I have been trying to get my covetous hands on this book for sometime now, it was not in print but then the good folks at Locked Room International(LRI), led by John Pugmire made it available for mystery lovers. The paperback is still pretty expensive around $20. I kept on procrastinating because of the cost and wanted to buy an old JDC, which was around $25. Also, for some reason LRI does not publish books by the grand master. Anyways, this Christmas I did muster up the courage and finally made the purchase. Totally worth it!
A man steeped in family tradition, wants to seal himself in the middle of the night, in an old dark room, at the back of his house to have an encounter with the family ghost. Mr. Querrin does not believe in ghosts, but wants to go ahead with the family tradition anyway. His family is not of the same opinion, they are scared out of their minds and seek help from the police and an amateur detective to help protect Querrin. Here goes:
The room is at the end of the house, has two entrances a french window watched by a cop, who is standing a few meters away constantly gazing at the french window doors, and on the other end a a door locked from inside by Querrin. This door leads to a hall which is watched by the detective and Querrin's brother. So before midnight Querrin enters the room, shuts both the doors from inside and the two doors are now being watched from the outside, on top of that heavy run has muddied the soil outside the french windows, anyone trying to gain entry will surely leave footprints.
Querrin goes ahead and gets murdered. The impossibility of the crime leaves everyone befuddled.
A brilliant locked room murder mystery, one of the very best. Locked room itself is water tight, the explanation of how the locked room was broken and the murder committed was very simple and elegant. no trickery or useless shenanigans. Derek Smith elevates himself in the same league as Halter and Carr with just one book.
The identity of the murderer is also well done, and not obvious although on spending some time on the pool of suspects will lead you to figure this puzzle out without a lot of churning, or at least a part of it. The author also tries to titillate the reader with the female characters, while some might see the portrayal of women in this book as chauvinist. I rather enjoyed it, simply because the author taps into his own base emotions and it has nothing too offensive. Another major advantage the book has is that it has very less padding and thus you can actually breeze through it in a couple of days.
Minor quibbles with the book: the detective is one dimensional and forgetful, his overtures to try and seduce the murdered man's fiance is a bit tasteless. Can't find anything else. Kindle version is quite cheap!
5 out of 5 stars!