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.