A gong impossibly rings as a man dies alone in a locked room. A man dies after falling from a great height, despite there being nowhere to fall from. A man is killed by a scarecrow wearing the clothes of his dead rival. And several murderers walk through undisturbed snow to commit their dastardly deeds.
Paul Halter has crafted ten tales of impossible murder (one of which, admittedly, is the murder of a patch of grass) featuring his series sleuths Alan Twist and Owen Burns. All of these first appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine over the past ten years and are now available in a single collection.
Halter’s recent book, The Gold Watch, was a bit of a mixed bag – a beautiful death in the snow situation, but the rest didn’t really work so well for me. But the impossible-crime short story is something that I enjoy a lot, so when this title appeared, I snapped it up.
And this is a strong collection of mysteries. Some of the situations may seem a little contrived, especially the ones that mirror mythical stories like The Wolf Of Fenrir or the titular The Helm Of Hades, but the puzzles are strong. Most of the solutions are also strong, although there are a couple that fell a little flat, such as The Gong Of Doom or the aforementioned Wolf Of Fenrir.
All of the stories are told with imagination and flair, and most of them are satisfyingly clever mysteries, with a lot of plot crammed into the page count. As the tales are short, I won’t go into any more details here, but I can strongly recommend this collection, a much more satisfying read than The Gold Watch, and definitely well worth your time.