  Even stripping the room completely does not turn up the small, folded-up piece of paper.  Comment: A neat puzzle, and the references to Poe are neatly done.

Allan Vaughan Elston: “The Shot Downstairs” (Detective Fiction Weekly, December 7 1929)

      A wealthy man is shot to death in his study, and the room is locked.  However, there is no bullet in the room, and there is no ink in the house to match that of the “suicide” note.  Comment: This long novelette is only semi-skilfully told, but while it’s bound to be hard to find, it’s well worth searching out.  Note: The King story below comes from the same issue of DFW.

Brett Halliday: “Tragedy Of Errors” (Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, September 1964)

      Private eye Mike Shayne investigates the death of a man who jumped (or who was pushed) from the window of his locked hotel room.  Comment: This is your typical p.i. story, with far more emphasis on action than on brainwork.  Mike Shayne was certainly a popular p.i. in his day, however.

Edward D. Hoch: “Captain Leopold Beats The Machine” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 1983)

      A man being questioned in a police interrogation room is poisoned by coffee taken straight from the vending machine in the outside hallway, right before the eyes of several witnesses.  The machine itself checks out cleanly.  Comment: While marginal as an ‘impossible crime’, this is really a superb example of how to construct a detective short story.

Edward D. Hoch: “Suddenly In September” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September 1983)

      A prisoner is stabbed to death in a cell while consulting with his attorney, a lady Captain Leopold is growing increasingly fond of.  She didn’t do it, but no one else could have done it either.  Comment: This is an immediate sequel to “Captain Leopold Beats The Machine,” listed above. Besides being another very neat puzzle, we are also treated to more information about Leopold as a person.

Frank King: “White Evidence” (Detective Fiction Weekly, December 7 1929)

      When an inept burglar finds a body in the house he is about to rob, his are the only footprints in the snow surrounding the home.  Comment: Since the thief then flees in panic, without checking to see if the killer is still on the premises (he is not), the puzzle is obviously not what the author had as his prime intentions.

William Colt MacDonald: Bad Man’s Return (Ace Double D‑2, © 1947)

      In this western novel starring ‘The Three Mesquiteers’, a rancher is killed in a room with the door locked and the windows intact.  Comment: The mechanics of the crime are crude, and are not much of a challenge to the well-established mystery fan.  (It’s fun to actually figure out, however.)

Instalment 2

    As maybe you’ll see after reading through this grouping of books and stories, I’m not insisting on absolutely impossible crimes.  (I used to enjoy watching a TV show called Mission: Highly Unlikely.)  Some of these Bob Adey might decide not to put into the next edition of his book, but again, some of them he most certainly will.


George Harmon Coxe: The Glass Triangle (Knopf, 1940; Dell pb 522)

      The body that news photographer Kent Murdock discovers in a hotel room one evening (without telling the police) has completely disappeared the next day. Only a piece of lens from a broken pair of glasses can confirm it was ever there.  Comment: So, OK, I agree that this isn’t an impossible crime—but have you ever tried smuggling a corpse out of a busy hotel without anyone seeing you?  That’s not how it was done, either.  There’s some clever plotting on Coxe’s part here.

Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case Of The Smoking Chimney (Morrow, 1943; Cassell, 1945; Pocket 667, December 1949)

      The victim is found alone in a cabin with the door locked from the inside, the key in the dead man’s hand.  Comment: Although this sounds promising, this novel is on the marginal side as a ‘locked room’ mystery.  What’s worth noting is that the circumstances surrounding the obviously phoney suicide are used here instead as subtle clues in the unravelling of the real mystery.  Note: This is not a Perry Mason story, but the second of two novels Gardner wrote about freewheeling old Gramp Wiggins.

Robert W. Hahn: “The Adventures Of The Mnemonic Norwegian” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1986)

      Sherlock Holmes makes short work of the case of the code-busting Foreign Office clerk found dead in a locked room.  Comment: At less than two and a half pages of text, this stands a chance of being the shortest locked room mystery ever ‘solved’.

