POUL ANDERSON “The Martian Crown Jewels.” Short story. Freehatched Syaloch #1. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, February 1958. Reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1959; in A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Volume One, edited by Anthony Boucher (Doubleday, hardcover, 1959); and in (among others) Ellery Queen’s Murder – In Spades! (Pyramid, paperback, 1969) as “The Theft of the Martian Crown Jewels.” Collected in Call Me Joe: The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson #1. (NESFA Press, hardcover, 2009).

   If you are roughly the same age as I, and if you’ve read the story yourself, there’s a good chance that you did so in the two volume set of the Treasury edited by Anthony Boucher (see above) and given out as a premium to untold new members of the SF Book Club back the 1960s and for many years beyond. It’s also been reprinted many times; I didn’t begin to list them all.

   One reason for the story’s popularity, I think, is that there really aren’t many examples of combining traditional detective stories with hardcore SF, and this is a good one. The detective on the case is Martian private detective Freehatched Syaloch, but this seems to have been his only appearance in print. Missing are the Martian crown jewels, which have been on display on Earth, but on their state secret return to Mars, via Phobos, one of the planet’s moons, they have completely disappeared.

   The rocket they were on was unmanned. They were definitely loaded onto the ship on Earth, but once the ship landed on Phobos, they are nowhere to be seen. The chances of the ship having bee being boarded along the way in the vast expanses of space is impossible, but yet, they are nowhere on the ship, which is hastily taken apart, piece by piece, to be sure.

   While he wrote a few out-and-out mysteries, Poul Anderson was far better known as the writer of hundreds of both fantasy and science fiction stories, but this is no fantasy. As a combo of both mystery and SF, it’s far stronger as SF, with just enough skill on Anderson’s part to cover its somewhat weaker standing as a impossible crime puzzle. Are all the facts the reader needs to solve the theft on his or her own? The answer is yes, if you follow the basic rule that when all the possibles are eliminated, keep on looking!