A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
A “locked room” mystery can involve any seemingly impossible-to-commit crime, but in this list I’ve taken the term literally. All four of these nigh unsolvable mysteries take place in a locked room, empty of all but the unfortunate victims.
“Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe
Follow along with the “ratiocinations” of C. Auguste Dupin as he endeavors to solve the case of two brutal murders that occurred in an apparently inaccessible room. First published in 1841, it’s unlikely that any locked room mystery has ever quite topped Poe’s imaginative solution. Plus, in Dupin we have the first appearance of the archetypal detective: eccentric, rational, and vain.
“The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Who could possibly have killed Julia Stoner while she was locked safely in her room at night. Her dying words are Sherlock’s only clue: “It was the band, the speckled band!” Conan Doyle wasn’t shy about borrowing from Poe. Many of Sherlock’s traits and skills are directly from Poe’s dectective Dupin, but you might notice some other similarities in the solution to this great early Holmes story from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
For their honeymoon, Sayers’ incomparable couple in detection, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, decide to get away to their new estate in Hertfordshire. It should be a welcome break from murder and mayhem, but when they arrive not only do they find the house completely unprepared for their arrival, they also discover the body of the former owner in the basement. One of Sayers’ best qualities is her attention to character, it helps bring a bit of romance and melodrama to this classic mystery premise.
The Murder Room by P.D. James
The Dupayne Museum, dedicated to preserving the memory of the inter-war years in Britian, has only one popular permanent exhibit: the murder room, where memorabilia of the most sensational crimes of the period are displayed. When a famous locked room murder is recreated right on the premises, Scotland Yard Inspector Adam Dalgliesh is called-in to solve the case. The setting might seem a bit contrived, but it’s still the novel’s greatest strength, giving P.D. James the chance to use real historical crimes to drive the plot. As always, James gives us interesting suspects, a few well-hidden clues, and a clever solution.
List by Matthew