On 2022 and Beyond – A Retro-Prospective

As the sun slowly sets on another stressful year, it’s the perfect opportunity to look back on 2022 with all of its stresses and dangers as, fortunately, yet another year we’re all together united by the common thread of puzzling detection. Murders in English manors, thefts committed from within locked vaults, and disappearances of people within sight ironically provide a comforting escape for many of us, and in this holiday-and-New-Years seasons I can only be grateful to have not only discovered Golden Age detection on that fatal day in my high school library, but to have discovered a lovely community of people from whom I’ve learned so, so, so much more than I could ever have imagined. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to write this blog between my difficult university classes. Having my passion for this form stoked by so many brilliant, insightful, and educated people in this community has helped guide my career path — the study of the Japanese language to become a translator of detection fiction — so for being such a formative part of my life, to all the practitioners, scholars, and lovers of the devious deed, today and yesterday, alive and dead, I say: Thank you!

To cap off this year, and to lead us into 2023, I wanted to not only take a look back at this year in mysteries and my blog, but to also look forward at what’s to come! I hope together we can make 2023 another murderous year!

The Best Mystery Novels of 2022

The Red Death Murders (2022) by Jim Noy

Mr. J (x 2) himself, of The Invisible Event blogging fame, came out swords-a-swinging in this fantastically written and freakishly dense medieval impossible crime (and then three more) set amidst a plague apocalypse in the world of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Red Death”. While I admit that the impossible crimes are of a somewhat overly technical/physical nature for my tastes, they’re also too novel to not be impressed with. The impossible poisoning has one of the most audacious solutions of all time, something on which I think we can all agree whether we love it or hate it (I have a little of both). I look forward to seeing what, if anything, Jim Noy puts out in the future.

Ripples (2017) by Robert Innes

Somewhat awkward treatment of bisexual people aside, Ripples by Robert Innes is my introduction to this modern plotter of self-published impossible crimes and, wow! The central impossibility of a man walking across a lake as if the surface of the water were a totally physical surface offers up a brilliant explanation accompanied by some cluing with irreverent brashness only befitting Christianna Brand. It has to share space with a romance plot, and the cluing is a little awkward, but don’t let that turn you away, because for fans of impossible crimes this really is the goods.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981) by Sōji Shimada

This, Japan’s most important detective novel ever written, is more than deserving of its esteem. Not, perhaps, the world’s best-written novel nor the most compelling impossible crime, but absolutely the genre’s most stunning serial killing trick of all time. The brilliant solution is not only an absolute shocker, but it’s so ingenious and inventive that attempting to imitate it would be folly: it is, simply, a trademark of this book, and any inspiration or copy-catting will be immediately noticed. There’s little surprise this stands among the very top of my list of the 30 best mystery stories I’ve ever read.

The Author is Dead (2022) by A. Carver

I was not impressed with the locked-room mysteries in this over-zealous locked-room mystery novel from a new-time, self-published author, but the meta-twist involving the motive for the author’s own murder shows a cleverness and deftness to his plotting that not only left me impressed, but made me more than excited to see how his writing grows. A shockingly sharp meta-misdirection extends beyond the confines of the book in a way only a self-published author nobody’s heard of could manage…

The Best Short Stories of 2022

My Mother, The Detective (1997) by James Yaffe

Ellery Queen meets Miss Marple in this delightful little post-GAD mystery series featuring the nameless “Mom”, a little old Jewish mother in the Bronx who, over Friday dinner, can listen to stories of her policeman son’s most recent arrest and tell him, always without fail, why he’s got the wrong person! For an author-centric short story collection, the average quality of My Mother, The Detective is insanely high, but special notes to “Mom Makes a Bet”, a smashingly clever short story bolstered by one of my favorite clues of all time, and “Mom Makes a Wish”, the series’ best reconciliation of deduction chains and psychological clues. The puzzler was in good hands after the Golden Age ended with James Yaffe on the case!

The Red Locked Room (2020) by Tetsuya Ayukawa

Tetsuya Ayukawa is more than just “Japan’s Freeman Wills Crofts” — he is a uniquely clever detective fiction author who specializes in cross-wiring of the impossible crime and the alibi problem. In such stories as “Death in Early Spring”, Ayukawa uses gimmickry associated with locked-room mystery to provide brilliant solutions to alibi plots, and in such stories as “The Clown in the Tunnel” he uses time tables and alibi tricks to inform clever answers to impossible crimes. Add to the mix the fantastically devious procedural “Whose Body?”, and you have a smart and eclectic selection of short detective tales from Japan’s own Golden Age.

The Worst Mystery Novel of 2022

A Question of Proof (1935) by Nicholas Blake

This pretentious detective novel debut from a poet laureate fails as both an example of the character-driven detective story and the plot-driven detective story. The principle cast is characterized purely through arbitrary pseudo-psychological mumblings from the detective instead of by the merits of their own behavior within the narrative, and the central murder of a preparatory school headmaster’s nephew is unremarkable and thinly plotted. The second murder is a surprisingly decent Chestertonian impossible crime buried within this otherwise dull detective story, but A Question of Proof itself has its characters hypocritically criticizing detective novels for arbitrary second murders, so I imagine I’m supposed to do the same for this novel in turn. Dull, empty, and pseudo-literary with neither high-brow nor low-brow interest, A Question of Proof‘s sole silver lining is that it’s the worst but also the first review of 2022, meaning it is only up-hill from there…

The Worst Mystery Short Story of 2022

“Psychological Test” by Edogawa Ranpo

This unremarkable inverted mystery has neither detective nor psychological interests, featuring a killer with all the psychological depth of a spare tire committing a murder as artistically inspired as the process of replacing a spare tire, with a solution as interesting as reading instructions on the process of replacing a spare tire. Add to that a very amateurish translation, and you have yourself with a story with not much in it besides genre-historical interest…

The Best Non-Literature Mysteries of 2022

“The Rehearsal Murder” – Furuhata Ninzaburou Season 1, Episode 7 (1994)

I’ve reviewed part 1 and part 2 of Furuhata Ninzaburō season 1 already, so please check out those reviews for more information on this excellent inverted mystery drama! Inspired by ColumboFuruhata Ninzaburō is a 90s detective drama starring a titular police lieutenant who solves murders all over Japan! Just as in Columbo, at the beginning of every episode we see the culprit commit the crime, and the mystery is in figuring out how Furuhata solves the mystery… The best episode of season 1 of the show is “The Rehearsal Murder”.

In this episode, samurai actor Jushiro, desperate to save his movie studio from being sold and transformed into a mall, concocts a devious plot to tamper with the choreography of a swordfight scene in which his boss guest stars as the villain! Doing this, he’s able to use a real sword to cut his boss’s throat open so that it looks like nothing more than a prop-and-choreography accident during the rehearsal, with dozens of witnesses swearing up and down that the crime was an accident. Now, Furuhata is posed with a new problem: not with proving who committed the murder, but instead with proving that the murder was deliberate and premeditated!

The episode teases you with the clue of a moving moon prop during its entire runtime, and when the explanation for how that nails the killer’s guilt is revealed it is a gob-stopper! This is the show that turned me onto inverted mysteries, and this is the episode that solidified the series’s place in my heart! Absolutely fantastic, but it is by no means the only fantastic episode in the show, so please do consider checking it out at some point!

“The Shogi Tournament Murder” – Furuhata Ninzaburou Season 1, Episode 7 (1994)

This semi-inverted mystery involving an impossible case of cheating (by leaving writing inside of a sealed envelope) and the psychological impossibility of a person cheating to win a game of shogi somehow still making a move so colossally bad that even laypeople realize it cost him the game, is another brilliantly-clued episode from Japan’s signature inverted mystery drama. I could pick three or four more episodes from this show to represent, so let the fact I narrowed it down to these two be testament to the raw quality of these two episodes from this excellent mystery series.

“The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” – Detective School Q Case 4 (2003)

This impossible crime mystery manga’s fan favorite case is “The Kamikakushi Murder Case”, which features the impossibility of a person who can commit a murder on one side of a mountain while standing on the other. While it’s flawed in construction, the story’s ingenious central trick is so damnably audacious and ambitious that it ranks among the best alibi tricks of all time. Utterly brilliant and well-worth the medium-crossing for anyone interested.

Miscellaneous Detective Conan Cases (199X)

Since posting On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’ve Never Read Them, I’ve been dedicated large periods of time to reviewing cases from the eclectic, varied, and massive Japanese mystery franchise Detective Conan. To single out every great case in the series that I’ve reviewed would take ages, but it let be said that Detective Conan contains some of the best mysteries of all time among its 700 individual stories, and I look forward to continuing to read and review this behemoth of Japanese detection in the coming years.

My Favorite Review of 2022

My Mother, The Detective (1997) by James Yaffe

I’m very proud of my review of My Mother, the Detective, in which I believe I’ve done a good job of looking at the collection holistically and dissecting trends in the stories while still managing to convey clearly my thoughts on the individual entries. In my opinion it is the best short story collection review I’ve ever written, and a post I’ve failed to live up to in my following anthology reviews. But if you want to see what I consider the best of my blog, I will always point you in the direction of this post.

My Least Favorite Review of 2022

The Author is Dead by A. Carver (2022)

My woefully inadequate review of this promising authorial debut comes off as scathing and dismissive, as well as thoughtlessly short and superficial. This author reached out to me months before the review was written, waited patiently for a response, and then was punished for his good nature with a poor review written during my burn-out, only to respond with the maximum of human graciousness which I simply didn’t deserve. I am embarrassed of having written so poor a review for Mr. Carver, and am tempted to return to and re-review the book in time.

My Favorite Discussion Post of 2022

The Comprehensive Guide to Ace Attorney for Video Game-Averse Mystery-Reading Persons (+ other mystery games to try!)

The writing is inconsistent as get-out and it’s a somewhat messily-organized post, but this is a 15,000 word, 50 page guide on Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, my favorite mystery series of all time, that I put together in a little under a week. In this guide, I break-down every nook and cranny of the Ace Attorney series, review every case of every game, offer a how-to guide on getting started with the series, offered justification on why you should play the games, and basically did half the work getting you all started on your Ace Attorney journey. Frankly, for such a massive project that I stitched together so quickly, I think it still came out my best discussion post of the year.

Nick Fuller over at The Grandest Game of the World was gracious enough to name my post in his description of the first game’s final case as “the best detective fiction” he’s experienced since January! High praise, indeed!

My Least Favorite Discussion Post of 2022

On the 15 (and a half) Types of Impossible Crimes

This post was a fun idea, but I realized that I only really had ideas for 14 (and a half) categories. Forced to reverse-engineer a 15th, it wasn’t a very good idea, and most people had a-many issues to bring up regarding a few of my categories. I stand by all of them except the last one, but it’s still, all told, a pretty lazy and not at all well-done list. I also shamelessly copy-pasted the introduction from another post on my blog (which I’ve done a few times, but it’s especially bad here). Easily my worst discussion post of the three years I’ve been blogging.

What’s to come for Solving the Mystery of Murder in 2023?

2023 is an exciting year for me! For starters, I plan to progress greatly in my Japanese studies, and I intend to be fluent enough to read novels and short stories by the end of 2023! That means I’ll start being able to regularly review Japanese-language detective fiction and, eventually, be able to join the small team of people translating honkaku mysteries for all you lovely people across the world!

I also plan to work more fervently on writing my own detective stories and I look forward to sharing them all with you! I’m unbelievably lazy when it comes to writing prose, as it’s easy for me to get discouraged and hate everything I make, so I always just sit around with an excess of ideas and no writing to go with them! It might be a little self-indulgent to talk about ideas I might not even write, but I love sharing and am excited about themm!

Some of the ideas I’m most excited for are “The Regret of Nishitouin” and “The Ghost of Duelist’s Perch”. “The Regret of Nishitouin” takes place in a fictionalized version of Feudal Japan, following the ritualistic suicide of samurai Nishitouin Mogami in his locked and sealed bed chamber. The problem, however, is that hara-kiri, ritualistic suicide in which a samurai disembowels himself, also requires the samurai be decapitated, and decapitated Nishitouin surely was… So, how did the executioner escape the sealed room? “The Ghost of Duelist’s Perch” involves the ghost of a gun-duelist who seems to manifest in the middle of a snowy-night at a pair of twin cliffs to commit a murder, and with no footprints to show how a human could’ve escaped it’s clear to everyone that a ghost must’ve done it, but Maria Sharp has different ideas about how a killer could commit the crime and escape without leaving footprints! Both stories have solutions known to close friends, such as TomCat of Beneath the Stains of Time, who praised them unambiguously, which has given me serious motivation to write them out!

