Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries (2022) ed. Otto Penzler

John Dickson Carr may well have been the master of the locked room mystery, but he was hardly alone in writing in the genre. Many other either dabbled in the genre or used it as the primary focus of their writing. As you might be able to guess from this collection, given that it’s the American Mystery Classics range, many of those writers were American.

From John Dickson Carr to Ellery Queen, from Joseph Commings to Clayton Rawson, from Anthony Boucher to Cornell Woolrich, this weighty collection covers a vast number of authors – well, fourteen. But which are the best stories? And, more importantly, who is this collection aimed at?

Well, to answer the second question, it’s really for newcomers to the genre. I’ve already read a fair number of the stories in the collection in other such books, and while there were some new stories in here, by nature of such stories being classics, other people well-read in the genre may come away disappointed. This is rather short on undiscovered classics – not that it ever claimed that it was. This series is introducing new readers to lost authors and this is a great example of introducing fourteen of them.

So there’s some well known items here – John Dickson Carr is represented by The Third Bullet and Ellery Queen also gets a novella, namely The House Of Haunts aka The Lamp Of God. The former story is much better than the latter, and the latter also demonstrates that we are using “Locked Room” here as shorthand for “Locked Room And Impossible Mysteries”. The other must-read (if you haven’t already) is Off The Face Of The Earth, a vanishing from a phone booth under constant surveillance, by Clayton Rawson. His short stories are stronger than his novels, and I think this is the best of the lot. I’d go further and say this is my second favourite locked room short story – the first is the same as everyone else’s and rhymes with “The Mouse Was Hobbling Good“.

The rest of the book keeps the standard pretty high – The House Of Haunts is one of the weakest tales imho – but I do have to question opening the collection with Anthony Boucher’s Elsewhen. Yes, it’s a locked room – an inverted one, no less – but it’s so atypical, it probably belonged as the last title rather than the first. Hope it doesn’t put people off what to expect…

Anyway, well worth a look if you haven’t read most of the stories herein, especially if you’re a locked room/impossible mystery fan.

Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries is published by Mysterious Press on July 5th 2022. Many thanks for the e-review copy.


  1. Must admit, I do think it would be better to just re-print Adey and Greene’s superb DEATH LOCKED IN and be done with it. And much as I enjoy the Carr, surely such a long piece is unnecessary where 4 shorter ones could give more variety. I like LAMP OF GOD (the only title that should be used for that novella really), but again a shorter Queen could easily have been found to make room for some other less expected titles as you say.


    • Third Bullet is an odd choice, but it is good and helps with the page count. Lamp Of God, nah, it’s too silly for me. If you treat this as a primer, it’s good. Don’t think we’re the target audience.


  2. I’ve not read this anthology (yet), but agree newcomers to the locked room mystery will get the most value out of it. I was so glad when Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries was announced until its content became known. Not a very inspired selection of stories. As you said, most of them have were collected before in similar anthologies with three of the stories appearing in Tantalizing Locked Room Mysteries. The only ones I’ve not read are Fredric Brown’s “Whistler’s Murder,” Mignon Eberhart’s “The Calico Dog” and Manly Wade Wellman’s “Murder Among Magicians.” So there’s that, I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A smaller group of GAD fans I’m in got upset with me for my cynicism when I said I was certain, based on the author list, that we were in store for another collection of stories we’ve all already read half a dozen times before in other collections. On the one hand, I’m happy to be vindicated (I love being right!), but I’m also sad to see there’s not much of value in the anthology. Not that I’m surprised — as I’ve said on Green Capsule, I’m a bit disillusioned with these anthologies. I say Ho-Ling and Locked Room International could do worse than to dump an exclusively Japanese shin-honkaku locked-room anthology at this point just so we can be assured we’re reading brand new stories from brand new authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re part of some interesting mystery communities and groups!

      I second your recommendation for an exclusive shin honkaku collection or a sequel to The Realm of the Impossible. I’ve always wanted Mike Ashley to do a third mammoth anthology. Sure, the first two are very uneven, quality-wise, but the variety of obscure, rarely reprinted stories and brand new material is unmatched to this day!


  4. I agree with others that this anthology doesn’t offer much to an experienced GAD enthusiast so I will give this one a miss.
    But I still welcome this collection if it introduces newcomers to the brilliance of locked room / impossible crime mysteries. It is important to encourage / welcome those who may not be aware of the breadth of GAD.
    For example, it wasn’t too many years ago that all I knew was Christie’s work. By having access to blogs likes those from Steve, Kate, Jim, TomCat, Brad, Ben, John, Moira, Isaac, Aidan, etc., i have discovered the brilliance and breadth of GAD including the impossible crime fiction subgenre. So if this collection attracts new readers, that is still a great outcome for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate the shout-out! I’ve always been worried my blog, book selection, and taste comes across as a bit pedestrian. I’ve been branching out into different mediums so I can try to offer opinions on stuff people haven’t already read about on better blogs… It actually makes me very happy to see someone compliment me in the wild behind my back!

      TomCat and Jim were the two bloggers I followed when I first got into GAD fiction. TomCat especially was very formative for my early reading. I read three Roger Ormerod novels before I even touched my first Ellery Queen! Another blogger I adore is Ho-Ling at Casebook of Ho-Ling. He’s trilingual (at least…) and covers a huge variety of material in multiple languages, especially Japanese! Give him a look-see if you ever want to feel motivated to learn Japanese.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You worry too much what others think. Do you think everyone jumps for joy when yet another locked room review goes live on my blog? Just enjoy what you like and you’ll eventually attract people who enjoy the same like ants to a picnic basket.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “miss” not “mess” – it is an impossible crime why WordPress does not allow comments to be edited after posting.


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