Edward D. Hoch: “The Problem Of The Two Birthmarks” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May 1989)

      Dr Sam Hawthorne investigates murder in a small hospital: a body is found in a locked and unused operating room.  Only the chief physician has a key. Comment: Not one of Hoch’s better efforts.  As explained on the last page, the killer had to have three simply extraordinary strokes of good luck to pull this one off.  (Plus one stroke of equally bad luck: Hawthorne was on the scene.)

Kelley Roos: The Frightened Stiff (Dodd Mead 1942; Hale 1951; Dell paperback)

      After the victim’s unclothed body is found in the garden behind Jeff and Haila Troy’s basement New York apartment, it is discovered that the dead man’s own apartment, on the top floor, has been completely stripped of all its furnishings, with no one in the building noticing how or when it was done.  Comment: While the stories about the Troys overall don’t compare with those about the Norths, in my opinion, this is a neater puzzle than I can recall Pam and Jerry ever having to deal with.

John E. Stith: Deep Quarry (Ace pb edition, February 1989)

      A science-fiction mystery starring p.i. Ben Takent on the planet Tankur, some time in the future.  On page 12 he’s hired to find how archaeological artefacts are disappearing from a locked, guarded, supposedly impregnable vault.  Comment: Sorry—this one’s a false alarm.  This is neither good SF nor a good mystery, and nothing past page 100 is worth reading.  As far as I could tell, the missing artefacts (a) never came form the vault, or (b) the guilty party is obvious.  Or maybe both.

Steve Lewis continues his suggestions for additions to Bob Adey’s Locked Room Murders And Other Impossible Crimes with two more instalments. As Bob’s criteria for inclusion have not been followed exactly, many of these suggestions would not be eligible.

Instalment 3

      For what its worth, we expand our coverage to include locked rooms on radio as well.  (There are decent examples available, but the two here aren’t them.)

Doug Allyn: “Wolf Country” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1986)

      Death in the snow country — Michigan’s upper peninsula.  The only tracks are those of a young boy, the deer he was hunting, and the dead man.  A hunting accident?  COMMENT: No, it was no accident, and the boy was no murderer.  This is a subtle crime, but Tony Delacroix, a constable working for the Chippewa Council, is certainly up to it.  An excellent story. NOTE: Even though impossible crimes are impossibly rare today, the Newton story below comes from the very same issue of AHMM, and so did the Hahn story in the last instalment of “Locked Rooms And Other Improbable Crimes”.

Crime And Peter Chambers
[an untitled episode].  Broadcast June 1, 1954, on the NBC network.

      As usual, PI Peter Chambers’s path crosses that of a beautiful girl, but this time they find that the uncle of this one has apparently committed suicide in his locked hotel room.  COMMENT: It’s not suicide, but when the door of a hotel room simply locks behind you when you leave, it’s not much of a locked room mystery either.  NOTE: This was a series both created and written by Henry Kane, but if you don’t remember ever hearing of it before, there’s an obvious reason.  It wasn’t very good.  (Dane Clark played Peter Chambers.)

B. Newton: “Simple Minds, Simple Tasks” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1986)

      A would-be kidnapper is shot to death while locked in the trunk of private investigator Al Hubbs’s automobile.  COMMENT: The discovery of the murder certainly causes a momentary shock, but it’s obvious the killer must have panicked, as there’s no way in the world he could have gotten away with it.  NOTE: Al Hubbs may be one of the very few mute detectives in the annals of crime fiction.  Anyone know of any others?

Stuart Palmer: Before It’s Too Late (Dell 601,
© 1950; originally published as by Jay Stewart)

      A woman is found dead of an overdose of barbiturates in a hotel bedroom, the door of which is not locked but is solidly blocked by a chair.  She did not commit suicide, and Rich Burris’s fiancee slept outside the door all night.  COMMENT: Unfortunately, the bedroom window is found to be unlocked and accessible by means of a narrow ledge several stories up.  This is not the means of the murderer’s entry, but if the window hadn’t been open, the story would have been over a lot more quickly.

