The Locked Room Mystery

Welcome to Locked Room International, whether you came here looking for English language versions of foreign locked room mysteries and re-issues of forgotten English language classics, or stumbled on our site by accident.

What is a locked room mystery? It is ideally a mystery which follows Golden Age Rules about providing fair clues to the reader and also poses the question: how was it done? A “locked room” is a special case of the more general “impossible crime,” in which one or more victims are discovered dead in what appear to be impossible circumstances (hermetically sealed room, no footprints in the snow, inaccessible site, etc.) It makes no pretense to be probable, no attempt to analyze the human condition, and no effort to probe the detective’s foibles. Its purpose is purely and simply to baffle while entertaining. It challenges the mind, not the heart or the spirit.

Who were the great practitioners of the genre? That depends on who you are. If you are an Anglophone, one name stands above all others: the American-born John Dickson Carr, who spent almost his entire creative life in England. If you are a Francophone, you will know of Pierre Boileau (of the legendary Boileau-Narcejac team) but even you may not have heard of Noel Vindry who, like Carr, specialized in the genre. If you are Japanese, Edogawa Rampo (a phonetic interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe) was one of the early pioneers.

What are the greatest works? There have been two attempts to draw up lists: one in 1981 by an almost exclusively Anglo-Saxon group, and a later effort in 2007 involving a Franco-Belgian majority. The results of both exercises are described in: “A Locked Room Library” Note that almost all the English-language books have been translated into French, but roughly 40% of the French titles have not been translated into English. In the absence (so far) of any mainstream publisher willing to seize the opportunity, Locked Room International (LRI) is stepping into the breach in a small way– at least as far as French-language books are concerned. More recently, we have broadened the scope to include a Japanese masterpiece and a re-publication of a number of English classics. We expect this trend to continue. A list of our publications will be found on a later page.

Who are the great contemporary practitioners of the printed word (we exclude David Renwick, the creator of the Jonathan Creek TV series who has remained exclusively in that medium)? Well, you guessed it, neither of them writes in English, although both appeared on the 2007 list. In alphabetical order, they are Paul Halter and Soji Shimada (Shimada Soji in Japan). Both were featured in the May 2012 BBC 4 broadcast “Miles Jupp in a Locked Room,” about which you will find more later.