Some other ideas I’m excited about that friends liked include “A Spoonful of Cyanide”, the only poisoning story I’ll ever write involving a Toxicology professor whose first-day prank of drinking a harmless liquid from a harmless container from her poison cabinet to scare her class is co-opted by a would-be murderer who swapped her harmless liquid for potassium cyanide. When the poison is stolen off of her unconscious body and more murders follow, the police suspect our narrator, student and wannabe werewolf fantasy author Eden Bitter, of committing the murders! Also, “The Alibi of the Stolen Swords”, an alibi plot in which the police know who must have committed the two murders, but there’s one problem: while the killer has no alibi for the murder, he has a perfect alibi for stealing the weapons that killed the victims, which are two identical swords. With no accomplices to help him acquire the weapons, how could someone commit the murder when it’s impossible for him to get his hands on the murder weapons!?

As for novels, the only novel I currently plan to work on is a project called The Suicide Game, a novel as well as a collection of short stories with an overarching narratively involving the titular death game in which every contestant was on the cusp of ending their life. Now together in a gorgeous mansion inside of which they’re stuck, the contestants are encouraged to murder a competitor and avoid subsequent detection in order to “earn the right to want to live”, whereas all losers are punished severely… The topic of suicide is a very personal one for me and I wanted to work on a life affirming story that called attention to the central paradox of “even people who want to die… want to want to live”, using mystery stories to explore what value life has to a group of people who all possess incredibly different and personal reasons for wanting to kill themselves, and why they either are or aren’t willing to kill another person to escape from the assumed necessity of their own suicides. What does it even mean to them to have “the right to want to live”? It’s a difficult project to work on because I want to find a delicate balance between well-plotted, problem-oriented detective stories and a series of stories with a focus on motive that explore the central theme of the heavily personal nature of the value of life, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. As a short story collection, every story focuses on one “Round” of The Suicide Game, with one central mystery and one murderer, but none of the stories are totally-contained, with cluing and misdirection being able to stem from four stories earlier. The idea of a narratively inter-connected short story collection is a format I’ve always been interested in. I hope whatever I come up with does me credit.

Besides my writing, though, what about my blog?

I’ll be trying to be more organized with my reviews in the future. Starting around February, after I take some time to create a stockpile of posts, I’ll be uploaded semi-weekly. Saturdays will be dedicated to novel reviews, short story collection reviews, or discussion posts, while Wednesdays will be dedicated to non-literature mysteries such as manga, video games, television shows, or what have you.

As for what specific posts I have planned, I’m already working on a lot, including:

On the [n] Ways to Create Alibis and the [n] Ways to Destroy Them is something of a spiritual successor to one of my personal favorite posts, On 50 Locked-Room Solutions of Our Own, in which I offered a taxonomy of 50 potential types of impossible crimes solutions. This post is a similar taxonomy, addressing the many different tricks that can be employed in alibi-centric mystery stories.

On a Defense of Pastiche, Caricature, and Adaptation in Detective Fiction is the most difficult of all of these posts. In it, I am attempting to offer a defense of pastiche in literature, offering many examples of good pastiches, as well as reasons why pastiche and homage are written outside of the cynical answer of “money”. This was conceived as a response to the overwhelmingly negative reception to the recent Marple anthology before the book was even available to purchase.

Father Brown reviews! I will be reviewing every Father Brown story by collection! Huzzah!

Alibi Cracking, At Your Service review! I will be reviewing the show Alibi Cracking, At Your Service, a Japanese drama with a focus on alibi problems!

Part 2 to my Hybrid Mysteries post, which focuses on how to write hybrid mysteries.

Continuing my Detective Conan reviews!

Continuing my Kindaichi Case Files reviews!

Continuing my Furuhata Ninzaburou reviews!

Continuing my Detective School Q reviews!

On the Puzzle Boxes of Christopher Nolan – Thrillers for Mystery Lovers, a post in which I discuss how Christopher Novel creates thriller films for mystery novels with his high-concept science-fiction and complex plot-oriented movies.

…among others!

It’s an exciting year for me, so I hope I can continue to offer you all more reading material! Let it never be said I didn’t have ambition, and I can only hope that ambition pays off meaningfully in readable content.

What’s New For Detective Fiction in 2023?

I don’t know! All I know is that in December (groan), a short story collection of beloved historical mysteries, The Meiji Guillotine Murders by Futaro Yamada, will be released, as well a couple new Yokomizo and Ayatsuji reprints. Seishi Yokomizo’s The Devil’s Flute Murders and Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Water Mill House Murders, to be precise. Sadly, outside of that, I don’t have much of a pulse on promising upcoming reprints, releases, or translations! It’s a mystery, alright! It’s already a promising year, and I can’t wait to see what else comes from the brilliant minds of publishers and writers.

That all being said, I just want to say one more thing: thank you to my friends and readers in the detective fiction circle who have been behind me these last three years as I slowly grow more and more as a blogger. I wouldn’t have come as far this year as I had if not for the endless support from the lovely people in our little community. I had 11,000 reads this year alone! I never thought I’d have a number that large ascribed to me in my entire life! It’s so surreal! I love and value each and every one of you, and I hope we can continue to grow as a community. Here’s to a beautiful 2023, more devious deeds and mysterious murders, and happy reading!

On 30 More of my Favorite Mysteries Ever [Revision 0]

I have some very shocking news for you all today. I, l. Stump, of Solving the Mystery of Murder infamy, am a fan of mysteries. I know, I know, I’ve been running this cooking blog for so long, it must be shocking to some of you to learn that I have interests outside of measuring the precise measure of marinade I need to create the best mushroom sauce. In fact, I love mysteries. I’ve dedicated my entire education and career path to mysteries, studying a whole second language in order to read, translate, and even write mystery novels in that language. Therefore, today I’d like to go a little off-topic on my cooking blog and explore my more less-known passion of mystery novels by sharing all of my favorite mystery stories with you all.

I covered this topic once before, on my list of my 15 favorite impossible crime stories. In the interest of brevity, I will not be reiterating those stories with full descriptions on this post, and will instead offer a list of those stories with no notes or further thoughts; if you’d like further thoughts on my favorite impossible crimes, please consider reading that post linked above! Just like that post, this list will be medium non-specific. Novels need not be the only medium represented; cartoons, comic books, television shows, movies, and video games are all applicable! With that out of the way, I’m pleased to announce my list of favorite mystery stories (revision 0)!

Furthermore, while impossible crimes do appear on this list, I do not consider them necessarily inferior to the entries that appeared on the dedicated impossible crime list! Some were passed up because their interests lie elsewhere, others passed-up because I limited myself to a certain number of works-per-author, and others weren’t included because I read them between writing that list and this one. I don’t want to note all of the reasons why an impossible crime wound up on this list instead of that one, just keep in mind that if I include this on this list it’s at least almost as good as any of the stories from the other!

(*TomCat, if you’re reading this, I’ve left a special recommendation for you in one of the entries I think would appeal to specifically and exclusively you! Hope you enjoy it!)

My Favorite 15 Impossible Crimes
Death of Jezebel – Christianna Brand
The Moai Island Puzzle – Arisu Arisugawa
Whistle Up the Devil – Derek Smith
Murder in the Crooked House – Sōji Shimada
Time to Kill – Roger Ormerod
Till Death Do Us Part – John Dickson Carr
Jonathan Creek (Season 1 Episode 2) “Jack in the Box” – David Renwick
The Great Ace Attorney 2: The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō (Case 3) “The Return of the Great Departed Soul” – Shū Takumi (2017)
Death Among the Undead – Masahiro Imamura
Death in the House of Rain – Szu-Yen Lin
The Kindaichi Case Files Shin (Case 3) “The Prison Prep School Murder Case” – Seimaru Amagi
Case Closed/Detective Conan (Anime-original, Episodes 603-605) The Séance’s Double Locked Room Mystery Case – Chiko Uonji
— “The Lure of the Green Door” by Rintarō Norizuki
— “The Clown in the Tunnel” by Tetsuya Ayukawa (1958)
— “The Ginza Ghost” – Ōsaka Keikichi (1936) trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2017)

Tour de Force (1955) – Christianna Brand

Christianna Brand’s Tour de Force is, fittingly, a Christianna Brand tour de force. She could’ve called it Mystery Par Excellence and the title would be equally accurate!

On a vacation to Italy, a murder is committed at the hotel at which Inspector Cockrill was staying! However, every person at the hotel who could’ve committed the murder has a perfect, airtight alibi: at the time of the murder, they were all standing right before Inspector Cockrill’s very eyes! The solution to this puzzling alibi problem is audacious in the extreme (part of Brand’s brand), and as always she shows acuity in her misdirection; where other authors are content implanting small ideas into your head, Brand can force you to create entire false narratives! My favorite Christianna Brand that isn’t Death of Jezebel.

Green for Danger (1944) – Christianna Brand

In Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger, a murder occurs in a wartime hospital’s operation room as the building is bombarded by air raids! Inspector Cockrill is on the scene to solve the crime before more deaths can occur.

Everything that could be said about Tour de Force and Death of Jezebel can be said about Green for Danger. While the mechanics of the crime are less audacious and shocking, this is the epitome of Brand’s powers of misdirection, and the best example of how well she can really force you to imagine entire stories based on slight suggestion! A magician she is! This also features her best-drawn cast of characters, as a bonus! A third masterpiece from my personal candidate for The Grand Mistress of Crime!

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981) – Shimada Sōji, trans. Ross and Shika Mackenzie (2017)

I’ve covered Shimada’s influence on the detective genre extensively in multiple posts, so I’ll keep this brief. This debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, is easily the most important Japanese detective novel to exist, essentially being the reason that classical detection was ever able to return to Japan in the first place. Shimada went on to help spread the gospel of puzzle plot detection, fostering a new generation of mystery writers… His influence truly cannot be overstated!

In this novel, astronomer Kiyoshi Mitarai investigates a decades-old murder case involving the systematic slaying of six young women in accordance to a crazed astronomer and artist’s idea of how he could create the perfect woman! Only, the artist was murdered before he could conduct the plot, and the serial killing was committed by someone else entirely… The bizarre and shocking case has been a focal point among the Japanese people for decades, but it’s only with the help of a sudden clue from the daughter of a man connected to the case that Kiyoko can piece everything together…

This is an impossible crime, but I neglected it for my favorite impossible crimes list because the locked-room isn’t the focus of the plot, nor is it very impressive. Instead, what The Tokyo Zodiac Murders offers is the genre’s most baffling serial killing, with one of the most stunning murder tricks of all time! A truly inimitable novel worthy of its monumental reputation.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations (Case 2) The Stolen Turnabout (2004) – Takumi Shū

I’ve reviewed the first game in the Phoenix Wright:Ace Attorney franchise rather inadequately on this very blog. The review of the first game was somewhat lukewarm, mostly because the first game isn’t my favorite, but felt I did a better job capturing my love for this fantastic mystery series when I mentioned it in my favorite impossible crime lists and my list of 12 shin-honkaku mysteries I want to read, and detailing my history with the series in On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’re Not Reading ThemPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is actually my favorite mystery series of all time. It is charming, stylized, and often brilliant! Plus, there are ten other games in the series, each boasting 4-6 mystery stories, most of which being very good, so I’ll warn you now that the series will appear on this list more frequently than any other author… I know most of you will wholesale refuse to “lower” yourselves to playing a mystery video game, but this is my cooking blog and I’ll indulge in my love for this series where and when I can, thank you very much! There’s just that many fantastic mysteries in the series I never get to talk about!

Ace Attorney is a mystery video game series in which you play the role of a lawyer, typically Phoenix Wright, who defends clients falsely accused of murder! Every case of Ace Attorney is organized like a Perry Mason novel, with the first half of each day dedicated to conducting investigations and collecting evidence, and the second half being dedicated to trial segments. During trials, witnesses who have either been tricked by the killer or are maliciously hell-bent on seeing your client be sent to prison will offer testimony littered with lies, mistakes, and misunderstandings! Through simple button-prompts, the game invites players to present evidence contradicting these lies, and then through Ellery Queen-esque series of deductions you explain why the lie was told, what the contradiction really means, and what the truth of the situation really is! By repeating this process and slowly destroying the case against your client, you eventually locate the real killer and solve the mystery!

The second case of the third game, Trials and Tribulations, is called “The Stolen Turnabout”. It is, in fact, my favorite case in the entire series, and a perfect case for TomCat over at Beneath the Stains of Time, because this twisty and tricky baroque alibi plot is something that you’d think could only come out of the pages of a Christopher Bush novel!

In a bizarre departure for the series, you defend Mask☆DeMasque, a phantom thief accused of stealing a valuable vase belonging to a family of spirit mediums from a well-guarded museum! Despite the fact he is by profession a great thief, the true identity of Mask☆DeMasque, a pathetic, mild-mannered little man named Ron DeLite, makes Phoenix doubt whether he could be the true thief…

To go even further into the plot would invite spoilers, but this mystery is a winding path of the best sort, in which, just like in a Christopher Bush novel, the series’s most devious killer becomes apparent halfway into the story, but he’s tricked you into incriminating him in one crime so that he may use it as the alibi for another! Complex and densely-packed, this is the peak of a fantastic mystery series! More cases from this series will follow, but spread-out for your reading benefit!