The Shadow:
Collectors Of Death”.  Broadcast February 27, 1949, on the Mutual/Don Lee network.

      Immediately after Margo Lane locks the aged victim of a series of thefts upstairs in his room, she and Lamont Cranston find his body in a refrigeration unit downstairs in the cellar.  COMMENT: Well, that’s not exactly what really happened, but what really happened is even more unbelievable.  This is inept story-telling at its finest.  (The ending, in other words, opens more holes than it fills in.)

Robert Weinberg: The Dead Man’s Kiss (Pocket;
© 1992; 1st pr. November 1992)

      On pages 61-62, a dead man is found mostly disembowelled in his locked and chain-bolted apartment.  COMMENT: That’s about all I know.   read the first chapter of this gruesome, sex-tinged horror novel and only skimmed pages here and there the rest of the way through.  Supernatural beings are evidently at work here, and I’m really sorry I brought it up.

Timothy Zahn: “Red Thoughts At Morning” (Analog Science Fiction, April 27, 1981)

      A telepath is found stabbed to death in the restroom of an airplane after an attempted hijacking.  There were no signs of a struggle. Question: How do you catch a telepath by surprise?  COMMENT: Zahn put some thought into this one, and he plays fairly, too.  This one works quite nicely as a mystery as well as a better than average science fiction story.

Instalment 4

It may not last, but I’ve been reading through a stack of AHMM from the mid to late 80’s, and it’s proven to be a small treasure trove of items suitable for this column.  (Those from the 90’s have fallen far short in this regard.  And so far short in other regards that I’ve stopped buying it.  Again.  Let me know if I’m missing anything.)

Virginia Booth: “Heaven Scent” (Whatdunits, edited by Mike Resnick [Daw #982;
.1992, 1st pr. October 1992])

      The head of security on a spaceship is found dead alone in the hydroponics section, but everyone with clearance to the area has an alibi.  COMMENT: The problem with SF mysteries is that when all human suspects seem to be eliminated, you then have to start in on the plants!

H. Edward Hunsberger: “Eternally Yours” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1985)

      An artist for hardcover mysteries moves into an apartment whose previous tenant died there alone, inside with the doors locked.  COMMENT: The not-so-subtle hints of the supernatural notwithstanding, this is an authentic locked room murder, most assuredly worth the effort to find.

John Nelson: “Magwitch Returns” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, April 1986)

      A man shoots himself inside his locked apartment — but was it suicide?  Only moments before his death he had purchased a copy of Great Expectations.   COMMENT: Watch out for the twists in this one.  Luckily police detective Allan Hyath is a puzzle solver.

Sandra Rector & P.M.F. Johnson: “Color Me Dead” (Whatdunits, edited by Mike Resnick [Daw #892, 1st pr. 1992])

      A miner in space is found alone and dead on his asteroid, two hours away from his base, but in a suit designed to hold only three hours’ worth of air.  No tracks of anyone else are found.   COMMENT: Even though it was murder, the case is dull and not very interesting, even by SF standards.  Henrietta E. King is the police detective on the job.

Jeffry Scott: “A Touch Of Silver (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1985)

      Valuable silver objects are stolen overnight from a locked cabinet, the only key to which was kept in the front of Tony Smooth’s underpants.  COMMENT: Hence the title!  My hat’s off to Mr Scott (and not only for handling a touchy subject very well).

Judith Tarr: “Signs And Stones” (Whatdunits, edited by Mike Resnick [Daw #892, 1st pr. 1992])

      An alien scholar-philosopher is found dead alone in his locked spacecraft stateroom.  COMMENT: As it just so happens, the famous detective Mycroft Nkruma Farley is also on board, and the story goes downhill drastically from there.  Bad.  (Judith Tarr is a well-known fantasy novelist, but she seems utterly out of her element here.  Maybe it’s just poor editing.)

