Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes  – ★★★★1/2
This is a fabulous collection of short murder mysteries (sixteen in total) that concern the so-called “impossible crime” scenario, where, seemingly, a murder could not have taken place or a murderer could not have possibly escaped after the commission of their crime (“locked-room” mysteries). I first saw the book reviewed at FictionFan’s Book Reviews and was immediately intrigued. Most of the stories concern the situation of “appearances deceiving” and come from various authors, from Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton to Margery Allingham and Sax Rohmer. In this book, there are such situations as (i) a confused policeman is not believed when he tells his tale of one gruesome murder scene he witnessed at one mysterious house no 13 – only, as it happens, there is no such house in existence; (ii) a night guard gets murdered in a museum room to which there is absolutely no access at night for anyone; and (iii) one invisible force striking people with an ornamented dagger. In this short review, I will highlight only three of these sixteen stories (these three are not necessarily the best or the most memorable ones, but simply the ones I chose for review).
Death at 8.30  by Christopher St. John Sprigg – ★★★★★
This is a story that I had most fun with from this book and perhaps because it is so very eccentric and unusual. Here, a well-known, elusive blackmailer, known only as X. K., sends a threatening letter to the Home Secretary demanding that he pays him the sum of £20.000. If the Secretary does not pay, he would die at precisely 8.30 a.m. on a stipulated day. Despite the blackmailer’s notorious reputation, the Home Secretary does not take this threat seriously and does not pay as he is certain that he can ensure his protection from being murdered at that time. The Home Secretary then isolates himself entirely and beyond our imagination, as well as has guards and ammunition to ensure his own survival beyond 8.30 a.m. However, what follows is the unimaginable. I loved how the author could turn something so improbable and fantastical into something probable and very entertaining, suspending our disbelief. This is one of the best light mystery stories I have read in a long time.
The Broadcast Murder  by Grenville Robbins – ★★★★
This is said to be the very “first locked-room mystery set in the world of radio“. Grenville Robbins was a journalist by profession, and, in his story, a radio presenter is murdered in the middle of a broadcast to thousands of listeners. Thousands of those listeners also heard his final words and his final scream. However, no murderer could have possibly got to the presenter and no murderer could then have escaped after the deed. What is even stranger, the body of the victim then mysteriously disappeared: “Tremayne had been attacked in an empty and unapproachable room, and then had been spirited away – all in a space of less than two minutes” [Robbins/Edwards, 1928/2017: 191]. The story is enjoyable, and has not one, but two twists.
Beware of the Trains  by Edmund Crispin – ★★★★
This is a case of one mysterious disappearance of a motorman (train driver) from a train, all happening when the police receives a false alarm about a burglary on that train: one thing was established and it was that “beyond any shadow of doubt the missing motorman was not anywhere in, on or under the station, nor anywhere in, on or under his abandoned train…and, unfortunately, it was also established that he could not, in the nature of things, be anywhere else” [Crispin/Edwards, 1953/2017: 331]. Edmund Crispin is also the author of The Moving Toyshop  and the creator of Gervase Fen, Professor of English Language at the University of Oxford, who likes to engage in some amateur investigative work in his spare time. Even though it may be relatively easy to guess the solution in this story, it is still an entertaining one and would appeal especially to fans of The Lady Vanishes /The Wheel Spins .