After the last week, a padded, soundproof cell sounds heavenly. But actually, this blog is about locked room mysteries.
Mystery fans know I mean the kind of story where the corpse is found alone in a room with limited access, and that access has been cut off from the outside with a lock or other means. The fun of solving this kind of enigma is figuring out how the murderer got in and back out again.
Back in the 5th century, Herodotus told of a headless robber whose body was found in a sealed chamber. What we think of as the first "modern" detective story came from the pen of Edgar Allan Poe: The Murders in The Rue Morgue, published in 1841. This was also a locked room mystery and no doubt inspired variations on the plot that followed--Collins' The Moonstone, Leroux's The Mystery of the Yellow Room, and several Sherlock Holmes tales such as The Sign of Four and "The Speckled Band."
During the Golden Age of detective fiction, locked room mysteries were some of the most popular, and it seems like nearly every author of the genre tried their hand at this kind of plot. Dorothy Sayers set one outdoors--a recent corpse found in the middle of a wet beach, yet with no footprints in sight (Have His
Carcase). Agatha Christie used a whole island as her locked room (And Then There Were None). Christie used the technique in other works as well. One of my favorites is her short story, "The Blue Geranium."
Authors are still writing locked room mysteries, but they're hard to find these days. Maybe the pressure put on authors to churn out novels in a hurry discourages the creation of intricate plots. Or perhaps the trend toward action-oriented thrillers discourages plots based on mental puzzles. It seems a shame, now that we have all kinds of technology--surveillance cameras, motion detectors, ID card, fingerprint and retina-scan door openers--that could make for the ultimate locked room.
So, to kick off the next locked-room renaissance, I wrote the novel TWO-FACED (available only (for now) on Kindle and Nook). Any authors out there wiling to give it a try?
Do you have a favorite locked room mystery?