You know I’m all about mysteries, thrillers, and suspense! In order to make sure I’m serving my readers well, I need to stay in touch with my reader self. It’s important for me to read a lot of the kind of thing I love to write. The kind of thing you love to read. And recently, I’ve been focusing on an old classic. Come with me and get into Locked Room Mysteries!
The deal and appeal of a locked room mystery is that it’s impossible. It couldn’t have happened.
We cannot imagine any way in which the crime could have been committed inside an irrefutably contained space because certain critical elements are missing—the culprit, the weapon, the clues.
Or else, the clues that do exist are baffling in the extreme.
The history of the mystery
Locked Room puzzle mysteries go way back. Way, way back.
The first mention of such a story I could find dates back to the year 100 B.C. in the book of Bel and the Dragon. It tells a story about the prophet Daniel outwitting the priests of Baal by using a secret passage to steal provisions sealed up to their god.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote a locked room mystery when he produced “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one when he wrote “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” Agatha Christie gave us a locked room mystery with, “The Blue Geranium.”
Several of my favorite television series often fall back on the device of the locked room. Death in Paradise comes instantly to mind. It’s a virtual staple for the island-bound mysteries confronting the Honoré police force.
Episodes of Jonathan Creek nearly always center around a locked room mystery. I recall several times when Monk faced the challenges of a locked room mystery. Such as Mr. Monk and the Panic Room and Mr. Monk Meets the Playboy.
My recent forays into the Locked Room
This week, I read two short stories that would be classified as Locked Room mysteries. The first is from the much-missed Edward D. Hoch, one of his Captain Leopold stories called, “The Leopold Locked Room.”
The remarkable thing about this story is that the supposed perpetrator was locked into the room with the victim and appeared undeniably guilty. The trick was to prove his innocence and to discover how the impossible murder took place.
I’ll admit, it had me stumped. This one was really an intriguing puzzle and an impressive story.
The other story is from the acknowledged king of the locked room sub-genre, John Dickson Carr, and involves a fascinating wager in a castle. It’s titled, “The Shadow of The Goat,” and is a clever tale with more than one wicked twist.
Very fun indeed.
Why not take a break this week and get into a locked room—you’ll be glad you did!
How about you? Do you have a favorite Locked Room mystery? Tell us about it in the comments.