Wednesday, August 30, 2023

"All of You Had Reason To Kill Him"

"The Locked Room Mystery Mystery."
By Jasper Fforde (born 1961; HERE and HERE).
First appearance 2007.
Online at The Guardian (HERE).

   "Locked Room Mystery is dead! Can you work out the culprit in this witty short story by Jasper Fforde, author of the popular Thursday Next mystery novels?"

A surfeit of suspects, but can it really be that they're all telling the truth? "We were about to present Locked Room with his award," says one, "but he'd gone missing. We eventually found his body in the library. I swear, the room was locked, the windows barred, and there is no other entrance."

Main characters:
~ The victim: Locked Room Mystery.
~ The fuzz:  Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and Detective Sergeant Mary Mary.
~ The suspects: Red Herring, Unshakeable Alibi, Cryptic Final Message, Least Likely Suspect, Overlooked Clue, and the butler, Flashback.

Reference and resources:
- "he borrowed it word for word from Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue":
  The experts have their say about EAP (HERE).
- Detective Jack Spratt has his own Wikipedia page (HERE).
- P. J. Bergman also spends some time with "The Locked Room Mystery Mystery" (HERE).
- Nearly a decade ago we encountered another piece of metafiction by Jasper Fforde, "The Death of the Locked Room Murder" (HERE).
- Another impossible crime story (some consider it a tour de force) that fits neatly inside the SFF genre is Fredric Brown's novelette, "Daymare" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

"The Plan Itself Had Been a Stroke of Genius"

"Stroke of Genius."
By Randall Garrett (1927-87).
Illustration by Phillips (HERE).
First appearance: Infinity Science Fiction, August 1956.
Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (19 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "Crayley plotted a murder that was scientific in both motive and method—and as perfect as the mask of his face!"

Programming a murder takes a lot of planning, but there's always, as a shrewd LAPD cop tells us many times, "just one more thing": "Crayley had five minutes to get to that erase button . . ."

Principal characters:
~ Lewis Crayley:
  ". . . had built a magnificently efficient wall between himself and the world. He could see out, but no one could see in."
~ Major Stratford:
  "Whole colonies were gone when the five-year check came. The pattern was only in one area, but we're pretty sure of what's happening. Something out there, something intelligent in its own way, is erasing those colonies. Our analysts suspect that whoever or whatever is doing it doesn't know we're intelligent. What it boils down to is this: we have an interstellar war on our hands."
~ Berin Klythe:
  "Three years ago, Berin Klythe had been a graying, stocky, aging man of sixty. Now he was lithe, dark of hair, clear of eye, and full of the energy of a twenty-five-year-old body."
~ Fenwick Green:
  ". . . was undoubtedly the greatest co-ordination engineer who had ever lived."
~ Lesker:
  "Nobody got out of it alive. We're sending in the mobiles now. The secondaries in there won't work."

References and resources:
- "waldoes":
  A safe way to handle unsafe stuff: "A remote manipulator, also known as a telefactor, telemanipulator, or waldo (after the 1942 short story 'Waldo' by Robert A. Heinlein, which features a man who invents and uses such devices), is a device which, through electronic, hydraulic, or mechanical linkages, allows a hand-like mechanism to be controlled by a human operator. The purpose of such a device is usually to move or manipulate hazardous materials for reasons of safety, similar to the operation and play of a claw crane game" (from Wikipedia HERE). Also see Wikipedia (HERE) for the background of Heinlein's story (WARNING: SPOILERS!) and Technovelgy (HERE).
- "The sub-nucleonic converter":
  Don't forget that our author is dealing here with 1950s science. See Wikipedia (HERE) as well as the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs page on subnucleonics (HERE).
- "Sometimes something went wrong with Rejuvenation":
  Science fiction writers have long made use of rejuvenation. As Wikipedia says (HERE): "Aging is the accumulation of damage to macromolecules, cells, tissues and organs in and on the body which, when it can no longer be tolerated by an organism, ultimately leads to its death. If any of that damage can be repaired, the result is rejuvenation."
- Two other murders that have been made to look like workplace accidents: Isaac Asimov's "The Billiard Ball" (HERE) and L.A.G. Strong's "The Clue That Wasn't There" (HERE).
- Our latest encounter with Gordon Randall Phillip David Garrett, one of many, was his "The Time Snatcher" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

"Plain As the Pug Nose on That Moon Face of Yours"

"Money Talks About Murder."
By Ray Black (n.d.).
First appearance: Mammoth Detective, March 1943.
Puzzle (2 pages).
Online at starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE).

   "A minute mystery to test your detective ability. Can you find the answer? There are several clues."

For a smart cop, a couple of blood-smeared dollar bills inevitably point towards the 
murderer . . . .