L.A. Taylor: “Silly Putty” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, May 1986)

      Inspector Percival Kalabash investigates the theft of a set of kitchen silverware from a house in which all the windows and doors were locked on the inside.   COMMENT: A minor tale that unremittingly tries to be funny, but does completely qualify to be in Bob Adey’s book.
The humor didn’t do anything for me, but then again, I suppose it doesn’t really hurt anything either.

Steve Lewis continues his suggestions for additions to Bob Adey’s Locked Room Murders And Other Impossible Crimes with two more instalments. As Bob’s criteria for inclusion have not been followed exactly, many of these suggestions would not be eligible.

Instalment 5

      These are mostly leftovers from the end of last year’s reading.  And most of them are fairly borderline as far as being included in Bob Adey’s book is concerned.  (It doesn’t bother me though.  Let Bob sort them out.)

Ray Aldridge: “Obscurious” (Whatdunits, edited by Mike Resnick [Daw #892, 1st pr. 1992])

      The ambassador from the Sirius system is found dead in his locked hotel rooms, with no signs of violence on his body.  ‘Suicide’ is a word unknown in the Sirian language.  What sort of accident was it, or was it murder?  COMMENT: The detective in charge of the case, Natty Looper, has only 16 hours to answer these questions.  If he fails a fleet of Sirian warships will destroy the earth.  NOTE: This is the last of several stories from this particular collection to appear in this column, but as is the case with most SF-detective story hybrids, most of the work in this book falls well below standard.  In this case I think it’s because the SF writers included in this book know only the surface of mystery fiction, and, as a result, their writing tends toward a burlesque of the field, intentionally or not.  Take ‘Natty Looper’ as an example.  He solves the case in fine fashion, but he speaks like a cornseed from Kansas, using “feller” and “iffen” and “purty” and you know what I mean?

Ann C. Fallon: Where Death Lies (Pocket, 1991, 1st pr. June 1991)

      When a middle-aged Irish couple return home from a vacation in Africa, they find a dead man in their locked home.  Worse than that, he’s nude, and in their bed.  Solicitor James Fleming (his second case) helps investigate. COMMENT: Very literary, insightful writing, but the puzzle in the plot is noticeably weak.  How the killer managed to get in is a question not gotten around to until Chapter 12, or more than 200 pages into the book.

Paul Harding: The Nightingale Gallery (Avon, 1991, 1st Avon pr. May 1993)

      In the wake of the death of King Edward III, Brother Athelstan helps investigate the death of two men whose bodies are found behind locked doors.  The title refers to the corridor outside the first man’s room, the squeaky floorboards of which make it impossible for anyone to enter without being heard.  COMMENT: While not quite in the class of the John Dickson Carr type of ingenuity, it will do for now.  An impressive debut.  NOTE: The squalor of London described in the book surely makes one appreciate the invention of indoor plumbing all the more!

Edward D. Hoch: “The Problem Of The Black Roadster” (EQMM, November 1988)

      The car a gang of three bank robbers is driving roars off from the bank only to disappear long before reaching the roadblocks that were immediately set up.  COMMENT: Since this adventure of Dr Sam Hawthorne is not in Bob Adey’s book, he must have rejected it as a problem too trivial to trifle with.  Just so.  NOTE: We do learn how Sam first met Mary Beat, his long-time nurse and assistant.  (In fact, she’s the one who solves this case.  Sam’s answer is quite wrong.)

Michael Piper (aka Michael and Kitty): “The Eerie Basin Murder” (Broadcast February 6, 1942, on the ABC network)

      How could a murder be committed by a sailor imprisoned in a jail hospital room that’s guarded by a policeman on the outside, with bars in the only window?   COMMENT: Michael Piper was a PI on this short-lived series, and Kitty was his wife.  The puzzle is trivial, and the program is the last of the series. (It began on October 10, 1941.)

