cover image The Mask of the Vampire

The Mask of the Vampire

Paul Halter, trans. from the French by John Pugmire. Locked Room International, $19.99 trade paper (248p) ASIN B09TZ4WY9M

Halter’s ingenious 19th book to be translated into English (after 2021’s Penelope’s Web) pays homage to John Dickson Carr’s classic The Three Coffins. In 1901, brilliant amateur sleuth Owen Burns is consulted by Scotland Yard’s Inspector Wedekind about a suspicious death in London. Right after Fr. Michael Donovan took the deathbed confession of John McCarthy, someone murdered the cleric by pushing him under the wheels of a carriage. Among Donovan’s clothing was a paper scrap on which he’d written the name of Violet Starling, who was strangled five years earlier at home in a sealed room containing a spinning wheel. In a recent case, Terence Hill was also found strangled in a locked room containing a spinning wheel. Hill was a resident of the village of Cleverley, which had been beset by sightings of supernatural beings, and smoke, as if from a transmogrified vampire, was seen going up Hill’s chimney right after the discovery of his body. The impressive number and nature of the puzzles are matched by Halter’s reveals. Golden age fans will want to see more from this inventive author. (June)