The locked room mysteries, also known as the impossible crime or closed-circle mystery, is not really a genre. But the popularity of this type oif story can’t be argued. As the name implies, the crime, usually a murder but can be a robbery, occurred in a room that is found locked or otherwise sealed.
A Locked Room Mystery
One of the earliest examples of the locked room mysteries is The Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin and the unnamed narrator became interested in a newspaper story of a lady and her daughter who the authorities found dead in their fourth story room. The mother had many broken bones and her head fell off when they moved the body, while someone strangled the daughter and stuffed her up the chimney. The officials found the room locked from the inside, meaning the key would be inside the room. I will let you discover how Edgar handled this on your own. Continue reading
Reviewed by Tim Suddeth
Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
Sleeping Murder was the last Miss Marple mystery and Agatha Christie’s last published novel, coming out in 1976 after her death. Set in 1930 England, Christie tells us about newlyweds Giles and Gwenda Reed and their efforts to discover a secret buried in Gwenda’s memory.
Giles sends Gwenda ahead to find a proper house for the couple to move into and raise a family. Continue reading
Mystery readers have long named Dorothy Leigh Sayers as one of the queens of the Golden Age of British detective writing. Best known for her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, Sayers had a very full and interesting life.
Oxford University, England
Dorothy was born on June 13, 1893, in Oxford, England. Her father was a chaplain of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, and headmaster of the Cathedral Choir School. Her mother was the daughter of a solicitor.
An only child, her father started teaching her Latin at six years old. She grew up in the village of Bluntisham and the graveyard next to the rectory has tombstones with many of the surnames used in her books.
In 1912, Sayers received the Gilchrist Scholarship for modern languages to Somerville College, Oxford. She studied in modern language and medieval literature and graduated with first-class honors in 1915. However, Oxford did not award degrees to women at that time. Continue reading
Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple
In 1927, Grand Dame Agatha Christie introduced to the world one of the most popular mystery characters, Miss Jane Marple. In the short story, ‘The Tuesday Night Club’, ‘she is an elderly spinster who has lived most of her life in St. Mary Mead. She often acted as an amateur consulting detective. Most people saw her as a dithering old bitty with her dated clothes and her knitting until she surprised the male police officers with her wisdom and knowledge.
In the earlier books, the townspeople wrote her off mostly as a gossip. Yet she had a keen sense for understanding human nature and using her insights of village life to explain the actions of criminals. The later stories show her as a kinder and a more modern person. Continue reading
“Just the facts, Ma’am.” Joe Friday delivered this line in his flat, robotic tone every week on the TV series, Dragnet. Dragnet aired two different times, once from 1951-1959 and then in 1967-1970. Detective Joe Friday of the Los Angeles Police Department was played by Jack Webb, who was also the producer.
Dragnet, and the similar show Adam-12, are great examples of one of the more popular genres in mystery, the police procedural. These books and shows centered on the work of the police, usually focusing on one individual but highlighting more their time on the job and working with others in the department than on the person’s personal life. It is the life and environment of a police officer that the reader is interested in, rather than an individual. Although how much this is carried out varied with the series.
Although cop shows have been common on TV, even today, I want to focus on the novels and their authors. Continue reading
The classical mystery story came to its heyday in the 1920s and 30s. World War I had just ended, and the world was coming through the 1918 flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population.
In England, the classic mystery had already been established by Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The stories showed the reader a very upper society, very proper, with tea being served often. The detective often had a tie to police, but were intellectually superior. They were often given a reluctant acceptance by the local law enforcement officer. Sometimes, the police would call them in because they couldn’t solve the case, but more often the detective burst onto the scene, showing up the helpless officer.
But in America, we saw the emergence of a different type of detective in the hardboiled detective mysteries. In another kind of society, Dashielle Hammett and Raymond Chandler introduced us to the private eye. Often a lone wolf, who tried to dispense his own style of justice in a world with few rules.
[bctt tweet=”The hardboiled American detective was much more cynical than his English counterpart. It wasn’t a game or puzzle to him, but a more personal battle against evil, even of life or death. ” username=”httpstwittercomTimSuddeth”] Continue reading
Calling Josephine Bell a writer from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction does her a disservice. Although her books were first published in 1936, she continued to write until 1983. She wrote over 40 mystery novels, as well as radio plays, short stories and magazine articles. (Go here for a list of her books.)
Josephine was born Doris Bell Collier on December 8, 1897, in Manchester, England. She was a doctor and married Dr. Norman Dyar Ball in 1923. They had a son and three daughters. They practiced medicine in Greenwich and in London until Dr. Ball was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1935.
From 1954 to 1962, she was a member of the management committee at the St. Luke’s Hospital. Continue reading