Charles Sheffield: “The Heart Of Ahura Mazda” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, November 1988)

      Dr Erasmus Darwin (Charles’s grandfather) investigates a mysterious death and the simultaneous theft of a magnificent ruby.  COMMENT: This is marginal as an improbable crime, since a window to the locked building is found open, but how did the guardian of the jewel seem to disappear into thin air, complete with red headdress, bushy beard and scarlet robes?  And when the clothes are found, why can’t the bloodhounds pick up the trail?

Instalment 6


    This group of entries certainly illustrates the wide range in time in which improbable tales can be found.

Stanley Day: “Shamus Spots A Phony” (Detective Fiction Weekly, May 20 1933)

      Shamus Maguire is the hotel detective on duty when an elderly man is found shot to death in his room.  The housekeeper on the floor swears she saw the man’s wife enter the room and never leave, but she is not in the room when the body is found.  COMMENT: Since the police suspect the housekeeper, her testimony is ignored, but she is really telling the truth.  A better writer might have made something of it.  NOTE: This issue of DFW also contains the Victor Maxwell story below.

Gillian B. Farrell: Alibi For An Actress (Pocket; 1992; 1st pb printing July 1993)

      On actress-turned-PI Annie McGrogan’s first case, she is assigned to guard the bedroom of a soap opera actress whose husband is found murdered across town the same evening.  Unaccountably, witnesses are found who saw the actress fleeing the dead man’s apartment.  COMMENT: While this book has its various charms (and is recommended), the intricacy of the puzzle is not among them.  Not much of a challenge to this one.

Jane Haddam: Quoth The Raven (Bantam: 1991; Bantam pb, October 1991)

      When a woman in a college cafeteria line is poisoned by lye, the only thing on her tray is a cup of tea — and as former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian well knows, lye fizzes on contact with any form of water.  COMMENT: Unfortunately, this bizarre mystery is too intense to be of much entertainment, and this small element of the impossible is far too fragile to sustain the 276 pages of high angst that “Haddam” provides us.

Victor Maxwell: “The Siege At 2242” (Detective Fiction Weekly, May 20 1933)

      Soon after a patrolman spots an intruder in a locked house and is fired upon, the incident turns into a full-fledged siege.  The house is filled with gas and riddled with machine gun fire, but when the shooting stops, the house is found to be empty.  COMMENT: The story requires a certain amount of inventiveness (both on my part and the author’s) to make it belong in this column, but, upon full consideration there’s no doubt that it does.

Jeffry Scott: “The Brick Overcoat” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, December 1990)

      (1) An actress who is renovating an old theatre in a bad neighbourhood is tormented by whispered threats coming from nowhere.  (2) A drug deal goes sour when the object involved disappears out of a room with barred windows and a ten foot drop.  COMMENT: Detective-Sergeant Nick Flinders neatly solves two impossible cases in one blow.  NOTE: While this story is not in Bob Adey’s book, two others in the same issue are.  In the first, Dr Sam Hawthorne solves “The Problem Of The Haunted Tepee” by Edward D. Hoch; the second is even better: “The Preacher And The Locked Shed” by John Hudson Tiner.

Three Sheets To The Wind “The Sultan’s Curse” [radio program; date unknown]

      A drunken playboy (Brian Donlevy) on board ship finds the bodies of a sultan and a steward in an otherwise empty ballroom. When he returns with help, the room is filled with party-makers, and there are no bodies to be found. COMMENT: This is frustrating — I have no idea how this one comes out. This is an audition/preview of the radio equivalent of a serial at the movies, and it ends just as things become even more interesting. NOTE: The program eventually became a network series, running on NBC in 1942 between February 15 and July 5. In Brian Donlevy’s part on the network series was none other than John Wayne.

