cover image Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries

Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries

Edited by Otto Penzler. Penzler, $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-61316-328-3

In the thoughtful introduction to this superb anthology of impossible crime stories, Penzler notes the inherent tension of such tales (“Be warned. As you read these astoundingly inventive stories, you will inevitably be disappointed, just as explanations of stage illusions exterminate the spell of magic that we experienced as we watched the impossible occur”), and anticipates that readers, as they see how the impossibilities are explained, will shift from awe to admiration. As is typical in American Mystery Classics anthologies, the 14 entries include the best-known practitioners in this subgenre, including Ellery Queen, as well as names few will recognize, such as MacKinlay Kantor. The plots range from a mystery featuring time travel, Anthony Boucher’s “Elsewhen,” to a disappearance of a corrupt judge inspired by an actual case, despite the jurist’s being watched by multiple cops at the time he vanished from a phone booth, in Clayton Rawson’s “Off the Face of the Earth.” Unsurprisingly, top honors go to John Dickson Carr’s “The Third Bullet,” in which a judge is shot to death under three impossible circumstances. This is a perfect introduction for those new to this particular subgenre. (July)