I’m still wondering if anyone is interested in expressing his or her thoughts about the last two posts–mostly because I’ve been musing over them for the last few days!

I intend to post a Geoffrey Lord impossible crime/ “no footprints” problem (apropos of JJ’s post here!), a post on the element of parody in Christianna Brand’s Tour de Force (which I recently finished), and another on Paul Halter’s The Phantom Passage, the first Halter in which I liked both the puzzle-plot and the reading experience.

If I get sidetracked (as usual), please remind me!

This blog will, as always, continue at its famously irregular pace (to quote Xavier Lechard of “At the Villa Rose” ).

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Is ‘Lord Edgware Dies’ Fair Play?

I’m still musing over the question posed in the last post and am interested in your thoughts.

Until I decide, I’d like to hear everyone’s thought on this post, from the former blog for now sadly-vanished “GAD Fiction Forum”: I never before thought that Lord Edgware Dies might not be fair, but the argument presented here makes sense, at least to me.

What say you?

Golden Age of Detective Fiction Forum

I’ve recently reread Christie’s “Lord Edgware Dies” (aka “Thirteen at Dinner”) and was again troubled by the question of whether one of the key moments of misdirection is fair.

Hastings has narrated a scene between Poirot and Jane Wilkinson which concludes as follows. [Jane Wilkinson is speaking.]

“‘I shall always think you were wonderful.’

“I only saw Jane Wilkinson twice again. Once on the stage, once when I sat opposite her at a luncheon party. I always think of her as I saw her then, absorbed heart and soul in clothes . . . ” etc.

The tone of this passage is brilliantly designed to be valedictory. By ending with a line of dialogue that sounds like an envoi, and then recounting how he only sat opposite her once at “a luncheon,” Hastings is giving the impression that Jane Wilkinson will vanish from our story. But of course she doesn’t…

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An Undignified Melodrama for My Bone of Contention

OK, folks, I’m in a bit of a quandary: I have a new Geoffrey Lord story, and I think it’s fairly decent, but it’s longer than any of the others I’ve posted, and I’m not sure if you’d all be interested or not.


Now, it’s not the size of a novel or something–in fact, it’d probably be on the shorter side as far as strict “short stories” go–but most of the tales I’ve posted here have been very short, and I really don’t want to bore you just with my meager efforts.


I would probably post pictures and other things to keep up interest, but still…

Oh, and if I do post it, perhaps all of you may help me out: I’m completely stumped as to a title!



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Solution Time!

OK, folks, it’s time for the solution to “The Unhinged Man”…































































The murderer is Terence Crane. He is the only one not in a pattern of the names, just as in “Thirteen at Dinner.”

Inurhadi’s logic was correct and made up Geoffrey Lord’s original solution:

Cardinal is indeed derived from the Latin cardinalis, or “hinge.” Based on that fact–“the derivation of one word in particular,” as Geoff put it–he originally deduced that the killer was William Cardinal.

But then Geoff realized the most pertinent fact: the killer was not the hinged (“cardinal”) man but rather the unhinged man–the man who did not fit the “hinged” pattern.

But what was the pattern, and how did it relate to hinged, or unhinged?

What are some meanings for cardinal? The Catholic cleric, of course, and the bird (“volucrine”!), and… The four cardinal directions.

That’s our pattern, boys and girls: North, South, East, and West.

And our names? Leaving aside the avian surnames and focusing on the Christian names: Norman, Sam, Edgar, and William. North, South, East, and West again.

But there is one name that is not one of the cardinal directions–un-cardinal, shall, we say, or un-hinged: Terence Crane.


(By the way, the individual to whom Mr. Lord’s last comment was directed was Prof. Tewksbury, who obviously came up with the Latin derivation of cardinal.)



































































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Desert [Not “Dessert”!] Island Books

Well, it seems that I haven’t posted anything here except my own fiction for a while–a sincere thank you to everyone who has looked at it and especially to those who have commented!–but I’ll try to remedy that with this question–er, game– for all of the mystery bloggers out there.

I’ll call it “desert island books,” but it’s a bit different from the “mysteries you would take to a desert island.” (I wouldn’t take a mystery to a desert island; I’d follow Chesterton’s lead, and take A Practical Guide to Ship-Building! 😀 ) Desert Island Discs

So, here are the “rules,” then (your mission, if you choose to accept it): you choose your ten favorite mystery authors, first of all, and then have to choose one book from each to take with you. Only one–no more! (You can pick a runner-up, though, if you’d like.) I would prefer that we stick to novels, which unfortunately means no Chesterton and little of Conan Doyle. (I’m going to try to keep to the formal, fair-play, “puzzle-plot” mystery, but you can be a bit more open with your criteria if you want.) A bit like Carr’s list, which I suppose we all know–at least, I hope so, because I no longer seem to be able to find a copy online!

