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review 2017-09-13 15:55
Halloween Bingo - Locked Room Mystery - I liked Mycroft better
The Sign of Four - Arthur Conan Doyle



I hadn't made up my mind about the Locked Room Mystery square until the last minute.  For some of the other squares my choices were fairly long and I was looking forward to them, so I was glad to spot The Sign of the Four on the suggested list. 


The novel is included in The Works of A. Conan Doyle published by Black's Readers Service, one of those inexpensive sets that used to be advertised -- maybe they still are? -- on the back cover of the Sunday newspaper magazine supplement.  My dad had a set bound in red cloth; I bought them in the tan paper-embossed-to-look-like-leather-and-stamped-in-gold back in the early 70s.




And it's been about that long, or maybe even longer, since I read The Sign of the Four, when I was on a Holmes binge.  Having just read Kareen Abdul-Jabbar's Mycroft Holmes, I thought the comparison would be interesting.


Yeah, I liked Mycroft better than his younger brother.


The opening scene with Sherlock shooting up cocaine because he's bored didn't shock me, because I had remembered it quite well.  Unfortunately, I didn't like it 45 or more years ago, and I didn't like it now.  "Well, if you're so freaking bored, why don't you go out and find a puzzle that's worthy of your supreme powers of deduction, you arrogant asshole?" was my thought yesterday.


See, Mycroft was arrogant, but he never reached the stage of full-fledged assholery his younger brother had.


As I continued reading, bits and pieces of the story came back to me, but not all in one flash, so as far as the story itself went, it was pretty much like a fresh read.  But Sherlock's personality didn't improve.  The general Victorian racism was no surprise either, but it sat no easier on my mind than Sherlock's addiction.


The locked room mystery part was quickly solved, and the rest was the search for the actual perpetrator once he'd been identified.   And the last quarter of so of the novella was in turn his tale of the events that had led up to the murder.


Many elements of Jonathan Small's history brought to mind The Moonstone (1868), but the Wilkie Collins novel was in my estimation not only much better done with a more interesting set of characters, but also dealt with the social issues more aligned with current attitudes than with the traditional Victorian views expressed by Conan Doyle.  Small's disposal of the treasure he considered he had a right to contrasted sharply with the ending of The Moonstone.  The mystery of the treasure really overshadowed the locked room mystery in The Sign of the Four, and Holmes had no part in solving it other than finally capturing Jonathan Small.





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review 2017-09-13 01:14
Locked Room Mysteries - Anthology
Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes (British Library Crime Classics) - Various Authors,Martin Edwards

The British Library Crime Classics series has published a number of anthologies edited by Martin Edwards. I was looking for a locked room mystery to fill a square in a Halloween bingo game, and thought that this one would fit the bill splendidly. And so it did.

Only one of the stories was an unredeemable clunker - the abysmal The Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room by Sax Rohmer.

My favorite stories were The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle, a clever non-Holmes story about a train that simply disappears, The Miracle of Moon Crescent by G.K. Chesterton, an extremely complicated Father Brown mystery that was previously published in The Incredulity of Father Brown, and Too Clever By Half by GHD and Margaret Cole, which makes the point that complicated plots should be avoided.

The remaining stories are all entertaining, and contain all of the secret passages, disappearing weapons, and complicated murderous devices that a reader needs to be satisfied with a locked room/impossible crime. The story by Dorothy Sayers would be a charming Wimsey tale that follows directly on the heels of Harriet Vane giving birth to the Wimsey heir, with a suitably lighthearted solution but for the fact that it contains a disgusting racial slur which rather ruined the whole thing for me, so fair warning should be provided. Yes, different times, yada yada yada. Nonetheless, the slur used is indefensible, and shocking to the modern reader.

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text 2017-09-12 01:53
Reading progress update: I've read 82 out of 359 pages.
Miraculous Mysteries: Locked Room Mysteries and Impossible Crimes (British Library Crime Classics) - Martin Edwards

I decided to read this one for the "Locked Room Mystery" square. I'm not sure if I'll read all of the stories, or just pick and choose, but I decided to start at the very beginning!


1. The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle: This is not one of the Holmes stories and was published during the time that the public believed Holmes to be dead from the incident at Reichenbach Falls. It is a clever story about a train that simply disappears one day, never to be seen again.


I was exhausted last night, so this was as far as I got in the stories. Looking at the TOC, there are a total of 16 stories, with enticing titles like "Beware of the Trains" and "Too Clever By Half." Next up is The Thing Invisible by William Hope Hodgson.


2. The Thing Invisible: this was an "impossible crime" more than a locked room mystery. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. 


3. The Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room: Wow, was this story ever terrible! It had a vaguely supernatural solution, and some absolutely awful purple prose:


‘Mr. Coram,’ he continued, ‘I am an old fool who sometimes has wise dreams. Crime has been the hobby of a busy life. I have seen crime upon the Gold Coast, where the black fever it danced in the air above the murdered one like a lingering soul, and I have seen blood flow in Arctic Lapland, where it was frozen up into red ice almost before it left the veins. Have I your permit to see if I can help?’


All of us, the police included, were strangely impressed now.


They may have been "strangely impressed." I was not.


 4. The Aluminum Dagger: At last we come to our first legitimate "locked room mystery," this one involves a victim who was stabbed while locked in his room on the second floor. A very fine, albeit semi-implausible solution.


5. The Miracle of Moon Crescent: This is a Father Brown tale, set in the United States. This one had quite a complicated solution, and I certainly didn't guess what happened to the victim! I liked the writing in this one quite a lot.


6. The Invisible Weapon: This is a very locked room mystery, with a pretty common solution. I liked it - the author got straight to the point.

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text 2017-09-09 18:34
Some suggestions for today's bingo call!
Miraculous Mysteries: Locked Room Mysteries and Impossible Crimes (British Library Crime Classics) - Martin Edwards
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original) - Otto Penzler,Otto Penzler
Death in the Tunnel - Miles Burton
Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10) - Agatha Christie

Remember - you don't necessarily need to read an entire book to fill each square. The two collections are both chock full of "locked room" mysteries and other impossible crimes. The Black Lizard edition, edited by Otto Penzler, is a long book (900+ pages), and the Martin Edwards offering is part of the British Library Crime Classics series. One or two stories would fill this square nicely!


In addition, Murder on the Orient Express is such a wonderful book that everyone should read it! There is also a new adaptation coming soon to a theater near you, so if you plan to see the movie, always read the book first!


Finally, Death in the Tunnel has received a mixed reception here on BL. Both Tigus & I really liked it, but BrokenTune (I think) was decidedly lukewarm. 


Read on!

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text 2017-09-09 14:42
My Locked Room Square

For this one, I'm planning on reading Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie since I'm told it counts as a locked-room mystery and it's next in my Poirot reads.


Murder in Mesopotamia - Agatha Christie 

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