The Killing Needle

Henry Cauvin, trans. from the French by John Pugmire. Locked Room International (www.lockedroominternational.com), $15.99 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-493729-85-2
First published in 1871, this crime novel set in 1845 Paris introduces Maximilien Heller, an eccentric, drug-addicted private investigator, who enjoys disguising himself, and whose adventures are narrated by a doctor friend. Translator Pugmire makes a convincing case in his foreword that Heller influenced Conan Doyle in creating Sherlock Holmes. Cauvin (1847–1899), of whom little is known, gives Heller a puzzling locked-room murder, which, as Pugmire notes, may have been the first story with its particular solution of the seemingly impossible. Heller’s poor health and isolation have concerned his few friends, leading to the unnamed medical narrator being sent to assess his condition. When the police accuse a recently hired servant of poisoning his master, the self-described philosopher, who lived near the victim and has composed mental treatises on political economy, turns to criminal detection, where he proves equally brilliant. Fans of classic detective fiction will hope to see more translations of Cauvin’s work. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014
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