~ The victim: Sam Frasier.
~ The police: Patrolman Kindellen and Detective Inspector Jennings.
~ The suspects: Frank Mattison, Symmes Perry, and Bill Joiner.

References and resource:
- "an office in the Flatiron Building":
  Like many an eyesore, the locals have come to love it over time. See Wikipedia (HERE).
- "parimutuel machines":
  They're used in a rather complicated way for betting on the ponies. See Wikipedia (HERE).
Ray Black wasn't what you'd call prolific; FictionMags gives him just two credits:
  (1) "Death by Radio" (puzzle), Mammoth Detective, September 1942
  (2) "Money Talks About Murder" (puzzle), Mammoth Detective, March 1943 (above).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

"We Are Not Dealing with an Ordinary Murder"

"Weapon, Motive, Method ~"
By Robert Arthur (1909-69).
Illustration by Don Neiser (1918-2009; HERE and HERE).
First appearance: Bluebook, June 1953.
Reprinted in 13 Ways to Kill a Man (1965) (briefly reviewed HERE).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at (HERE).

   "Mystery novels, the baron said, are stupid, just fairy tales for grown-ups. Consider instead the way a really clever killer does it, in real life . . ."

What do the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu and the murderer in today's story have in common? "Sun Tzu focused his work on the only weapon that never gets outdated: the human mind" . . . .

Main characters:
~ Baron de Hirsch:
  "Believe me, my friend, when human beings murder each other—and the practice is a common one—their weapons, motives and methods, of which you mystery-mongers make so much—pardon the unintentional alliteration—are far removed from your fictional creations."
~ Narrator (unnamed):
  "It is true that most murders in real life are crudely committed and lacking in drama," I retorted. "However—"
~ "Lucy":
  ". . . is a clever woman, she is beautiful, and she is without scruples. I think that if you study history, you will find no record of a clever, beautiful woman who did have scruples. I do not go so far as to say no woman has scruples, which of course includes morals, but I do say that such women never make any impression on history."
~ "Tom Johnson":
  ". . . was quite incapable of any original thinking whatever."
~ "Ferdinand Relling":
  ". . . knows what tricks to guard against."
~ "the Great American Public":
  ". . . that puzzling paradox."

References and resources:
- "If you go back to Petronius, perhaps":
  Most historians are agreed that Petronius (his middle name) was not only the author of The Satyricon but also one of Emperor Nero's favorites, which should give you an idea of which way Petronius's moral compass pointed. See Wikipedia (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
- We have met with Robert Arthur on several previous occasions in reviews of "Midnight Visit" (HERE), "Too Dumb to Be Fooled" (HERE), and "Time Will Tell" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

"This Was a Case Where There Were Too Many Suspects and Too Little Motive"

"The Party Began . . . with Murder."
By Octavus Roy Cohen (1891-1959).
Illustrations by Gwen Fremlin (HERE).

First appearance: This Week Magazine, October 5, 1952.

Short short story (5 pages; 4 illos).
Online at starting (HERE), continuing (HERE) and (HERE), and finishing (HERE).

     "There was plenty of excitement in the house, not unnatural, considering that murder had been done. The tension ranged from simple disbelief to complete hysteria."

Concerning one of humanity's least admirable emotions, Robert Heinlein once observed: "Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition; they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other." And so it is with the malefactor in today's story. As Ophelia would remark in a different context: "O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!"

Professional insight: "Most of what we had on him was circumstantial, but then most murder evidence is. A murderer doesn’t usually invite spectators to witness his crime."

Comment: This story could be considered a distillation of the classic country house mystery, minus that subgenre's normal paraphernalia.

Principal characters:
~ Sharon Webster, age 22:
  "Completely dead."
~ Narrator (unnamed):
  "Marty and I waited, patiently. That’s what professional cops do — let the suspect keep the center of the stage."
~ Lieutenant Marty Walsh:
  "I had worked with Marty a good many times. He had a way of pulling rabbits out of hats, but it seemed to me that this time he must be stumped. There was too much to go on, rather than too little."
~ George L. Webster:
  "He looked as though he'd been hit by a club."
~ Ann Foster:
  ". . . was tall, dark, graceful and competent-looking. At that moment, however, she looked as though she needed someone to hold her up."
~ Paul Duncan:
  "I didn’t know these people and knew very little about the case, but from what I had gathered, it seemed to me that Duncan would have less motive than any person present for killing the girl."
~ Ronald Norton:
  "So I ask you: Presuming the truth of what he says, what possible motive would I have for killing Sharon?"
- We first encountered Octavus Roy Cohen way back in 2013 (HERE), with his novel Midnight (1922), and yet again (HERE). One of Cohen's novels, The Crimson Alibi (1919), was adapted as a play, a description of which is (HERE). Indeed, quite a few detective fiction works have been turned into stage plays and, if they're lucky, movies; see our compilation (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.