The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939) – John Dickson Carr

When a man named Marcus sets out to prove that eye-witness testimony is inherently unreliable, he invites three witnesses to participate in a psychological experiment. He’ll perform for them, and they’ll answer questions about what they think they saw. What these three witnesses see is a cloaked-and-coated figure figure in a top hat appear with a medical bag, produce a fat green capsule, and force it down Marcus’s throat! Marcus soon dies to poison that was in the capsule! When investigators arrive to investigate, they are met with an unusual situation, though: although these three people all supposedly saw the same murder take place, none of them could agree on the specific details of what they saw! Exactly as Marcus had predicted in his experiment…

This Dr. Gideon Fell tour de force par excellence extraordinaire is a brilliant mystery from the maestro of impossible crimes and gothic murders! While it might seem like sacrilege to say so, this non-impossible mystery is my favorite from the master’s oeuvre that I’ve read so far. Although I stumbled upon the how through sheer merit of what solutions were the most reasonable, the entirely unique and inimitable premise was delivered upon with a suitably surprising solution makes this the ultimate offering from that immense figure of crime, and only reminds me that my neglect of Carr’s writing is unforgiveable…

She Died A Lady (1943) – John Dickson Carr

After two lovers jump off of a cliff, leaving only their footprints behind them, their mutual suicide is accepted as fact. But when the two corpses wash up and it’s discovered they were shot from close range, police struggle to reconcile this with the facts… this killer would to be lighter than air, or capable of floating over the side of the cliff! Fortunately, Henry Merrivale is on scene and ready to offer some illumination!

When I really think about it, I’m actually sure I prefer this one to Till Death Do Us Part, which wound up on my top 15 impossible crimes list… However, I read this one (like all of the Carrs I’ve read) ages ago, so it was likely just a trick of me not remembering which old book I’d read at the time! But really, both novels are fantastic, so I’m glad this list gave me an opportunity to mention both! I intend to read more Carr, starting with re-reads to see if I still love these novels as much as I thought I did, so don’t worry…

As it’s Carr, the impossible is finely laid, and expertly resolved, with brilliantly clued misdirection abound. I never could appreciate Carr as a storyteller, but as a weaver of dastardly deeds and mind-melting mysteries, he’s one of the masters!

Alibi Cracking, At Your Service (Episode 2) “The Alibi of the Stalker” – Ōyama Seīchirō (original), Yoshihiro Izumi (screenplay)

Ōyama Seīchirō is a mystery novelist in Japan who specializes in short fiction, with (apparently) his most popular series being those short stories focusing on a young clockmaker named Tokino Mitani who took over her grandfather’s shop after his death. As her grandfather’s motto was that anything to do with time was the business of a clockmaker, he also offered a special alibi-cracking service in which he would destroy any guilty person’s airtight alibi — for a small fee, of course! Now taking over all of his duties, young Tokino often finds herself secretly assisting a police officer whose instincts always allow him to spot the correct killer in any case, but whose limited imagination prevents him from cracking their usually all-too-perfect alibis…

This series was adapted into アリバイ崩し承ります (Alibi Cracking, At Your Service) a television drama that retells seven of Ōyama original stories, most of which, as you can gather from the premise and title, being semi-inverted impossible alibi problems. The acting is corny and hammy in the extreme, but the actress playing Tokino is absolutely adorable and constantly a joy to watch, and the quality of the stories are quite consistent! The best of the seven episodes is “The Alibi of the Stalker”.

In “The Alibi of the Stalker” a professor of pathology is murdered in her apartment over a dinner of soup. The police quickly zone in on the victim’s ex-husband, who had gotten into a very public fight with the victim hours before the death, and who insists on his own alibi without even being told what time the murder was committed! However, he is quite correct in that his alibi is airtight: the victim’s time of death can be narrowed down based on the contents of the victim’s stomachs. A number of trustworthy and reliable witnesses place him at the bar for this time, meaning it’s impossible for him to have committed the murder!

A lot of the tricks in this series are fairly good redressings of old hat concepts, but this episode’s central trick is entirely unique and brilliant, as well as simple and believable! It’s actually a kind of trick that feels like it ought to have been done before, but to my knowledge certainly hasn’t. This series has struck fertile new ground in the uses of food in mystery fiction, which we always appreciate on this cooking blog! For anyone interested in imaginative alibi plots, this is a highlight with the sweetest detective in all of fiction.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations (Case 5) Bridge to the Turnabout (2004) – Takumi Shū

Back to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and again with the third game, Trials & Tribulations! In this case, Phoenix Wright and his spirit-channeling legal assistant Maya Fey go to a mountain retreat where members of the Fey clan train to sharpen their spiritual acuity. Phoenix is immediately caught off-guard by the young nun who tends to the temple, Iris Fey, who looks uncannily like his ex-girlfriend Dahlia Hawthorne… It was, in fact, the murder case in which Dahlia Hawthorne committed a murder and pinned it on Phoenix many years ago that convinced Phoenix to go to law school and become a lawyer, after the lawyer Mia Fey proved his innocence and sent Dahlia off to her execution… Naturally, encountering this young woman, who is very much the splitting image of the dead woman who put him through the most traumatic experience of his life leaves him deeply uncomfortable…

However, Phoenix doesn’t have time to be uncomfortable with his situation, as that very night, a child’s book author named Elise Deauxnim, who came to the temple for inspiration, is killed with the seven-bladed sword held by the statue of the Fey clan’s founder! Multiple witnesses swear up and down that Iris is the culprit and Phoenix, unable to shake Iris’s resemblance to the girl he was once in love with, takes her case and sets off to prove her innocence…

This case is essentially the culmination of everything that is, was, and was meant to be Ace Attorney. The plot ties back into characters, stories, and relationships established as early as the second case of the first game, and which have only been built on with time. This mystery is the dramatic culmination of every dangling plot thread in the franchise, going back 13 cases, three games, and four years — and many of these plot threads are hidden in shocking, well-hidden ways! What this all amounts to is one of the franchise’s most labyrinthine, emotionally-charged, dramatic, and complex mysteries — perhaps of the entire history of the genre! — involving complex plots, counter-plots, and counter-counter-plots, killers and attempted-killers of killers, death-defying stunts, the genre’s most audacious and Machiavellian serial killer, and the genre’s most inventive and bizarre clue! Add to that that nearly every returning character in the series has their character arcs concluded, as well as a generous sprinkling characters new to this game! It’s only fitting that so much will be packed into this one case, as this is the original finale to the franchise…

Add to all of that that this is the first, and for a while the only, case that calls upon the franchise’s implied magical elements — the existence of Spirit Mediums who can summon ghosts into their body — and that also makes this an exceptional fantasy-hybrid mystery that could only exist in the world of Ace Attorney. As a story that pays off on nearly 60 hours of mystery-plotting build-up, concluding the arcs of every returning character in the series, there has never been a more suitable swansong or finale than this one! While I am happy the series came back like it did, if this were the final mystery in the series like it was intended to be, I think I’d always be happy with this beautiful conclusion.

“Death in Early Spring” (1958) – Ayukawa Tetsuya, trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2020)

Kazuomi Kokuryō has been fatally strangled at a construction site near Gofukubashi 3-Chōme! The only possible suspect is Fukujirō Fuda, who was competing with Kazuomi for the affections of a girl, but unfortunately for Inspector Onitsura the young man has a perfect alibi…

Tetsuya Ayukawa was a Japanese proliferator of locked-room mysteries, but more than impossible crimes Ayukawa is the Japanese alibi! To Japan what Freeman Wills Crofts or Christopher Bush are to the Anglosphere, Tetsuyawa Ayukawa is famous for his unique perspective that a locked-room is merely a spatial alibi, and an alibi a temporal locked-room… Through this philosophy, Ayukawa’s most notable tales utilize alibi tricks to construct impossible crimes, and impossible crime tricks to construct alibis, creating a unique portfolio of crime fiction blending two rarely-reconciled sub-genres!

As it happens, “Clown in the Tunnel”, another story in the same collection which appeared on my favorite impossible crimes list, was a prime example of utilizing alibi trickery to create an impossibility! It’s only fitting, therefore, that my other favorite Ayukawa story is the one in which he uses locked-room trickery to create a perfect alibi for a murder in a construction site… This one is a brilliant wrinkle on the Croftsian time-tabler, and for my money better than any of the Crofts I’ve read, all in less than two dozen pages…

Death On The Nile (1937) – Agatha Christie

Honeymooning newly-wed Linnet Doyle attempts to commission Poirot to deter the stalking of her husband’s ex-girlfriend and her ex-friend Jacqueline De Bellefort. Poirot refuses payment, but unfortunately fails to deter Jacqueline from conducting whatever schemes she has cooked up. When an unsuccessful attempt on Linnet’s life is followed by a more successful one, however, it comes to light that Jacqueline isn’t the only person on the ship with a feasible motive to commit this gruesome murder!

Agatha Christie, the Grande Dame of Crime, doesn’t need much of an introduction! One of the progenitors of the Golden Age of fairplay detective fiction, Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time in over a dozen different languages. Her most famous literary creation is the egg-headed Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, who is characterized by his excessive need for tidiness and cleanliness. Death on the Nile is just one of the many fantastic Hercule Poirot novels that demonstrates how, even as she got on in her career and started to get comfortable with some of her old, well-known tricks, she still knew how to throw out brilliant, original plots! Death on the Nile is twisty and tricky and one of the best novels from one of the best authors of the genre. Her writing is always immensely readable, too, making this a very approachable and accessible novel at that. This is the goods! I won’t mention Agatha Christie too much, because if I mentioned every fantastic Agatha Christie novel this would just become a long list of Agatha Christie novels most of you have already read…

“Mom Makes a Bet” (1953) – James Yaffe

I’ve reviewed this collection of Mom short stories on the blog already, so check it out for reviews of the other stories in My Mother, the Detective! The series follows a little old Jewish mother living in the Bronx who, using a combination of Miss Marple-esque understanding of human nature and Ellery Queen-esque logical deduction chains, helps her police officer son David with difficult cases over Sunday dinner! The series is filled with very fun post-GAD mystery stories, and the best of the lot is “Mom Makes a Bet”.

When a rude customer winds up dead in his soup, clearly having ingested poison, David is sad to have to arrest the mild-mannered waiter whom everyone loves. But, of course, since the poison could have only found its way into the victim’s soup between being prepared in the kitchen and winding up on the victim’s table, the only reasonable explanation is that the waiter is the killer… Mom has other ideas, however, based on nothing but the clue of the victim claiming to be on a low-sodium diet and ordering saltless soup!

The deduction chain that derives from this clue is beautiful, allowing Mom to bring the crime home to a surprising culprit with a whole hidden layer to the plot going on right under our noses! This story really is just like any of the best early-era Ellery Queen stories, only with a cross-dressing and aged-up Queen… I’m sure the pair of writers making up Ellery Queen approved of this fantastic story!

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 (Case 3) The Inherited Turnabout (2011) – Yamazaki Takeshi

Wait? 2004 was supposed to be the finale of Ace Attorney? But didn’t you just say that this game came out in 2011? Yeah, corporate meddling saw to it that Ace Attorney would keep being made after it took off in the west. Game 3 was supposed to be the end, and there are now 11 games in the series, so chew on that a little…

The Miles Edgeworth Investigations spin-off series is a little different from a normal game in this series, in that these mysteries are formatted more like traditional murder mysteries. You no longer have clients to defend, merely a mysterious scenario to unravel, and you now play as Miles Edgeworth, the antagonist from the first game in the series! This format lends itself well to the new writer’s unique style of plotting, and the best case in the whole Miles Edgeworth Investigations series is “The Inherited Turnabout”.

When a murder is committed on the set of a baking show, Miles Edgeworth begins to realize that this murder is related to a case investigated by his father in the same location, under the same circumstances, nearly 20 years prior! As the case unfolds, you investigate both crimes, playing as both Edgeworths, in order to solve this generations-crossing murder!

The setting of a baking show is utilized well in this episode, as it’s the kind of setting that’s brought to its insane logical extreme by the post-revival Ace Attorney quirkiness. This is one of the longest and most complex cases in the whole series, as it’s essentially two murder mysteries stitched into one greater, overarching plan! A time-defying murder that defies generational boundaries in one of the most unusual settings for it, this is a very well-done and ingenious entry into one of the best games in the series, though every case in this particular game is simply fantastic… How many more Ace Attorney cases will I mention, you ask? I’d say we’re about halfway through my favorite Ace Attorney cases…

Furuhata Ninzaburō (Season 1, Episode 7) “The Rehearsal Murder” (1994) – Kōki Mitani

I’ve reviewed part 1 and part 2 of Furuhata Ninzaburō season 1 already, so please check out those reviews for more information on this excellent inverted mystery drama! Inspired by Columbo, Furuhata Ninzaburō is a 90s detective drama starring a titular police lieutenant who solves murders all over Japan! Just as in Columbo, at the beginning of every episode we see the culprit commit the crime, and the mystery is in figuring out how Furuhata solves the mystery… The best episode of season 1 of the show is “The Rehearsal Murder”.

