cover image The Seventh Guest

The Seventh Guest

Gaston Boca, trans. from the French by John Pugmire. Locked Room International, $19.99 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-0-692196-78-6

The opening sentence of Boca’s brilliant impossible crime novel, originally published in 1935, suggests an arch, light approach: “Apart from a certain tendency, as a family, for the protagonists to kill each other, this is not your classic tragedy.” But what follows takes Paris sleuths Stéphane Triel and Luc Duthiel into some very dark waters when they accept the invitation of a stranger, Jeanne d’Arlon, to join her and her husband at Nanteuil Manor. On their arrival, Triel and Duthiel find that Benoît Gérapin, the nephew of the manor’s concierge, has apparently taken his own life; only Gerapin’s large footprints are visible in the mud surrounding the cabin containing his hanged corpse. Certain details, including traces of red lipstick on the dead man’s mouth, argue against suicide, posing a mystery that’s just the prelude to more impossibilities. Boca (1903–2000) leavens the grim story line with humor while creating a palpable atmosphere of menace reminiscent of John Dickson Carr and imbuing his characters with psychological depth. Fans of golden age puzzle mysteries won’t want to miss this gem. (Jan.)