cover image The Thirteenth Bullet

The Thirteenth Bullet

Marcel Lanteaume, trans. from the French by John Pugmire. Locked Room International, $19.99 trade paper (144p) ASIN B08HB9VHTV

A series of murders threaten to bring about political instability in this brilliant whodunit by Marcel Lanteaume (1902–1988), first published in 1948 and set before WWII. France is rocked by multiple fatal shootings committed by a man in a gray overcoat. The killing spree begins in Dijon, where a librarian is shot in his workplace in the middle of the day, and soon spreads to other cities. The seemingly random slaughter evokes fear in the population, leading the French prime minister to put criminologist Fernand Richard in charge. Despite Richard’s identification of one thing that the dead men may have in common, the body count escalates. The man in gray ups the ante when he manages to kill a person secured in a concrete bunker, whose one entrance—an impenetrable steel door that’s locked from the inside—is under military guard. Lanteaume provides logical and plausible explanations for the impossible crime and the other murders. Fans of taut, intricate plotting will hope that Lanteaume’s other two mysteries will be translated. (Dec.)