cover image The Forbidden House

The Forbidden House

Michel Herbert and Eugène Wyl, trans. from the French by John Pugmire. Locked Room International, $19.99 trade paper (186p) ASIN B08ZQ9Y4Q8

Impossible murder novels don’t get much more ingenious than this one, first published in 1932, from two French authors about whom virtually nothing is known. Businessman Napoléon Verdinage has decided to buy Marchenoire Manor, but before he can sign the paperwork, he spots a letter in the library, addressed to whoever the new owner of the manor may be. The anonymous author warns him not to buy the “forbiddin” (sic) house and to leave immediately to survive. The businessman dismisses the threat, only to learn that a previous owner got a similar note and was shot to death on the property two months later. Verdinage remains undaunted, even after he receives a second letter a month later, and a third, informing him that the time to escape his fate has passed, and that he will be killed at midnight. Someone in the household is killed in the library by a murderer who manages to escape despite the manor’s one exit being constantly watched. The authors enhance the reveal by making the identity of the person who cracks the case surprising. Fans of subtle fair play will be enthralled by this golden age classic. (June)