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.