In this episode, samurai actor Jushiro, desperate to save his movie studio from being sold and transformed into a mall, concocts a devious plot to tamper with the choreography of a swordfight scene in which his boss guest stars as the villain! Doing this, he’s able to use a real sword to cut his boss’s throat open so that it looks like nothing more than a prop-and-choreography accident during the rehearsal, with dozens of witnesses swearing up and down that the crime was an accident. Now, Furuhata is posed with a new problem: not with proving who committed the murder, but instead with proving that the murder was deliberate and premeditated!

The episode teases you with the clue of a moving moon prop during its entire runtime, and when the explanation for how that nails the killer’s guilt is revealed it is a gob-stopper! This is the show that turned me onto inverted mysteries, and this is the episode that solidified the series’s place in my heart! Absolutely fantastic, but it is by no means the only fantastic episode in the show, so please do consider checking it out at some point!

The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye (1928) – Brian Flynn

Brian Flynn, that author recently rediscovered by Dean Street Press, is one of my most sorely-neglected authors and it’s so odd… When the first batch of ten were released, I ate up three or four of them and really generally enjoyed them! But then the next ten came out, and I was just already on reading other stuff and never got back to him… Hmph…

Brian Flynn’s oeuvre is eclectic. There is no style of plotting that defines his Anthony Bathurst series, and that is exactly what defines his writing. Every damn kind of plot under the sun from adventure stories to chase-thrillers and pulp-ish yarns and classical detection and legal dramas and inverted mysteries and impossible crimes has been written by Flynn, but sad purist as I am it has always been his third novel, the pure, classical mystery novel of The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye that I’ve always enjoyed the most!

It’s odd I haven’t read more of Flynn, actually, because this stands as one of my favorite mystery novels of all time, boasting a devious piece of meta-misdirection that’s as clever as it is original! The workmanlike attitude of the novel betrays none of the very subtle, deft, and imaginative cluing under the hood that eventually culminate in the reveal of a stunning killer and a clever plot! Very good stuff here!

“The Hornet’s Nest” (1968) by Christianna Brand

When a rotten man is murdered at a dinner celebrating his soon-to-be nuptials, killed by a poisoned apple, Inspector Cockrill is at hand to resolve the crime!

Christianna Brand is at top-form in this short story offering, providing all of the brilliant twistiness, misdirection, and false-thought-implanting of any of her best novels. This reasonably short story is impressive in managing to do all it does in its page count, even managing to fit in three false solution(!), without feeling bloated or like it’s rushing through to the end! The story isn’t even 30 pages long, at that… Brand’s brilliance is always on display, but especially so in this story which I consider one of the best-constructed puzzlers of the short-form mystery.

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 (Case 5) The Grand Turnabout (2011) – Yamazaki Takeshi

Long after exposing the culprit of the failed assassination of the president of a far-off nation of Zheng Fa, Miles Edgeworth is shocked to find out that he’s been killed, this time entirely for real! Together with his partner, Kay Farafay, Miles begins to investigate the murder, but ends up being sidetracked by a kidnapping of a child that might have something to do with the murder… Soon Miles Edgeworth learns that the series of seemingly unrelated murders he’s recently investigated have a common link, and the plot spirals fully out of his control!

What Bridge to the Turnabout was to Trials and Tribulations, The Grand Turnabout is to Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2. Similarly, this is a very complex case that benefits from it being the culmination of long build-up, tying the resolutions of multiple other mysteries together into a grand narrative, and it’s a striking send-off for the Miles Edgeworth Investigations side-series… While this one is a little less tightly-wound than Bridge to the Turnabout, as that one bakes the long-lasting plot threads more intimately into the central murder plot in a way that makes the actual murder mystery more dense, this is still nonetheless another striking finale case for Ace Attorney that expertly brings multiple parallel long-running plots dovetailing together into a striking end point. Fantastic fun and shows just how damn convoluted (in a positive way) Ace Attorney could really make itself without losing control of its stories or becoming uncomfortably bloated!

The Miles Edgeworth Investigation series is also notable in that many of the mysteries touch up on topics that feel more “hard-boiled” than the rest of the series, including smuggling rings, kidnapping, international political conflicts, judicial corruption, and even the involvement of Interpol. Let it be a testament to Yamazaki, then, that never do his plots ever stop feeling like classical Golden Age mysteries in construction despite the subject matter! This spin-off series is a great little nugget of Ace Attorney canon.

Detective Conan / Case Closed (Case 18 – Volume 7 Chapters 2-7) “The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case” – Gosho Aoyama

Detective Conan is the biggest Japanese franchise of all time, having well over 700 unique mystery stories within it across every medium of comic, animation, video game, live-action television, plays, novels, movies, and everything else you could think of! It’s probably the series that turned a lot of today’s Japanese mystery writers onto the genre, and to celebrate this fantastic series I’ve been reading, reviewing, and ranking every single case in the entire series… While I might need to reevaluate my ranking a little, as it stands “The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case” is my favorite case in the whole series, and a fantastical musical murder mystery…

In “Moonlight Sonata Murder Case”, an island town is haunted by the ghost of a world-famous pianist who, after going mad, locked himself and his entire family in their house and burnt the whole place down… As he burnt to death, the pianist stayed at his piano, playing the Moonlight Sonata until his very last breath! Now, the piano has become something of a haunted relic of the island, with it playing the Moonlight Sonata all on its own, and every time it does, a corpse is soon to follow… In light of these strange events, famous detective Richard Moore is summoned to put a stop to things…

This is a fantastically written murder mystery which turns on a neat alibi trick that entirely relies on the fact that the case is a serial killing — it simply wouldn’t work as well in a single death! While I think the murder plot itself isn’t as brilliant or audacious as many other cases in the series, “Moonlight Sonata Murder Coast” can still be considered the best-constructed story in the whole franchise, eventually ending on a sour note that becomes something of a trauma for Conan throughout the series… The ending is beautiful, giving the killer a touching send-off. It works even better in the anime adaptation, where you can hear the Moonlight Sonata playing in the background as the house burns… That all said, I’m willing to admit that after ranking 70+ stories of this series (about 1/10 of the way done), I’ll be sitting down and reevaluating my opinions soon. But as it stands, this is still the perfect representative case for Detective Conan

The beginning of this story, in which the man commits suicide by fire, especially appeals to the sensibilities of this cooking blogger.

The Case of the April Fools (1933) by Christopher Bush

Ludovic Travers, a financier, is invited to a party by a pair of men who intend to make a fool out of him on April Fools day… However, when the prank is co-oped by a mysterious party to contrive a dastardly double murder in which the two plotting men die — one man shot, the other stabbed — Travers is now embroiled in a complex and mysterious scheme against his wishes..!

Described as “to the alibi what John Dickson Carr is to the impossible crime”, Christopher Bush is a master of alibis like Freeman Wills Crofts but with an extra dose of imagination and flair… It might seem odd, then, that my first chosen Bush novel is one without much of a focus on alibis, but of all the Bushes this is the one I adore most. It isn’t the most baffling or tricky, but the April Fools motif is used expertly to create a very clever and ingenious murder plot in perhaps the only novel-length exploration of the concept! Fantastic Bush that borders more on the Carr-ian than the Croftsian…

The Case of the Missing Minutes (1936) – Christopher Bush

Trowte, a vicious child abuser, gets his just-desserts when his home is broken into and he’s knifed right in front of his door! While taking care of his now-orphaned 10 year old granddaughter Jeanne, Ludovic Travers manages to find the killer but is damned by the cussedness of his perfect alibi…

I couldn’t help it! Now this is vintage Bush, complete with a killer obvious halfway through the novel and sudden shifts from a whodunit to a howdunit! The alibi-trick is one of Bush’s best, and the ending is incredibly sweet…

In the only honorable mention on this post, Cut Throat by Christopher Bush has an alibi plot that is equally brilliant, if not even more so, but I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the driest pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I almost never find myself caring about straightforward prose, but my eyes glossed over multiple times while reading it and I had to try to finish the thing on four separate occasions. It turns into a great mystery novel, but it needs more of a running start than these two… Nonetheless, I think very highly of it nowadays, but I still had to reduce it to being a mere honorable mention…!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice (Case 2) The Magical Turnabout (2016) – Yamazaki Takeshi

In the sixth game of the main Ace Attorney series, Spirit of Justice, we return to classic courtroom battles. Spirit of Justice actually has a ludicrous over-arching narrative involving a lawyer-hating country whose government you overthrow through pure logic and reason. It’s, frankly, not a very good story, and one of the worst-realized in the series, but the overall quality of mystery-writing in this game is still very high, and much higher than many of the new-era games preceding Spirit of Justice. It makes it very refreshing, therefore, when you get to take a break from the oppressive revolution storyline with Case 2, The Magical Turnabout, in which a fantasy stage play (mixed with magical performances from all of the actors) ends with an actor being stabbed for real at the end of a sword-stabbing magic trick, and Trucy Wright being accused of the crime!

This story has lots of fun with its magic setting, including going so far as to have you “cross-examine” a magic trick and scenes in the play! Not only aesthetic, the magician lore and stage production play a heavy part in the plot, creating one of the most unique and fun murder mysteries in the entire Ace Attorney series, and a stand-out from the modern era of games that works well without relying overmuch on gimmickry or ongoing plotlines! A pure, traditional mystery from the franchise that’s as good as any other!

This game also introduces the concept of being able to view the memories of the victims’ ghost! Because this is a well-known facet of the country’s legal system, many killers take advantage of this to create misleading memories for the victim… Part of the mystery-solving of finding lies and contradictions now involves finding “tricks” in the senses of the victim! What does the victim see, hear, taste, smell, or feel at his time of death that shouldn’t be there? This is a brilliantly-handled gimmick that adds lots of fun mystery-solving concepts, and while it’s not used in this particular case it is used in three of the other four and I couldn’t help but add a footnote here for the other fun mysteries in Spirit of Justice. Good fun all-around!

Furuhata Ninzaburō (Season 2, Episode 1) “The Lawyer Murder” (1995) – Kōki Mitani

We return to Japan’s answer to Columbo. The first episode of the second season, “The Lawyer Murder” is a classic of the series! In it, Furuhata’s bumbling sidekick Imaizumi is arrested for a murder after accidentally stumbling into the crime scene. The catch, however, is that the true killer is the very same lawyer who is now defending him in court. The killer is now trying to manipulate the court in a professional capacity to get Imaizumi arrested for his own crime!

This is a fantastic episode and one of the best examples I can think of to demonstrate how much more comfortable Furuhata is with getting high-concept than Columbo. The setting of a courtroom is intrinsically thrilling, and watching the killer act in his capacity as a lawyer to manipulate a murder trial is a fantastic, tense way to execute on the inverted mystery premise! The killer is eventually caught on a “slip of the tongue” trap that is so common in this series, with the show having a dozen different variations of the idea. However, this is easily the best one, a slip of the tongue buried under so many layers of assumptions and inferences that it’s impossible to spot even though it’s staring you right in the face! This is an exceptional inverted mystery that shows this drama’s deftness of plotting and concept that puts it over Columbo in my estimation.

Fun note: This episode actually inspired a case of Ace Attorney! It was so shocking to watch this episode and realize that I’ve seen the core of the plot before, but the two stories are different enough that seeing one doesn’t hurt the other…

“The Alibi of Issunbōshi” (2019) – Aoyagi Aito

I was surprised to mention this story, because it’s one I actually finished while making this list! This Japanese-language short story is the first story in the Mukashi Mukashi Aru Tokoro ni, Shitai ga Arimashita (Once Upon a Time, There Was a Corpse) collection by Aoyagi Aito! In this collection, every story is a murder mystery in the tradition of the fairplay Golden Age puzzlers with a twist: every mystery is cobbled together from the magic-filled stories of Japanese folklore!

“The Alibi of Issunbōshi” is a twisting of the epic of Issunbōshi, a tiny man who, although only an inch tall, shows immense bravery in wanting to protect his princess! As per the original legend, Issunbōshi is eaten by an Oni (a Japanese ogre-like demon) while protecting the princess, but manages to defeat the beast by attacking it from inside! He’s awarded a magical hammer that grows him to a man standing over 1.8 meters tall!

However, deviating from the classical tale, it later comes out that Issunbōushi is now also the main suspect in a murder. The detective is convinced Issunbōshi is guilty, but is thrown off-kilter by his unusual alibi: at the time of the murder… Issunbōshi was inside of the stomach of an Oni, a fact attested to by many witnesses, including 9 members of the Princess’s own faithful royal guard! How could Issunbōshi have committed this murder, then?