Anyway… Anyone game?


My Favorites:

John Dickson Carr: The Crooked Hinge (runner-up: He Who Whispers)

Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile (runner-up: Five Little Pigs)

Ellery Queen: Ten Days’ Wonder (runner-up: Cat of Many Tails)

Dorothy L. Sayers: Unnatural Death (runner-up: The Nine Tailors)

Gladys Mitchell: Come Away, Death (runner-up: When Last I Died)

Christianna Brand: Death of Jezebel (runner-up: Green for Danger)

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Valley of Fear (runner-up: The Sign of the Four)

A.E.W. Mason: The House of the Arrow (runner-up: At the Villa Rose)

E.C. Bentley: Trent’s Last Case

Rex Stout: Some Buried Caesar (runner-up: Too Many Cooks)



P.S. Unless something unforeseen occurs, I’m intending to post the solution to “The Unhinged Man” tomorrow, if that’s OK for everyone! 🙂

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And Now for the Sequel…

Yes, indeed, my first sequel, this to “Color Scheme”…


“The Unhinged Man”

“A puzzle for you, Mr. Lord,” said Alice Little, the famed poetess.

The Puzzlers, that select and secretive organization, was having its monthly meeting.

Geoffrey Lord, the detective-story writer, sighed, put down his magazine, removed his spectacles, and polished them with a handkerchief. “Already?” he murmured.

“Already,” snapped Lee Shapiro, the attorney. “Another test of wits—that ‘every color on the canvas’ business was a giveaway.”

“It’s your turn to provide us with a puzzle next week,” Sidney Malkin, the stockbroker, explained.

Alan Tewksbury, the Columbia classics professor, was as taciturn and aloof as ever.

“Ready when you are,” Mr. Lord said cheerfully.

'You're unhinged!'

Shapiro started: “There’s an undercover detective investigating an international oil smuggling ring…”

“Sounds like a pulp story to me,” Geoff put in.

“Let me finish, Lord! The police find him a few days later, floating in the East River—“

“Doesn’t he know it’s polluted?”

“—dead, of course. Shot. Now, he’s got a note in his pocket—soaked, but the police are able to make it out. Obviously the killer neglected to go through the detective’s pockets.”

“Awfully obliging of him.”

Mr. Shapiro’s face looked a bit like a tomato, so Miss Little did him the favor of picking up the slack: “Please, Mr. Lord. There are five suspects for the identity of the murderer—five criminals—”

“Hitmen,” Shapiro snapped.

“I believe that’s the term,” said Miss Little, blushing. “Well, they’re the five criminals whom the smuggling ring usually uses: William Cardinal, Edgar Swann, Terence Crane, Norman Crowley, and Sam Ravenwood. Now, the note in the detective’s pocket has these five names on it and then follows it up with this: ‘I now know that the killer is the unhinged man.’

“That’s your question, then, Mr. Lord: which of these five is the ‘unhinged man’—the detective’s murderer?”

“First things first,” Mr. Lord murmured. “None of the suspects was—er—crazy, I suppose? Unhinged as the word is most often used?”

“Not any more than any other hitman” came the response (from Shapiro, if I’m not mistaken).

“Didn’t think so. And none of the suspects has any particular connection to a door, a gate, or anything like that, I suppose?”

“Correct. No connection there.”

“Well, then, two more possibilities, before I have to do some actual pondering: no suspect had any knowledge of biology, did he? A hinge in biology is a ligamentous joint, as in a bivalve shell.”

“They’re all hitmen, Lord,” Shapiro shot out, “not eggheads! Oh, sorry, Professor.”

“The only other possibility, then,” Geoff continued, smiling: “was the note written on an envelope? Or on letter paper? A ‘hinge’ may refer to a piece of gummed paper used to fasten a stamp on an envelope or in an album.”

“No envelope, no letter, nothing like that, Mr. Lord.”

“I didn’t think so. Well, if the word hinge wasn’t used literally, I can suppose the detective was a wordsmith?”

“You can say that,” Malkin said, nodding.

“Hm. Well, you will permit me to write those volucrine names down, won’t you?”

“Volucrine, you said, Lord?” muttered Prof. Tewksbury, rising from his chair.

“Indeed, Professor—same trick you played with the names last time, except referring to birds rather than the alphabet. The solution has nothing to do with names—well, except for one name.”

“Ah,” said the Professor, who, seeming slightly annoyed, fell back in his seat.

