A Private Note on Locked-Room Mystery Novels

img_20200317_175752_058_thumbThis year, coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of its publication, I thought it might be a good idea to read the titles topping the list of the best locked-room mystery novels ever, even though some titles might be difficult to obtain, at least for me.

I would like to remind first that Edward D. Hoch, in his Introduction to All But Impossible!: An Anthology of Locked Room & Impossible Crime Stories by Members of the Mystery Writers of America published by Ticknor & Fields in 1981, came up with a list of the best locked-room mystery novels ever selected by a panel of experts. “The panel of 17 consisted of Robert Adey, Jack Adrian, Jacques Barzun, John L. Breen, Robert E. Briney, Jan Broberg, Fredrick Dannay (Ellery Queen), Douglas G. Greene, Howard Haycraft, Edward d. Hoch, Marvin Lachman, Richard Levinson & William Link, Francis N. Nevins, Otto Penzler, Bill Pronzini, Julian Symons, and Donald A. Yates. In all, they listed exactly 50 novels, though only 21 appeared on more than one list.”

Topping the list were:

  1. The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins), 1935 (Dr. Gideon Fell #6) by John Dickson Carr
  2. Rim of the Pit, 1944 (Rogan Kincaid #2) by Hake Talbot
  3. The Mystery of the Yellow Room, 1907 (Joseph Rouletabille #1) by Gaston Leroux
  4. The Crooked Hinge, 1937 (Dr. Gideon Fell #8) by John Dickson Carr
  5. The Judas Window, 1938 (Sir Henry Merrivale #8) by Carter Dickson
  6. The Perfect Crime: The Big Bow Mystery, 1892 by Israel Zangwill
  7. Death from a Top Hat, 1938 (The Great Merlini #1) by Clayton Rawson
  8. The Chinese Orange Mystery, 1934 (Ellery Queen Detective #8) by Ellery Queen
  9. Nine Times Nine, 1940 (Sister Ursula #1) by Anthony Boucher
  10. The Peacock Feather Murders, 1937 (Sir Henry Merrivale #6) by Carter Dickson
  11. The King is Dead, 1952 (Ellery Queen Detective #23) by Ellery Queen
  12. Through a Glass, Darkly, 1950 (Dr. Basil Willing #8) by Helen McCloy
  13. He Wouldn’t Kill Patience, 1944 (Sir Henry Merrivale #15) by Carter Dickson
  14. (tie) Too Many Magicians, 1966 (Lord Darcy #2) by Randall Garrett; and Invisible Green, 1977 (Thackeray Phin #2) by John Sladek

And now, if you excuse me, I’ll follow reading Hake Talbot’s Rim of the Pit.

5 thoughts on “A Private Note on Locked-Room Mystery Novels”

  1. Rim of the Pit is fabulous. All these books are well worth your time, though King is Dead would be, for me, the least of them (and Il ove Queen).

  2. Wow, hard to believe this list us 40 years old. Not all the titles on it stand up to scrutiny, but it’s been a great source of debate over the years. Maybe we should do a new one in a decade…

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