I’m not ashamed to admit that, as I am American and not Japanese, I had no pre-conceived attachment to the fable of Issunbōshi. I don’t really know any Japanese fairytales outside of the few that get referenced in anime or video games, honestly. Going into this collection, I was worried my enjoyment would be curbed by this fact, but I was wrong! This first short story is an excellent example of the fantasy-hybrid mystery, utilizing its magical aspects in clever, properly-clued ways to tell a unique mystery plot that can only exist inside of this story. The alibi plot meets fairytales, and I’m all for it! If this is the standard of this series, I can only look forward to my Japanese expanding far enough to read the rest of the stories…

The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932) – Ellery Queen

Queen, the King, is the American detective story. So much is said about this pair of pseudonymous writers ad nauseum, and as with a few others on this list Queen hardly warrants an introduction. He is the byword for mysteries relying on rigorous chains of deduction and sliding-piece puzzlers, and a favorite of so many people! The Greek Coffin Mystery, involving the murder of a Greek art dealer, is easily the most famous of their “National” series, and for good reason, as the plot is brilliant and a blasted classic! Perhaps a not very inspired pick, but it’s deserved!

As is the standard with early-era Queen, The Greek Coffin Mystery presents us with a mysterious problem that is solved through deftly-placed clues and impressive (if but occasionally dubious) logic unraveling a very neat, complex scheme! Forgive this rather generic description, but Queen really is both “see it to believe” phenomenon, and also someone whom you all have already seen and already believe! That being said, it’s easy to see how Ellery Queen has become so noteworthy that no less than four authors in Japan have developed into worthy successors to his style and form… Fantastic work!

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Case 3) The Golden Court (2012) – Takumi Shū

And here we’ve come to the final Ace Attorney case on this list (to great applause, I’m sure!) Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a spectacular crossover between Ace Attorney and fellow mystery-solving detective series Professor Layton, a game franchise that focuses more on brain-teasers and logic problems than murder mysteries! In this bizarre mash-up, the protagonists of both games and their sidekicks are transported to Labyrinthia, a fantastical medieval kingdom inside of a storybook where witches run amok among the people! Here, all trials of law are Witch Trials, and instead of defending innocent people accused of murders you defend women falsely accused of casting spells and being witches! By using the witches’ magic tome, which contains all of the rules by which magic must abide, as well as logic and physical evidence, you point out lies in the testimony of witnesses who are hell-bent on seeing your client burnt for their witchcraft!

This is an insane premise. Ace Attorney never shied away from hinting at magic in its universe, and even using it in four of its 30+ mysteries, but no game in the series has committed as hard to such a far-out premise as this non-canon spinoff — which, frankly, only works because it is non-canon. The game perfectly blends elements of both series, so that every plot, character, and locale would be right at home in either Professor Layton or Phoenix Wright. While I think the overarching story will frustrate some people who aren’t fans of Professor Layton, relying on its dubious science-fiction to explain everything away, the individual magical murder mysteries are just cracking good, vintage Ace Attorney cases that spin excellent mystery plots from this outrageous fantasy premise.

This particular case is not only one of my favorite cases in the series and one of my favorite pieces of mystery-writing ever, but it also beautifully captures everything that this crossover should be! When Professor Layton — the Professor Layton, protagonist of the Professor Layton game series! — is murdered by being turned into a golden statue by magic, Phoenix’s own legal assistant Maya Fey is accused of the murder by witnesses who claim to have seen her committing the crime! Worse yet, one of the witnesses who believe Phoenix’s legal assistant committed the murder… is Layton’s own assistant, Luke Triton, a young boy only about ten years old who is training to be a gentleman like the Professor! Outraged and confused by this apparent betrayal by their friend Maya, and Phoenix’s betrayal in defending her, Luke Triton is one of the critical witnesses in the case against Maya Fey, which risks seeing her executed for a crime she didn’t commit…!

Maya Fey being a defendant in an Ace Attorney case is normal — at a stretch if you play with technicalities, she’s the defendant in every single game she makes a speaking role in. But committing to the shocking premise of murdering the protagonist of one of the two series you’re crossing over was a huge shock, and by pinning it the secondary protagonist of the other game series in the crossover, you get to have a surreal kind of confrontation that suits both games but could exist in neither without the crossover. Furthermore, putting Layton and Triton into this kind of situation is very unlike Professor Layton, where Layton always has a hold on every situation he’s in and rarely in dire straits. By taking it to this opposite extreme and putting Layton in extreme danger, you also put Luke Triton out of his depth, placing him into a situation he’s never been in and getting some surprisingly fresh characterization out of this otherwise typically one-note character! It especially works that Layton usually reigns in Luke’s more childish tendencies, so giving him this room to be awash in very childlike antagonism and anger and confusion makes it an entirely in-character scene that still shows a side to his personality that other factors typically keep in check — a more compelling use of a crossover to enhance characterization, I’ve never seen!

Of course, the mystery plot at the heart of this is fantastic too! It’s as good as any of the best cases from Ace Attorney, with a surprising and creative culprit and a twist that expertly makes use of the unique setting of the game, this being the best use of magic in any of the game’s cases. But for all of that, what makes this case so strong in my estimation is how perfectly this case does everything that any crossover should strive to do, perfectly blending elements of the source material so masterfully that what comes out of it is something that could existence in either game, but needs the other to thrive. Using one to enhance the other, this crossover isn’t mere fanservice: it’s a genuine exploration of how the two games can bring something special to the table. In my opinion, not only the best crossover of mystery fiction, but one of the best crossovers of all time, and nothing displays it more than this excellent, surreal, fantasy-infused mystery case.

This is the last Ace Attorney case on the list, and I think I’ve done a good job at covering the series in a variety of different contexts. Cases that function from paying off on years of build-up, cases that thrive on their implementation of unusual elements like magic and ghosts, cases that incorporate more hard-boiled elements, cases that cross generational-boundaries, cases that play with alibis and have fun with the theming of more outlandish mystery sub-genres, and pure good fun cases that excel without reliance on any gimmick, content to just be excellent murder plots. The series is excellent and boasts an insane variety in style, form, and structure while rarely compromising on quality! I hope some of you reading this aren’t too annoyed with Ace Attorney‘s representation on this list, and are instead inspired to seek the series out and play through it for truly fantastic mystery plots…

Magpie Murders (2016) – Alan Conway

Magpie Murders is the latest modern homage to the Golden Age following the exploits of German detective Atticus Pünd! In this thrilling installment in the series, Atticus is commissioned to investigate the death of a house-servant in a faraway countryside village, not only to determine if the death was murder, but to also bring the crime (if any should there be) home to the culprit! What follows is another triumph from this author that waves all of the clues under your nice with one hand while making you look at the ceiling with the other, perfectly capturing the energy and spirit of Agatha Christie and her contemporaries…

…only, the ending isn’t there!? What kind of mystery novel ends without a solution!? The kind, as it happens, which appears in Magpie Murders (2016) – Anthony Horowitz.

In actuality, the 300 pages you just read was an unfinished manuscript, sent to an editor to finalize for publishing! Dot the t’s and cross the i’s. Only, as we just established, the ending is missing! Well, she can’t publish this novel without its final chapter, so she goes to find Alan Conway, only to find him murdered..!

This novel is an utterly brilliant meta-mystery in which the interplay between a modern Golden Age-styled mystery novel and a modern-world murder mystery are central to the narrative. The novel is not only entirely fairplay, but blindingly clever at misdirecting you, boasting wholly original solutions to both problems that dovetail into one another beautifully. This is also a mystery novel that explores mystery novels intro- and retrospectively wonderfully through its “novel-within-a-novel” structure. A modern masterpiece if there ever was one from someone who clearly understands the genre and what it sets out to accomplish.

“A Stretch of the Imagination” (1973) by Randall Garrett

Randall Garrett is an author from well after the Golden Age who sought to keep the blood of mysteries flowing with his fantasy-imbued locked-room mystery Too Many Magicians, featuring his wizard-detective Lord Darcy in an alternate 20th century where the laws of magic evolved in place of the laws of physics. I don’t entirely love Garrett, as I feel he doesn’t commit as much to the fantasy side of his writing as he should — he doesn’t produce mysteries informed by fantasy, he produces mysteries set within fantasy — stopping him from being a proper classic crafter of the hybrid mystery. However, “A Stretch of the Imagination”, collected in his Lord Darcy short story collection Murder and Magic is still a damn good locked-room mystery in spite of all that!

This locked-room mystery, involving a hanging in a room that nobody had entered or left for quite some time, has a devious and dastardly original hanging trick that, while not enhanced by the fantasy elements of this story, is still a pleasure to see in action! A hybrid-mystery that makes for a better pure mystery than the hybrid variation, nonetheless excellently done!

“The Urban Legend Puzzle” (2001) – Norizuki Rintarō

Norizuki Rintarō, detective, hears from his police officer father a description of a recent murder of a university student in which, after a party, a young woman returns to the house to retrieve her bag. The next day, the body of the student who hosted the party is found, with a message written in blood reading “AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN’T TURN ON THE LIGHT?”. Norizuki is shocked; after all, this is the exact same thing that happened in an urban legend he’s heard about! Together, the two men get to work to solve the mystery of this urban legend-mimicking murder!

As you can tell from the fact that the author shares his name with his detective, and his detective just so happens to be part of a crime-solving team with his cop father, Norizuki Rintarō is one of the many Japanese descendants of Ellery Queen! Another story of his, a biblio-locked-room mystery called “The Lure of the Green Door”, also appeared on my list of favorite impossible crimes, and his excellent story is pretty much just as good! The plot eventually turns on breaking apart an airtight alibi with a satisfying solution, nd the urban legend backdrop is compelling! While neither story have the rigid chains of deduction that are so prevalent in Ellery Queen or Arisugawa Arisu’s Moai Island Puzzle, and I’m proud to say I fairly easily solved both stories, this is nonetheless an excellently clever and well-realized tale from another master of the Japanese detective story! It was collected in Passport to Crime — the Janet Hutchings one, not the John Pugmire one — so go read it and the other stories in that collection!

Death After Evensong (1969) by Douglas Clark

One of my favorite spin-off genres of the classical Golden Age puzzler is the ways that authors after the Golden Age blended the clue-heavy puzzlers with more modern trappings. One of my favorite examples is the very excellent Roger Ormerod who blends the private eye thriller with a fairly-clued impossible alibi problem in his superb debut, Time to Kill, which I mention on my favorite impossible crimes list, as well as in the very traditionalist locked-room mystery More Dead than Alive. Recently I learned that another member of this esteemed spinoff-sub-sub-genre is Douglas Clark, who writes the same sort of traditionally fairplay Golden Age-styled puzzle plots, married with the styles of gritty post-World War II police procedurals!

Death After Evensong is a superb impossible crime involving a bullet that disappears from mid-air, the method for which reveals how well Clark could incorporate modernity to create a truly unique, baffling, and striking impossible crime set-up and resolution that likely couldn’t or wouldn’t exist in the Golden Age proper. Nothing short of fantastic, and I’m excited to see some of Clark’s famously genius poisoning methods in his other novels.

Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Case 5) Smile at Hope in the Name of Despair (2012) – Kazutaka Kodaka, Akira Kawasaki

I’ll be frank, right out of the gate, I have a very complicated love-hate relationship with the Danganronpa franchise. I consider myself a fan, but with about a dozen footnotes, conditions, and exceptions. The series is very teeny-bop, with lots of unfunny and crass humor filling the runtime. I also don’t like any of the mysteries of the first game, and it takes nearly the entire second game to get to the first mystery in the series I think is genuinely great (that being the case immediately before this one). After that it’s a lot more consistent, with the third game in the series frequently having very good mysteries, as the game writers commissioned an award-winning mystery novelist to co-write and plot the cases for the game. If I were to recommend Danganronpa to a mystery fan, I’d probably recommend only playing Danganronpa V3, because while there’s a lot of overarching plotwork, the series’s interweaved narrative is also ludicrous and I believe it’s better to ignore it. V3‘s ending also comes off a lot better if you’re not an established Danganronpa fan who is likely to get upset at the way it de-canonizes the entire franchise (including itself!) in a shocking way that made everyone incredibly, incredibly angry. Plus, as I mentioned, because they’re written by a proper mystery novelist, they’re as a consequence consistently among the best cases in the series, being very clever mechanical crimes. That being said, the best mystery in the series is actually truly fantastic…

Danganronpa is a game series inspired by Ace Attorney and boasting a lot of the same gameplay of finding contradictions in testimony. However, in this game, you play as a student who attends Hope’s Peak Academy — one of fifteen extremely talented students who are the best in the world at what they do. Shockingly, you find out that Hope’s Peak isn’t actually the haven for geniuses you thought it was, but instead the new grounds for a killing game in which fifteen students are locked inside of the school. You’re instructed that, in order to escape, one of the students must commit murder and avoid detection in the ensuing Class Trial! If the killer is found out, they’re executed… but if they succeed in tricking you, everyone else is executed and the killer is permitted to leave the school!

