EDWARD D. HOCH “The Problem of the Miraculous Jar.” Dr. Sam Hawthorne. First published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, August 1996. Collected in All But Impossible (Crippen & Landru, 2017). Reviewed by Mike Tooney here. (Thanks to Randy Cox for providing this information.)

   It is November 1939 and even in the small New England town of Northmont, rumors of the impending war are getting stronger by the day. When a married couple are given a welcome home party after their return from a trip to Europe and the Holy Land, no one expects that someone will die later that same evening, including Dr. Sam Hawthorne, one of the attendees.

   Cause of death: cyanide in a jar brought back as a gift from Cana, the site of Jesus’s first miracle, the transformation of water into wine, a feat that seems to have been duplicated here, except that in this case the wine (which was not in the jar when the party was over, only water) is found the next day to have been tainted with poison.

   Question: How could anyone change water into poisoned wine inside a locked house surrounded by unmarked snow?

   Answer: It’s a damned good trick, that’s what it is. Ingenious, in fact, until you know the answer, and then it’s dumbfoundedly easy.

   Except only on occasion, Hoch wasn’t the greatest wordsmith in the world, but his plain-spoken style of writing has to be a lot more difficult to duplicate than you’d think it would be. I also think there is enough plot — with lots of characters complete with backstories, motives, false trails and the like — to fill a complete novel.

   Ingenious, too! Or did I say that already?