Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hoch's Locked Room Winner

"The Oblong Room."
By Edward D. Hoch.
Short story.
First published in The Saint Magazine, July 1967.

One of nearly a thousand short stories by Hoch:
Captain Leopold joins his Sergeant to investigate an open and shut case of murder in the college hostel. Ralph Rollings has been found stabbed to death. His roommate Tom McBern was found enclosed with the dead man for 24 hours and he is not willing to make a statement. The only thing they need to convict Tom is a motive and the whole investigation is based on finding that motive. — Arun Kumar, THE INGENIOUS GAME OF MURDER (March 17, 2012)
Captain Jules Leopold is a police detective, the head of the Violent Crimes Squad of the police department of an unnamed city in Connecticut. Along with his colleagues Lieutenant Fletcher and Sergeant Connie Trent, he is one of Hoch's most conventional characters. The Leopold stories are police procedurals on the surface, showing the interaction of the officers as they investigate crimes, but the crimes themselves are frequently unusual and reflect Hoch's skill at plotting and placement of clues. The story outcomes usually depend on the deductive ability of Leopold and his comrades rather than on straightforward police work, and sometimes feature impossible crimes and locked rooms. — Wikipedia
What was the friend of the victim doing, locked in a room with the body for three days after the death? This story serves as a reminder that, just like Erle Stanley Gardner, Edward D. Hoch was not just a fiction factory, but a brilliant, brilliant writer. — Bookflings
. . . Captain Leopold has survived through nearly fifty years and over a hundred stories. He's Captain of Police in a small Connecticut city not unlike Hoch's own hometown of Rochester, New York. These are seldom simple police procedurals, though. Leopold comes up against some of the most bizarre mysteries, including a number of 'impossible' crimes.
One of the strangest, though, is the story that won Hoch his first - and rather surprisingly only Edgar Award to date - where what ought to be a simple case of stabbing at a university takes a bizarre twist leading to a chilling revelation. Hoch remarked: " 'The Oblong Room'  was rejected by EQMM and AHMM before finding a home at The Saint. Apparently the religious aspects scared off some editors, although I understand that it won mainly because Anthony Boucher, chairman of the short story committee that year, really pushed for it. Boucher was a devout Catholic, so obviously there was nothing about the story that offended him." — Mike Ashley, GOLDEN AGE MYSTERIES FORUM (August 7, 2006)
Edward D. Hoch’s short story "The Oblong Room" is another classic example of a locked-room mystery. Again, this story features a victim found within a room that is literally locked up. In that story, Captain Leopold, a Connecticut police chief, is called to the local university campus, where the body of Ralph Rollings has been found with stab wounds. His roommate, Tom McBern, is found in the room, too, and has apparently been there with the body for two days. Captain Leopold tries to unravel the mystery behind McBern’s odd behavior, but at first, nobody’s talking, including a girl they both liked, and friends of both young men. When Leopold finally unravels this “locked-room” mystery, the motive for the murder, and the story behind it, provide the real surprise. — Margot Kinberg, CONFESSIONS OF A MYSTERY NOVELIST (December 8, 2009)
Steve Lewis's interview with Edward D. Hoch.

Category: Detective fiction

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