It’s hard to discuss the set-up to this case, as in Danganronpa revealing who dies when, and who is alive when, is considered major spoilers, so it’ll suffice to leave it at saying that this case is one of the few instances in which the “rules” of the school are employed in a way that intimately informs the murder plot. What ends up coming from this is not only a murder mystery plot that can only exist in the Danganronpa setting, it’s a type of mystery storytelling structure that can only exist in the Danganronpa setting, totally recontextualizing what it means to discover “the killer” in a shocking way. This extremely innovative mystery story is the second great case in the series, with the first being the previous case, Case 4 of Danganronpa 2, a surreal a tricky mystery that also makes use of the technology exclusive to the school to create an equally unique plot that relies intimately on the Danganronpa universe to function. These two cases, as well as the near-entirety of Danganronpa V3 are the saving graces of this series, and while this case is my candidate for best case in the series, I recommend anyone interested in the series go play Danganronpa V3 as that’s the one game in the series I unconditionally consider to be great mystery material, and then play the second game if they’re interested in more and seeing the ways Case 4 and 5 evolve the mystery genre with its unique setting.

If this seemed like a very weird, paradoxical review in which I’m very negative about the series while calling this case one of my favorite mysteries of all time, while also telling people not to play the game that this case appears in and to instead skip it and go straight to Danganronpa V3, then I am sorry. This messy self-conflicting review, I think, perfectly captures my opinions on Danganronpa: messy, and self-conflicting. I still recommend checking the third game out, though!

When the Old Man Died (1991) – Roger Ormerod

Hey, Roger Ormerod! You know that name, right? I mentioned him above in reference to Douglas Clark as another exceptional author specializing in puzzle-plot mysteries infused with the trappings of modern police fiction! Roger Ormerod’s specialized trope is the blending of alibi and locked-room mystery, not unlike Tetsuya Ayukawa who appears earlier in this list! Combining the trickery of locked-room mysteries to established airtight alibis works just as well in When the Old Man Died as it did in the earlier “Death in Early Spring”, featuring a tricky and well-clued narrative that represents the best of Ormerod’s work. As I keep saying, Ormerod’s understanding of crafting and shattering alibis is unparalleled, especially among English-speaking authors who wrote after the Golden Age ended! I cannot recommend this novel enough, as it is the third excellent novel of his I’ve read (compared to one bad one), so, hey! What a track record!

And, there we have it. 30 more favorite mystery stories from every corner of the genre. I thought this would make for a fun way to return from my hiatus, simply writing up on my favorite mystery stories. Originally it was supposed to only be 10, then 15, then 20… But eventually when I realized I wanted to write about six Ace Attorney cases, and wanted to spread them out, I settled on 30, with three stories between each Ace Attorney entry and the next! And, easy it was not, as I had a medical health scare in the middle of writing it, and it took me three days to assemble this list.

I had a lot of fun writing this, but I anticipate most people won’t read a lot of the reviews as this blog post is incredibly long, and will likely skim the titles and ignore the “less respectable” ones, like mysteries from video games, manga, and J-dramas. I hope the four of you who read those reviews and feel compelled to check out the mysteries represented have fun, however!

This post also represents a return from my hiatus. In the meantime I am also working on an essay on hybrid mysteries — mysteries infusing fantasy or science-fiction into their plots — inspired by current events in the Golden Age Detection group, and the other projects described in On My Hiatus and Blog Projects. Those take priority over reviews for the time being. Also if this post seems like it’s missing, like, a lot of tags… that’s because it is. I’ll add them later!

In the meanwhile, happy reading, and good sleuthing!

Hiatus + Blog Projects

While it’s not uncommon for my blog to simply not have updates for an extended period of time by sheer merit of real life getting in the way of my writing and reading, I rarely do formal hiatuses. My blog has always been rather chaotic (I’ve been convincing myself that’s just part of its charm), and I’ve been keeping it on a “I’ll write what I feel like, when I feel like it” schedule. But, for the time being I’m putting the blog on an indefinite, formal hiatus. As with the last two hiatuses, this is mental health-related, especially with my growing feelings of inadequacy as a writer and reviewer. My last few posts have been especially poor as a consequence of my growing burn-out.

I want to take time to really reflect on what I want to do with my blog, and learn how to develop myself as a blogger and writer of detective fiction. I want to learn how to really sink my teeth into analysis instead of nibbling on “it’s clever” and “it’s readable” and other superficial impressions. I know that blogging is not my job, and just something I do for fun, but nonetheless it’s important to me that I know how to do better, and then execute upon that knowledge. That’s what I’ll be spending the hiatus working on.

Furthermore, the main element of my blog I intended to be a defining feature was the “Discussion” posts — the name “Solving the Mystery of Murder” is a joke, referring to me solving the mystery surrounding the concept of murder, and by that I meant I’d be discussing the devices of detective fiction. I have sorely neglected this aspect of my blog in favor of reviews. It’s actually ironic, because my first blog was called “Beyond Christie”, and was meant to be dedicated to exploring Golden Age mystery authors who weren’t Agatha Christie. THAT blog ended up being overwhelmed by discussion posts analyzing the plotting devices of mystery stories!

Anyway, I’ve had a few big projects in the works that I intended to be something of a return to writing discussion posts as a habit. I figured I’d share those in this post as well.

On the [n] Ways to Create Alibis and the [n] Ways to Destroy Them is something of a spiritual successor to one of my personal favorite posts, On 50 Locked-Room Solutions of Our Own, in which I offered a taxonomy of 50 potential types of impossible crimes solutions. This post is a similar taxonomy, addressing the many different tricks that can be employed in alibi-centric mystery stories.

On a Defense of Pastiche, Caricature, and Adaptation in Detective Fiction is the most difficult of all of these posts. In it, I am attempting to offer a defense of pastiche in literature, offering many examples of good pastiches, as well as reasons why pastiche and homage are written outside of the cynical answer of “money”. This was conceived as a response to the overwhelmingly negative reception to the recent Marple anthology before the book was even available to purchase.

On the Modern Soul of Classic Detection: Video Games as Idealized Mystery Fiction is me doubling down on the topic I brought up in On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’ve Never Read Them, in which I proselytize about the merits of mystery fiction as they appear in “the less respectable mediums” — in this case, video games. I primarily pay lip service to The Centennial Case – A Shijima Story and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney as examples of how video games can capture the spirit of mystery novels even better than literature itself.

The New Frontier of Detection: On Why and How to Write Hybrid Mysteries is another daunting one in which I discuss the necessity of embracing “hybrid mysteries” — mystery stories that derive puzzle plots from genres such as fantasy or science-fiction — and lay down a few helpful guidelines on what I consider to be successful strategies in writing and plotting hybrid mysteries.

On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’re STILL Not Reading Them is a planned retrospective for once I read Case 100 of Detective Conan and Cases 5 of Kindaichi Case Files and Detective School Q. It’s a reaffirmation of the points made in the first post on the topic, as well as discussing the stories retrospectively, as well as pleading people to keep in mind that I’m reading the stories because they’re good and to please keep up with my reviews and consider involving yourself in “less respectable” mediums.

I will be working on these projects and making them the best I can while going on hiatus. I do not intend to retire the blog, only to take a break and work on improving my work.

FURTHERMORE, as my Japanese studies progress, I am becoming increasing capable of reading stories in the original Japanese language. I will start reviewing Japanese-language mysteries before the end of 2023, and, if possible, posting translations of public domain works. I look forward to taking my first steps into the world of shin-honkaku translation, and I hope you all look forward to it as well.

As for how long this hiatus will last… As always, “until I feel like it”. I intend for the hiatus to last a month and a half, but it’s equally possible that within a couple weeks I’ll see a sudden upshoot in my mental health and I’ll return to regular posting. I should be back at the latest around January 2023, but I could just as well be back in November 2022.

Well, until then, happy reading and good sleuthing!

On the Launching of a New Short Story Blog

This is going to be a short personal update. I’ve finally launched a sister blog called A Study in Daggers which will, for the foreseeable future, be my dumping grounds for short stories I write in the crime and mystery genres. Ironically, however, the only story currently on the blog, Life and Death Aboard the M.S. Evermore, is not a crime story, but rather a short parabolic tale inspired by my frustration with ethical hypotheticals and how easy it is to moralize in situations that have nothing to do with you.

Life and Death Aboard the M.S. Evermore was written for an online story contest where every contestant wrote under the theme “Observer”, and it had a 2700 word limit. My initial concept was way too high-faring to fit into so small a story, and what came of it was, unfortunately, a pretty neutered and cramped version of the story I dreamed of when I set out to write. Nonetheless, I’m fairly proud of it, and would love to share it.

Going forward, if I write a story that I don’t feel comfortable selling or publishing formally, it’ll go right onto A Study in Daggers. I can’t promise how often I’ll update the blog, but I hope when I do write I can draft something my readers on this blog can enjoy. The blog is also very open to constructive criticism! I only want to get better as a writer, not have my ego stroked.

Happy reading, both here and there!

On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’ve Never Read Them (+Detective Conan review series)

If I’m being entirely honest, there are certain things I don’t talk about much with the Golden Age mystery-reading side of my social sphere. Heck, I don’t even really talk the way with them the way I talk with anyone else I know. The problem is that I am painfully aware I am a 20 year old university student punching a bit above my belt by involving myself in a community whose youngest members are probably around twice my age at least. If past posts delving into my personal thoughts have proven anything, it’s that I have the world’s greatest inferiority complex, and the way I talk is usually colored by me trying to mask myself as an intellectual equal among people who nearly universally have more experience and education than myself. This also manifests in the form of me being pretty reserved with a lot of my other non-mystery hobbies that might be derided as “kiddish” or “immature” or outright “stupid”. Unfortunately, before delving into an upcoming long-running series/project I’ve undertaken, it’s going to require breaking the ice on some of that, and preparing a lot of you for it. So, what’s about to follow is somewhat of a biographical post, but I beg you to stay with me for a bit — this is a fun one, I promise.

I absolutely adore video games (yes, even the new ones you probably hate), cartoons (yes, even the new ones you probably hate), and sitcoms (yes, even the new ones you probably hate).

I’ve mentioned on this blog more than once that I do some of my own hobbyist writing of Golden Age-styled mysteries, but when I’m not writing I’m also probably drawing. My whole life, I’ve been deeply fascinated with animation and always wanted to become an artist, but my guardian wouldn’t let me, yelling at me that I’m “wasting my time on something I’ll obviously never be good at”. It wasn’t until just last year, in fact, now that I’m living in university housing, that I tried to foster my childhood dream of becoming an cartoon character artist, though all of that is really beside the point.

The point is why this matters. Well, as luck would have it, it was my fascination with cartoons that ended up turning me into a devotee of Golden Age mystery fiction. When I was young, one of my favorite cartoons was the Alvin and the Chipmunks show — the one that came out before the live-action/CGI movies. A favorite, yes, in spite of the fact that I only owned one DVD with four episodes from what many consider the worst season of the show. It was the show’s last season, which was comprised of about a dozen and a half pop culture/movie parodies. The episode I watched the most often was “Elementary, My Dear Simon”.

No points if you’ve guessed it, but this episode is a parody of Sherlock Holmes in which the lead character Alvin takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes, and his younger brother Simon takes on the role of Dr. John Watson. The two, together, traverse Victorian London, investigating a series of mysterious thefts in which every item stolen is trifling, worth nearly nothing. Now, this is an interesting set-up, but any mystery fans reading this… don’t bother watching the episode, it is not good, and the ending will frustrate you. But that did not matter to six year old me. I was a lonely kid who loved puzzles and riddles, and all that mattered was that feeling of seeing something like a puzzle play out in the form of a story. I had no sense of whether or not it was a good puzzle, just that it existing and was there.

Well, after falling in love with this show, I went on to other forms of mystery media geared towards kids. I owned every DVD of every movie and series of Scooby-Doo that existed when I was still into it. I watched them dozens of times each, some of them more than that.

I was hooked, but at the time I had no real awareness of the fact that this sort of thing I loved really, you know, existed in genre form. When I watched “grown-up” mysteries on television, they were always legal dramas like Law & Order, or true crime like Investigation Discovery, and none of them really appealed to me in the same slow-burn puzzle-piecing way that “Elementary, My Dear Watson” or Scooby-Doo had.

Well, fortunately for me, I didn’t just enjoy western cartoons, I also loved video games and Japanese anime.