Stephen Waslyk: “An Apple For The Teacher” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, April 1988)

      An elderly woman — a music teacher — dies of a heart attack while alone in her locked home.  Her husband has a perfect alibi, so how could this be murder?   COMMENT: It is, of course, but as an “impossible" crime, don’t go out of your way hunting this one down.

Steve Lewis continues his suggestions for additions to Bob Adey’s Locked Room Murders And Other Impossible Crimes with two more instalments. As Bob’s criteria for inclusion have not been followed exactly, many of these suggestions would not be eligible.

Instalment 7

      In which at least one of the entries came as much as a surprise to me as it will to you.

C. M. Chan: “The Dressing Table Murder” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 1988)

      Amateur sleuth Philip Bethancourt teams up with Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons of Scotland Yard to solve the case of a woman poisoned in her bedroom while putting on makeup.  There was only an unpoisoned cup of coffee in her room, the back door was locked, and the maid (innocent) was in the living room watching the front door.  COMMENT: This relatively unchallenging puzzle, a “first story”, is rather amateurishly told, in both meanings of the word.  (One wonders if the two detectives ever had a second case.)

Edgar Franklin: “Instead Of Vegetables” (Detective Fiction Weekly, October 16, 1937)

      After an invalid ex-army officer is shot at in the room he has been unable to leave for several days, a threatening note is mysteriously found on his desk, which only he and his butler could have gone near.  COMMENT: PI George Batey, who would rather be tracking down some racketeers in the vegetable business, is as good with his fists as his brains, and luckily so, since brains are only marginally required in this one.

Simon Green: Hawk & Fisher (Ace, © 1990; 1st pr. September 1990)

      A locked room fantasy, in which Hawk and Fisher, two captains of the guard (male and female, and married to each other), investigate the stabbing of a reformist councillor in his locked bedroom.  He has an amulet around his neck designed to ward off magical spells, so that is not the answer.  COMMENT: A finely crafted story, reminiscent in many ways of the old-fashioned isolated country manor capers of yesteryear — as long as you can ignore the vampires, succubi and werewolves!  The solution to the crime, reasonably intricate, is worked out in exemplary fashion.

Herbert Resnicow: “The Christmas Bear” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, January 1990)

      A toy stuffed bear is stolen from the top row of rickety shelving formed by boards laid across boxes.  There is no way anyone could have climbed up to get it.  COMMENT: This is a barely (ha-ha) acceptable story for this column, but please keep in mind the criteria are mine alone.  It’s a warmly sweet story, and I loved it.  (The detective is Deborah’s grandmother, Miz Sophie Slowinski.)

Treacherous Crossing (Movie, made for cable TV, rebroadcast on the USA Network, July 14, 1993)

      A newly married woman (played by Lindsay Wagner) is taking a honeymoon on a ship bound for England, only to find her new husband has disappeared and is nowhere to be found on board.  COMMENT: This, of course, is based on John Dickson Carr’s famous story, “Cabin B-13”, which was also made into the movie “Dangerous Crossing” in 1953, starring Jeanne Crain.  I wish I had a copy of the latter on tape, as I remember it as a far better movie.  The problem with the new version is that in the opening scenes we never see the man who disappears, and we’re left with only the bride’s word that he ever existed.  (We’re in the same boat, you might say, as the ship’s personnel.)  The mystery of the disappearance is underplayed and pretty much wasted.  For all we know, the ship’s captain may be right, and she really is having a mental breakdown, and, if so, who really cares?

Stephen Wasylyk: “Element Of Doubt” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 1988)

      A retired hobbyist clockmaker named Barney helps solve the stabbing death of a cabinet-maker in the man’s own shop.  His son is found at the scene of the crime with the murder weapon in his hand.  The backdoor, locked to outsiders, is under watch, and a neighbouring shopkeeper saw only the son enter.   COMMENT: Wasylyk is hardly a household name, but he’s written any number of excellent stories in his career, and this is one of them.  NOTE: This appears in the same issue of AHMM as the Chan story above.

