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Old 05-21-2012, 09:14 AM   #1
kennyc
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BBC: Why are locked room mysteries so popular?

I don't know. Are they?

Quote:
Why are locked room mysteries so popular?

(Spoiler alert: Key plot details revealed below)


Locked room mysteries - featuring seemingly impossible murders - have intrigued crime fans since the golden age of detective fiction. What's their appeal, and how many ingenious solutions can writers devise, asks Miles Jupp.

Four walls, a door, a ceiling and floor.

As crime scenes go, it doesn't seem particularly promising. Yet for over a century, some of the most ingenious detective writers in the world have been wringing suspense and excitement from locked room murders.

Last month, I found myself locked in a freezing cell in the Tower of London.

With me was Paul Doherty, a history mystery writer, who detailed the myriad ways in which he could easily kill me in just such an environment, with disconcerting relish.

Doherty, who has written more than 90 novels, calmly ran through a long list of macabre possibilities of how one might be done away with - by means of snakes or poison or even felled by arrows fired in through a slit.

The locked room genre is littered with examples of seemingly impossible murders. Perhaps a bloodied corpse is found in a room which had been locked for months. Or a victim, paranoid for his safely, concealed alone in a bank vault, is murdered nonetheless.

As crime novels go, such stories are a world away from contemporary, grimy police procedurals or Ruth Rendell-style tales of psychopaths and loners. Locked room murder mysteries do not aim to shine a light on the darker and more brutal realities of our existence. Each one is a puzzle.

This is a world in which detectives, often posh or whimsical, grapple to solve crimes that should not have been achievable in the first place.

Writers of locked room mysteries are not interested in the psychology of the killer, or the drink problem of the detective. What fascinates them is the thrill of setting up a fiendish crime, and challenging the reader to solve it.

Mild-mannered Robert Adey has an encyclopaedical knowledge of the locked room murder genre. In his 1991 bibliography he lists more than 2,000 of them, and at home has a bulging file bringing his research up to date.

Within the covers of his innocent-looking book is a resource that could launch the career of any would-be crime novelist, or indeed serial killer. The volume contains page after page describing bodies found dead in castles, lighthouses, submarines and deserted houses.

What they have in common is that their being killed should have been inconceivable. And yet they are all stone dead. (Apart from a very few who were pretending in order that they might fool a detective or be switched at the last minute for the body of their identical twin brother. Or a waxwork - over the years these writers have tried almost everything.)

But if the list of puzzles at the front of the book are intriguing, it is at the back of Adey's book where things get even more interesting. Here one can peruse the solutions to these crimes which have bamboozled the most wily of readers and tested the powers of the most perceptive of detectives.

Within this list of solutions can be found bats who dislodge ceremonial daggers so that they plunge into the heart of the victim, or vicious cats whose claws have been dipped in poison, sliding doors, hidden panels and gas-filled glass vials crushed under heel. Each one reveals something of the extraordinary ingenuity of writers of locked room mysteries.


And when it came to ingenuity, none was more prolific or more imaginative that John Dickson Carr.

....
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18108498
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Old 05-21-2012, 12:04 PM   #2
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Some people like puzzles.
Locked room mysteries are just that: puzzles.
A puzzle to assemble, a puzzle to solve.
A quick clean way for a quickie murder mystery: just add characters with, uh, character.
(And a few red herrings.)
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:12 PM   #3
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Americans claim that the first mystery was Murder on the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe, which was a locked room mystery.

I wonder if the countries which claim earlier books to be the first mystery are also referring to locked room stories.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:50 PM   #4
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Locked room mysteries are always resolved by the end of the book. There's no ambiguity about the ending. The author presents a puzzle and the reader has the opportunity to solve it as he/she reads the book and learns additional facts about the setting and the personalities, but even if the reader can't figure out the puzzle, he/she knows that all will be revealed by the end of the book

It's sort of as comforting as a warm cup of cocoa on a cold winter's night.
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Old 05-22-2012, 12:06 AM   #5
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It's been a staple of the mystery genre and the conflict is evident: there's a locked room, so how could the crime have been perpetrated?
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Old 05-24-2012, 12:43 PM   #6
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It's a shame that so few of John Dickson Carr's books are available as eBooks. There are only about half a dozen available.
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Old 05-24-2012, 06:53 PM   #7
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It's a mystery, isn't it ...
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Old 05-25-2012, 01:44 AM   #8
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Well I like the locked room mysteries that I've read ..... though they're vintage books/authors and are usually considered classics in the genre, so they've been very well written in that timeless style.

As to why I like them is probably due to the fact that the crime/mystery genre is my favourite, and the early 20th C authors were so jolly good at them!!
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Old 05-25-2012, 05:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GA Russell View Post
Americans claim that the first mystery was Murder on the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe, which was a locked room mystery.

I wonder if the countries which claim earlier books to be the first mystery are also referring to locked room stories.
Americans may claim that the first mystery novel was written by Poe, but it was not. A norwegian named Maurits Hansen wrote "The murder of engine builder Rolfsen" in 1839, two years before Poe wrote "The Murders on the Rue Morgue", and I have heard that a danish author may have written a mystery even earlier that that. But for the first locked room mystery, I believe Poe gets the credit for it.

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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
It's a shame that so few of John Dickson Carr's books are available as eBooks. There are only about half a dozen available.
More will come. Too bad that Langtail Press (who published this half a dozen ebooks) doesn't seem to grow their collection of books anymore.

Carr is my favorite author of all times, and no other author has given us more intricate and intriguing puzzles. I have solved puzzles by Agatha Christie, Q. Patrick, P. D. James, Ellery Queen and others, but I have never even managed to solve even one puzzle by Carr. And when it comes to impossible crimes, Carr is simply the mastermind of all times. He managed to compose mysteries of the utmost ingenious type in only a couple of months; from the middle of the thirties up to the second world war, when paper rationing started, he published four and even five books a year (!), together with some other material. Top quality books and high production: in my opinion, no one else has ever come close to his level of brilliance

Last edited by Iznogood; 05-25-2012 at 10:13 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old 05-25-2012, 06:49 AM   #10
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Thank you Norway 1456!!!!

Carr was unknown to me prior to reading your post - I now look forward to reading him.

Thanks again!!
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Old 05-25-2012, 09:47 AM   #11
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The brain likes puzzles. The goal is always clear and strong (murder!). From the writer's point of view, they are easy to write.
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Old 05-25-2012, 10:23 AM   #12
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From the writer's point of view, they are easy to write.
Are you sure of that? First you need to find a way to kill someone in a locked room. Of course, you will need to do it in a way that hasn't been done before, or at least have a plot that you are confident that your readers does not recognize.

Second, you must provide enough red herrings so that the reader doesn't find the solution. Remember that the reader must get all the clues, all the facts that is needed to find the solution of his/her own, the only thing you [the writer] can do to prevent the reader from guessing the truth is to try and make the reader misinterpret the clues that are given him/her.

When the truth is revealed at the end, you want the reader to react with the words "Oh, why didn't I think of that myself " and not the words "the author cheated ". Keeping information back and using a too improbable plot is two of the deadliest sins in the puzzle genre
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Old 05-25-2012, 10:27 AM   #13
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Thank you Norway 1456!!!!

Carr was unknown to me prior to reading your post - I now look forward to reading him.

Thanks again!!
You are most welcome. I hope you like his books. Feel free to post back here or PM me with your first impression of your first book from the pen of mr. Carr
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