When I was about 12 years old, my friends roped me into playing this silly-looking anime-styled game series called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. At first, I really didn’t want to play it — it’s a lawyer game, so it had to be boring, like Law & Order. But my friends are annoying persistent, and convinced me to give the game a shot. Immediately, I fell in love with the series. It is a dramatic, engaging tale of detection and logic in which, through very simple button prompts, the game invites you to make Ellery Queen-esque series of deductions to protect the lives of innocent people falsely accused of complex murders. You collect evidence, listen to witness testimony, expose lies through clues, and then through a series of question prompts you will solve the mystery by explaining why every lie was told and every mistake made. It was only after playing the game series through to the end that I immediately made a realization — these sorts of stories I want exist, en masse, and I can just go out and read them. It was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney that inspired me to go out and buy my first detective novels, A Study in Scarlet, And Then There Were None, and The Mysterious Affair of Styles. And all of these stories were exactly like the mysteries in Ace Attorney! Finally, I said, I’m home.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney‘s first entry is actually reviewed on my blog already, only for nobody to actually read it, dashing any intentions I had to review the others in this 10+ game series. That post’s lack of attention is, in fact, why I’m writing this post now. After all, some of you might’ve spotted a troubling detail: “Isaac, if you played this game nearly 9 years ago, why did you suddenly review it so recently?”. The answer, of course, being that I adore this franchise, and to this day the third game in the franchise (among others) boasts a few cases that I still consider some of the best mystery-writing and mystery-plotting in the whole genre. I was actually hoping that by writing a review, I could get the 600-odd people WordPress says visits my blog monthly to try this mystery series I love so much out.

The post has been read 33 times in the 12 months since I’ve written it.

Compare On 50 Locked Room Solutions of Our Own, which, despite its lack of comments, gets on average 150 views every single month, or my clearly-labelled April Fools post (which isn’t even that funny) which has gotten 350 views, over 1000% the Ace Attorney post’s yearly reads, in a week.

The point of this post isn’t to bitterly whine about that post not getting a lot of attention, though, so don’t worry about all of that. More, I want to air my thoughts a bit on why it didn’t.

In the “Golden Age Detection” Facebook group, I’ve seen a few pop culture mystery series that’ll presently remain unnamed get brought up. And people were angry. People had never even read these stories and they were angry, because people would dare compare Golden Age greats to this modern usurper, for no better reason than the modern work was animated. To quote nobody in particular, they said “I don’t need to read it to know there’s no way a cartoon could ever compare to the original”. Another time, when asked to name some of my aesthetically favorite surreal mysteries, I named a surreal case from a mystery game series that I really enjoyed, only to be met with “Laugh” reacts and mild derision for posting a video game. These are just two of a number of instances that I will not direct anyone to in the interest of not seeming like I’m trying to flame some stranger on the internet who has no bearing on me or my life.

Now, I for one have always believed that making rash judgments on things you’ve never experienced (within reason) is a fault. I’m sure many of you in theory agree with me, but might in practice still have this kneejerk, conservative aversion to the “less respectable” mediums. I believe the lack of attention video-game related posts and these attitudes I’ve seen openly expressed in the group are evidence enough to speculate on.

My theory has been that I will post about a mystery video game, earnestly enjoying it, and trying to spread the word and people might see that it is, in fact, a video game, and assume that it probably isn’t worth playing — they may even assume I didn’t like it — and merely pass the post by. Well, I’m beginning a bit of a large project soon, and in the interests of that going well, I felt it was important to make this post and the following shocking declaration:

Some of the most brilliant and emotionally-touching classically-/Golden Age-styled mystery plots ever conceived exist within the confines of video games and Japanese comic books (manga), and I believe turning your nose up at them will be doing yourself a disservice as a mystery-reader.

And I want to talk you into it. We’ve all probably read some shin-honkaku novels, right? Those modern, brilliant detective novels from Japan that beautifully represent Japan’s fascination with the form? To name a few, The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, or The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa or Death Among the Undead by Masahiro Imamura. This shin-honkaku movement was majorly observed from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, and if you’ve loved any of those books from Locked Room International then I have some good news for you: many, many detective video games, cartoons, and comic book series from Japan are specifically inspired by or part of this very same shin-honkaku movement, as many of the biggest names in video game mysteries and comic mysteries popped up around the 90s and early 2000s.

This was so major, in fact, that some famous shin-honkaku writers in Japan openly credit these video games as direct inspirations. Westerners probably haven’t heard of him, but in Japan Takekuni Kitayama is not a small name. He is, in fact, a respected author of locked-room mysteries and impossible crimes, famous for his highly technical, mechanical trickery. One of his earliest novels, The “Clock Castle” Murder Case, was an award winner in Japan, earning the 24th Mephisto Prize. Kitayama has openly declared his fascination for another Japanese Golden Age-inspired video game series called Danganronpa.

Danganronpa is a series entirely about 15 talented high-school students who are trapped in Hope’s Peak Academy and instructed that in order to escape, one student must murder a classmate and successfully evade detection in the ensuing “Class Trial”. In spite of the teeny-bop dialogue, crass juvenile humor, and the jazz-punk aesthetic, every single one of the 18 murder mysteries written throughout the series’ three-game run are plotted wholly, entirely, and authentically like Golden Age/Honkaku classics, and similarly to Ace Attorney, the game has players solving the murders by collecting evidence, exposing lies, and then explaining lies through a varieties of quizzes/prompts. Kitayama was so enamored with the series, in fact, that he approached the developers and asked them if he would be allowed to write novels taking place inside of the Danganronpa fictional universe. What spawned from this agreement was a seven-novel-long prequel series following a major character from the first game named Kyoko Kirigiri, solving locked-room mysteries as part of a Detective Competition. So successful were these novels that when the third game in the series, Danganronpa V3, was developed, the creators commissioned novelist Kitayama as a co-writer who was majorly responsible for the game’s mystery plots.

The worlds of shin-honkaku mystery novel writing and video game/manga mystery writing were so inextricably bound that respected novelists were writing for video game series.

There are many more examples I could get into to make this point, such as the cross-contamination of ideas to and from popular Japanese mysteries series and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, or the fact that one of the most famous mystery novelists ever, Soji Shimada, author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, sued comic series Kindaichi Case Files for wholesale plagiarizing his novel for one of their mysteries, forcing them to put a spoiler warning for his novel in all Japanese publications of the chapters where this plagiarism occurred. To get into all of the gems and warts of the shared world of video games and novels in Japanese detective fiction, however, would simply be diluting the point: this overlap exists, period, and that’s what matters.

Even in the most kiddish-seeming of Japanese mysteries series in video game and comic book form, writers share the same level of complexity, brilliance, and ingenuity as their novel counterparts for the very simply reason that they are cut from the same cloth. I believe that if you’ve read shin-honkaku novels, and you are clamoring for more translations while simultaneously turning your head away from any mention of video game mysteries or comic mysteries, I can’t find much sympathy for your desire to read more while you turn your nose up at the cornucopia of brilliant mysteries that are quite literally everything you’re asking for, and all for no better reason than you think their packaging is “too childish”.

Yes, a cartoon can compare to the original.

This whole post was not merely an idle exercise in writing a minor dissertation on the brilliance of Japanese mystery writing, though I will say that if I’ve at least convinced those among you to be a little more lax I can refer you to some fantastic Japanese mystery video games and manga and even help you get into them if you’d like. What’s more important is that cartoon I mentioned before. The one that earned ire from people who’ve never watched it.

Detective Conan.

Detective Conan is the quintessential Japanese detective comic series. I can’t speak from first-hand experience, but I feel comfortable saying that there probably isn’t a single mystery story produced in Japan since 1994 that doesn’t owe a little bit to Detective Conan‘s existence, as it is simply massive and the archetype of all things Golden Age mystery plotting.

Conceived by Gosho Aoyama, Detective Conan is a fantastical story about a teenager detective named Jimmy (Shinichi) Kudo who gets shrunken down into the body of an elementary schooler by an experimental chemical manufactured by a mysterious gang known simply as “The Organization”. On the protracted hunt for the group in order to return to his adult size, Jimmy is forced to adopt the alias of Conan Edogawa (taken from writers Arthur Conan Doyle and Edogawa Ranpo), and struggle to get his theories heard in hundreds of murder cases that he solves in spite of his small stature.

The silly premise is a byproduct of a bygone age during which Gosho Aoyama wanted to write child’s fiction, a period which can probably be singularly blamed for many “serious-minded” mystery readings passing the series up. It was at the behest of his editor (by the way, Japan has editors who specialize in classical mystery plotting) that Gosho Aoyama shift gears towards producing more mature, complex, adult-sized mystery stories (only, of course, still solved by a first grader…). And, naturally, nearly every case is some manner of plotting familiar to the Golden Age of Detection, both the English and Japanese ones.

And, I won’t pussyfoot around this. For what begins feeling like the world’s corniest kidtective story ever, Detective Conan goes on to produce dozens of what I can confidently say are the most devilishly clever mystery plots ever conceived in the entire history of the genre from any continent. Dozens of hidden classics of alibi problems, locked-room mysteries, and inverted mysteries are buried within the covers of this children’s series, and you’re not reading them!

The series is massive. Not just culturally, but I mean it is a quantifiably massive franchise in terms of just how much of it exists. Detective Conan spans comic book series, a Japanese animated television show, musicals, stage dramas, movies, novels, video games — probably ancient cave-writing, if you look hard enough. In the manga/comic alone, there are over 300 unique mystery stories. The anime television series has adapted nearly all of these, and produced over 300 more unique stories not present in the comic. Without even scratching the surface of this series you have nearly 700 mystery short stories already.

Now, if I’ve interested you with all of my comparisons to shin-honkaku novels, and then immediately scared you off again by throwing triple-digit figures at you… don’t worry! Editors and English professors beware, for after exactly 2834 words (by the end of this sentence) we’ve finally arrived at my thesis statement!

I am, for your benefit, re-reading/re-watching every single mystery story in the Detective Conan canon. All 700 and change. In the course of reading these, I will be keeping notes, and producing a comprehensive ranking of all of the stories read, that way you can know, based on my opinion, roughly how good each of the 700 mysteries are from the very worst one all the way to the very best one. I will also be, for convenience, telling you exactly which book in the series you need to hunt down to read any one of the stories you want. And, furthermore, if that weren’t enough for you, I will be reviewing all 90 volumes of the manga on this blog, one volume at a time, as I’m reading them. As it’s been years since I’ve touched the series, I will be writing all of the posts from the perspective of someone who is going in blind, for people going in blind, assuming that your understanding of the series evolves with mine as we going along. It will be an exhaustive, chronological resource on Detective Conan.

This tiny little project of mine, I imagine, will take anywhere from four to six months. This isn’t quite the same as me slamming out a single review of a single game in a few hours. I am dedicating a not-negligible chunk of my life and time to doing this. Hence, this post. This is not for my health. I genuinely believe that everyone in our group from 18 to 80 can find something to love in the mysteries of Japanese animation, video games, and comic books, and my end-goal is to convince a not-small portion of you to read at least 10 chapters of a Japanese mystery manga by the time I die.

Cartoons and video games have been a huge part of my life and my mystery-reading career. It’s thanks to them that this blog even exists, in fact. As “childish” as many of you might see them, they are a credible part of the Golden Age mystery experience. I was lucky enough to be Christened from a young age, and I hope I can be lucky enough to help a few of you find the same enjoyment I have in these brilliant “children’s” mysteries.

With that being said, my posts on the the first four volumes of Detective Conan can be expected soon. I’ve also not neglected my literature — look out for Jim Noy’s Red Death Murders, which I will also be reading and reviewing… at some point. If a review for a novel comes out, it’ll be this one, I guarantee it. I look forward to making converts of you all. Arrividerci, and happy reading.

On My Hiatus and Return (& Future Projects)

It’s been a little over three months since I last posted anything, and since I’ve also been a bit quieter than I liked on the Facebook group I figured a quick update on my situation would be a good segue back into regular updates. This isn’t a strictly mystery-related post, but I DO discuss some of my upcoming mystery-related projects, such as a novel, later down on the post. This post mostly exists as a form to explain my disappearance, and my plans to recover.

The Hiatus

Like many people, my mental health has significantly dipped going into and through the COVID-19 pandemic, but I already wasn’t doing great to begin with. A lot of depression and anxiety has built up over the years, and COVID-19 coming about right as I entered university with much already on my chest really put a crimp into my productivity. I was already struggling to keep up with my course work, and unfortunately the added academic pressure made it extremely hard for me to engage with pastimes I typically would use to relax myself. That means that since I last uploaded a blog post, I haven’t even had the time to sit down and read so much as a lone mystery short story, and since I haven’t been reading or even thinking about mysteries that also meant I had no material for the blog that anyone would be interested in reading.

As of yesterday, my coursework for the semester is finished and I won’t be back in university for a little over three months, so you can at least expect regular updates every Sunday until then. I’m also attending therapy now, so that set-backs don’t totally unravel my wellbeing like they have been doing until now. So, hopefully, come next semester of university I’ll still be able to be productive in both my coursework and my blog.