Instalment 8

Thanks to everyone who has made suggestions for this column in their cards and letters to CADS.  Some of them I will get to, if/when I find them, but since Bob Adey reads this magazine too, I’m quite sure all of them will be included in the next edition of his book.

James Anderson: Angel Of Death (Doubleday Crime Club, © 1978; CC edition April 1989)

      Six of twelve members of a Caribbean yachting party are fatally poisoned.  Since the poison was dosed out completely at random, what retired Scotland yard policeman Alec Webster must discover is how the murderer managed to kill only the six s/he intended to.  COMMENT: Obviously there aren’t any locked rooms in this mystery, but it’s an ‘improbable crime’ all the same.  It’s a good puzzle, in the strong Agatha Christie tradition, but it’s crammed into a story filled with too many other things going on, or so it seemed to me.

John H. Dirckx: “The Mahogany Wardrobe” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, November 1985)

      An unknown killer seems to have no trouble with the locked doors of a rooming house, even after a change of locks, and two women are done in  before Inspector Franklin can find the culprit. COMMENT: Unfortunately all the roomers have their own keys, and so does the landlady’s nephew. It’s too bad. Even though none of them were used, that about does it as far as this column is concerned. (And, overall, it’s a case of a story that promises far more than it delivers.)

Sherrard Gray: “Death By Auction” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, December 1990)

      After an out-of-stater successfully outbids the locals for a farm in Vermont, he is fatally struck down by a rifle bullet.  The rifle is not found in the farmhouse where it was fired, however, and watchers can verify it was not taken away by anyone.   COMMENT: The statement made on page 11 is that the rifle apparently vanished into thin air, but the answer, of course,  is much easier than that.  So easy, in fact, that Bob Adey will only sneer at this one.

Edward D. Hoch: “The Theft Of The Faded Flag” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September 1988)

      While Nick Velvet himself looks on, his long-time nemesis Sandra Paris (aka The White Queen) successfully steals two flags in as many mornings, both in broad daylight while flying from their respective poles.  COMMENT: Sandra’s motto is “Impossible things before breakfast,” and for a while she seems to have Nick completely buffaloed.   QUERY: On the cover of this issue of EQMM is a photo of Olympic diver Greg Louganis. Why?

William F. Smith: “An Almost Perfect Crime” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, April 1987)

      According to six eyewitnesses, a man in a closed telephone booth is stabbed to death with an ice-pick in his back.  More than that, the tip of the ice-pick is discovered to have been covered with curare.  COMMENT: This one’s the real McCoy, folks.  Detective Sergeant Raymond Stone really has his work cut out for him on this one.  (It takes six pages for the explanation alone.)

Suspense: “The Burning Court”. (Broadcast June 17 1942, on the CBS radio network)

      The story begins with a man discovering a photgraph resembling his own wife in a manuscript about medieval poisoners, but the real element of the impossible occurs later when he and a friend dig up an empty coffin in a securely sealed crypt.   COMMENT: Since this radio play is only 30 minutes long, it’s obviously a greatly abbreviated version of John Dickson Carr’s novel of the same name, with only a fraction of the complexity.  Charlie Ruggles stars as investigator Gauden Cross, and Julie Hayden is his co-star.  NOTE: This was the first regular broadcast in the long-running Suspense series. More in these programs will be entries in this column, just as soon as I can get to them.

    But this, with promises unkept, was the final installment.  This material first appeared in the following issues of CADS:  #20, March 1993; #21, August 1993; #22, January 1994; and #23, May 1994.

    The British mystery fanzine CADS continues to be published irregularly by Geoff Bradley, 9 Vicarage Hill, South Benfleet, Essex SS7 1PA, England.  For a sample issue, send £5 (UK) or $10 (US/Canada, airmail).  Please make checks payable to G. H. Bradley.


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