Upcoming Blog Posts

The next blog post, signaling the return of my scheduled updates, should come out either very late today (which would be early in the morning, Monday, for European readers, I believe) if everything works out as it should, but the worst-case scenario is that it comes out Sunday, next week. Since I don’t have anything substantial or unique to talk about, the post will just be a polished version of the locked room solution taxonomy I posted to the Facebook group many years back, where I try my hands at naming 50 unique impossible crime solutions between the problems of locked rooms, guarded rooms, and footprints in the sand.

Beyond that, I have a substantial reading list to make my way through. The Locked Room International library hasn’t run dry for me, yet, nor has the Vertigo translations. I still also fully intend on reading Norman Berrow’s The Bishop’s Sword for review. Plans exist for me to review individual stories within anthologies, with special interest in tackling the Otto Penzler Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries anthology. I also intend to write a review of vaguely Golden Age mystery video game series Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

Outside of reviews and moving more towards my discussion posts, I don’t have as much to talk about. As something of a follow-up to On Magic in Murder, I want to discuss the GURPS Mysteries tabletop RPG rulebook, which was written more with the conceit of being a handbook on how to plot and style mysteries (with partial focus on, as it calls them, “Golden Age cozies” and locked-room mysteries, which the book refers to as specifically “puzzle mysteries”) more than a roleplaying gamebook. Much to my surprise, the book feels a little more educated on the genre than I expected, though there are some lapses in understanding I want to address. I thought that continuing to explore “mystery-writing guides where I didn’t expect them” would be a fun and unique idea for the blog. I was originally writing a post called On Locked Room Mysteries and their Unique Diminishing Returns, where I discuss the ways that, more than any other type of Golden Age puzzle plot, the impossible crime can become harder to generally enjoy, faster. However, I was writing that on the heels of multiple disappointing reads, including Clayton Rawson’s Death from a Top Hat, and a few sub-par episodes of locked room mystery television, and looking back at my draft of the post it feels more like a petty rant than anything meaningful. I may feel compelled to return to this topic later, but at the moment I don’t. Perhaps something worth talking about will come to me while lurking in the Golden Age Detection Facebook group, or while I do my reading for the blog.

Non-Blog Mystery Projects

This doesn’t strictly concern the blog-goers, but I wanted to talk more about some of my own upcoming projects in the mystery-genre that I think might be of interest to anyone looking for more modern Golden Age-styled crime fiction.

I have been drafting up plans for a little over two years now for a GAD-styled mystery series featuring none other than Signor Rinaldo Allegri, a lanky Italian whose olive complexion perfectly complements his olive-shaped head. He’s something of an affectionate turn on the typical “quirky foreigner” super-detective trope that was originally occupied by Belgian Hercule Poirot, and later lovingly parodied by German Atticus Pundt in The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. The character is actually a former car-salesman, and his “quirky foreigner” front is an intentional caricature of himself he puts on for the sole purpose of marketing himself as a detective in the vein of the aforementioned Poirot. The character exists at a time when detective fiction’s fame is in full swing, and he believes that the most marketable thing in the world would be the existence of a real-world superdetective. Allegri believes he’s the one to not only market that detective, but to be the detective. This was all specially designed to allow some meta-textual genre awareness, since “GAD, but not in the way the GAD would have” is, while abstract, broadly a theme in many aspects of my writing.

However, the character has unfortunately been shelved, as my focus has somewhat shifted. A thought that occurred to me a while ago is that I am not a person from the 20th century, and while I am exposed to a lot of writing from that time, I will never be able to emulate the language of someone who lived during the 19th, 20th centuries. I began to worry that there’d be an air of almost inauthenticity to my writing. A 20 year old university student in the 21st century trying to write something like a 40, 50 year old who spent their whole live in the Golden Age would never work — at least, I certainly don’t believe I, personally, have the skillset for it. And writing something that takes place in the 1900’s but with the (adjusted) vernacular of a late millennial also felt odd to me. What’s more, is that most of my earliest mystery influences used more fictionalized, almost toon-ish takes on the real world. Ace Attorney and other modern young-adult Japanese mystery series like Detective Conan or Danganronpa, which were many of my earliest exposures to GAD fiction before I even considered reading these 100 year old novels, are undeniably weird and take place in a world that’s unabashedly a caricature of our own. Set-ups, solutions, scenarios, characters, and even sometimes technology, events, or straight-up anachronistic weirdness that simply wouldn’t abide in a realistic take on our world and CERTAINLY would’ve have flown in the 1930s abound. And I found that in a lot of my writing, I end up veering towards the less strictly accurate or authentic, and more in the direction of the aforementioned Japanese YA mysteries where everything is essentially a creative (even if inaccurate) interpretation of the world. Trying to write authentic GAD mysteries with the GAD aesthetic, given my inspirations in the genre and my inherent writing voice, simply wasn’t working for me.

This all also tied with a thought I’ve been having, where a lot of Golden Age puzzle mysteries are “fantasy, but as close as you’ll get while keeping it in the real world and following real world laws”. The crimes we read about are generally fantastical in the extreme, and oftentimes seem almost unrealistic or implausible. The idea that GAD mysteries are like fantasy, accompanied by my observations of young adult Japanese detective fiction (especially more anime-inspired ones) finally settled with me. And, so, taking the idea of a “caricature of our world” from my influences, I have totally changed gears to writing mysteries that are undeniably GAD-induced — I follow the same conventions, and rules, and laws of mystery writing where they apply, and I make a good faith effort to make the mysteries fairplay — but the setting of my writing is a fictional world. It’s a world that strongly resembles 1930-1960s England, but which is entirely fictional, and where the real world need not apply, it will not. This, I feel, gives me more freedom in culture, technology, and setting in a way that really lets me explore my more fringe ideas like I couldn’t before. This, of course, means that Italy no longer exists, and the character of Rinaldo Allegri can no longer exist within my writing. So while I feel like this revelation about how I want to treat my mystery writing is progress, in a lot of ways it’s also set me back significantly in planning, as I now need to reconceptualize who my detective is, on top of building the world my mysteries are set in.

As for my individual mysteries, I’ve plenty of ideas I can discuss vaguely, but I don’t want to talk too much about them, as a lot of the ideas are simply notebook fillers and are likely to change by the time they’re formally written. In the realms of the “fringe” ideas that my setting specifically exists to allow, I have… a murder by gassing in a hermetically sealed room at an animation studio, with the studio’s mascot sketched in different colors on both sides of the door… a seemingly impossible murder by supposed “firebolt” during a game of Caverns & Crawlers, a fantasy boardgame, where the death also appears to parallel the victim’s in-game defeat… and a murder that nobody saw happen, despite it occurring on camera during the filming of the season finale of The Royal Blunders, a television sitcom where a poor family accidentally inherits the royal title, with the main issue being that the victim was supposed to be feigning death the entire episode, creating a “Schrodinger’s corpse” where over the course of 30 minutes, whenever anyone saw the victim he could’ve been either alive or dead and nobody knows which.

As for my more traditional ideas, I also have… the impossible theft of an executioner’s sword from behind a totally guarded auction-stage, the repurposing of that sword to commit murder inside of a perfectly guarded study, and the subsequent theft of dozens of large items back out of the guarded study without being seen… a woman with a perfect alibi and whom never spoke to anyone of her precognitive dreams perfectly predicting the murder of her friend in his perfectly locked library… and a murder set against a social deduction game a la Werewolf/Mafia.

However, there are three significant projects that I want to discuss in more detail. These are The Sacrifice of Agnes Stanhope, The Mute Speaks Loudly, and Who Killed Annie Hallewelle? Below I’ll include quick, two-paragraph synopses of the projects. These are the three whose notes I’ve developed and explored most intently, and they’re the three I want to talk about as I write them.

The Sacrifice of Agnes Stanhope

A mountain village once lived in fear of Ze’el, an evil spirit in their faith who once walked among them and preyed on the fearful. Only those who locked their doors and windows and showed Ze’el fear, and not respect, would be slaughtered in their homes. It has been years since a young woman placed herself on an altar as a sacrifice to Ze’el, and the cullings have ceased. The fear of Ze’el subsided, and many people in the village have abandoned the idea of an evil spirit altogether. What was once a villain locked in religious terror was on the verge of becoming a secular society…

Until the day it seemed like Ze’el returned. More deaths in locked houses, committed by what seemed like the claws of a horrible beast. Unable to tolerate the raising body count, Agnes Stanhope, famous detractor of the Ze’el faith, swallows her pride and says that on the night of the full moon she’ll go to the decommissioned church that overlooks the village, where the sacrifice of old gave up her life. She’ll lock herself in, and give herself up to Ze’el, and end the killings once and for all…

And morning comes. Her promise has come to fruition. Agnes Stanhope is found inside of the church on the hill, in sacrificial garments, inside of a perfectly locked and sealed room, murdered by horrible lacerations. The only key to the room lay beneath her, shattered in two. And locked inside of the room with her is Agnes Stanhope’s romantic partner, Lincoln, covered in blood who has been branded a worshipper of Ze’el and awaits his cleansing immolation. Granted one letter, he reaches out to a famous detective he’s read about in the papers and begs him to clear his name…

The Mute Speaks Loudly

In a mansion buried in the forests on the fringe of society, the Gladstone family meets for a birthday party. A woman who can’t speak, and dressed only in a tattered cloak showed up at their front door. Feeling the generous spirit, the family invites her in, expecting to let the poor woman in on a delightful celebration, a change of clothes, and a warm bed. Only, in place of revelry, Ellian, the 50 year old man-of-the-hour makes a chilling declaration: “I’ve feared for my life at the hands of my children”.

The Gladstone home houses an unimaginable cache of golden treasure. In the will of every Gladstone family head, he is obligated to put down a hint that’s been passed through the family for generations, and relate it to his children. Ellian himself decided to do this, because he believes in tradition more than anything, but fearing for his life he hade an unsettling impetus to his children. Only half the hint will be contained in the will, and the other half will be revealed on his 50th birthday. If he dies before then, the family will be forever doomed without knowledge of where their true inheritance is. Believing this was sufficient to earn himself a long life, he reveals the first half of the hint… and proceeds to stab himself to death in his locked bedroom that very night, to be found in the morning, damning his children out of their life insurance.

When the executor of his will, his favorite daughter Grace, goes to retrieve the will, she finds it totally missing from the home. A full search is organized… whereupon it’s discovered that Ellian Gladstone is not the only one to have died that night. The mute woman, whom nobody knew, was brutally murdered inside of the Gladstone family’s locked cellar, beat to death over the back of the head by nearly a dozen different glass wine bottles. Unsure of what to make of the situation, a detective is called in to investigate the mystery of the missing will, the multiple deaths, and the question of why the woman whom nobody knew was murdered in so barbaric a fashion.

Who Killed Annie Hallewelle?

It’s been a month since Annie Hallewelle drowned herself, and her body has never been found. Plans for her funeral at the Hallewelle mansion are now underway. However, the plans for her peaceful service are disrupted when Thomas and Serena Sterling get a distressing death threat that Serena swears on their life has been written by Annie Hallewelle, the deceased girl! In the letter, Annie, claims to wish to share her funeral with her closest friends. Thomas thinks someone is playing a cruel-spirited prank on mourners, and he wants a detective to come along to discourage anymore funny business and disprove this whole ghost nonsense to put his sister’s mind at ease. And, on the off-chance someone is planning something more malicious, a famous detective would be the perfect deterrent.

The detective agrees, and attends the funeral where naught suspicious happens. But as soon as the mourners begin to separate, Serena goes upstairs to get proof that Annie wrote the death threat. Minutes pass, and a gunshot rings out, and the detective rushes up to the room the gunshot came from to find a woman who was never on the island or in the house until that moment — a woman who by all accounts simply shouldn’t be able to exist — brandishing a revolver and standing over Ms. Sterling’s corpse, before proceeding to be witnessed running through a solid brick wall by two people on both sides of the wall. When a second murder occurs in a locked room with the victim leaning out of the window, and the trajectory of the bullet suggests that the killer had to have been floating in the air, the mourners begin to accept the story of the vengeful story of the ghost of Annie Hallewelle… only the detective insists upon a human killer.

These three are the projects I’m sinking most of my time into, and I intend to start posting updates, excerpts and teasers on the blog as progress is made. While I’m not sure if it’s conveyed well in these… very rough synopses, all three of them have ideas buried in the investigations and solutions that I’m very proud of, and which I always considered clever personally. I hope that as they’re written and published, followers of the blog enjoy reading my mysteries as much as I’ve enjoyed plotting them out.

That’s all there is to update everyone on regarding my hiatus, my projects, and my plans for the blog. Thank you all for your continued patience, and please look forward to On GURPS Mysteries either tonight or next week.