“It helps,” said Mr. Lord cheerfully, after having written them down, “if you know the derivation of one word in particular. And that one word is…”

He stopped suddenly, all the cheer leaving his face. “I’m a fool. Damn! Apologies, Miss Little. Yes,” he snapped, looking at a certain member of the Puzzlers, “you clever devil, you clever devil…”

To which member was Geoffrey Lord referring?

What was the word?

What was the solution?

How did Geoffrey Lord know?

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Color Scheme

I’m not yet ready to post the story to which I referred before, but in the meantime…

“Color Scheme”

When Mr. Geoffrey Lord, of West 87th Street, New York City, was first asked to join one of the most illustrious clubs known to man—I am referring, of course, to that select and secretive organization known as the Puzzlers—he did not grin or smile, an occurrence that understandably bemused his inimitable secretary, the lovely (and, as Insp. O’Leary realized several times, love-stricken)  Miss Paula Vale, because Geoff had tried (and failed) to gain entrance to the Puzzlers for year after year.
On the evening when Geoff was to set off for his induction ceremony, Paula, on her way out the Lordian door, finally managed to ask the age-old inquiry of why.
“Oh, so that’s why you’ve been looking at me so strangely ever since I got that letter,” Mr. Lord chuckled.
Paula sighed. “And you call yourself a detective…”
“Well,” her employer explained, tapping his pipe tobacco on the ash tray, “I suppose a Puzzler is not allowed to give out any information about the club, but I’m not yet a Puzzler, officially. Fact is, darling, that Malkin—Sidney Malkin, the stockbroker, that is—let me know several years ago that the entrance exam for the Puzzlers is unusually difficult, and I’m trying to make sure that my knowledge of minutiae is—shall we say—up to snuff.”
(It was not until Miss Vale was out the door that she realized Geoff had called her “darling.”)
When, at 9 o’clock that evening precisely, Geoff knocked three times on a disreputable door in a disreputable neighborhood, he was ushered into the usually-verboten establishment in utter silence. He would have felt a bit like he was five years old, playing at secret clubs, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Tom Sawyer—but for the taciturnity of those beckoning him in, which was oppressive and even, God help him, ominous. He entered, and the door was closed behind him.
“Mr. Geoffrey Lord.”
Not a question, but a statement, which seemed to come out of the black pitch of the room.
“At attention, and with my sword at the ready to defend the fair maiden’s honor,” said Geoff, somewhat foolishly.
No one laughed.
“You have been invited to take membership in the Puzzlers, if you should pass the entrance examination. Do you accept the invitation?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Are you ready for the examination?”
“Ready when you are. Mind if I smoke?”
No one responded, so Geoff lit a cigarette and grinned.
Then Geoff heard a lighter voice, a woman’s voice: “Mr. Lord, your achievements as a detective are well-known. With them in mind, we have devised an entrance examination especially for you—a detective puzzle.”
“With thee as my guide, fair lady,” the Lancelot of 87th St. responded, “I shall have little to fear.”
“The puzzle is this,” a gruff, male voice shot in: “you have been called to a painter’s studio in Greenwich Village. He has been killed by a putty knife from his palette.”
“Gruesome way to go,” muttered Mr. Lord.
“The police interview his estranged wife, Olivia; his angst-ridden son, Pythagoras—”
Pythagoras?” murmured Mr. Lord, smiling. “I detect a classicist’s touch here.”
“—and his four employees, with whom he had all quarrelled at one point or another: Quentin, Roy, Smith, and Travers.”
“First or last names? No, silly question—last names, because I’ve never heard of forenames ‘Smith’ or ‘Travers.’”
“It’s irrelevant,” came an exasperated voice. Geoff recognized this as Sidney Malkin.
“Before the painter died,” the gruff voice returned, “he had no pen or paper, but he managed to dip his paintbrush in every color on his palette and paint one line of each.”
Geoff—“Why didn’t he just paint the murderer’s name?”
“He thought,” another voice came in, “this would be a more direct method to identifying the killer to the police.”
“Or maybe he just had a detective-story mind,” the woman’s voice said. Geoff thought the voice sounded amused.
“Police later found out that our painter had argued with his wife and with his four employees that evening.”
“By the principle of the ‘least-likely suspect,’” said Geoffrey Lord, the detective-story writer, “that would make the son—Pythagoras—the killer. And I knew one could kill with a right angle…”
“Is that your final answer?”
“Not at all. I’m only prevaricating.”
“Your question is simple, Mr. Lord,” said Malkin’s voice. “The dying clue points to the killer—no tricks there. But what does it mean?”
Silence for a moment.
Mr. Lord said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you appeal to my abecedarian mind.”
“Oh?” said one voice—rather curiously.
“Indeed. You know exactly the traps into which I’d fall—someone has been reading my books, and I thank you for the implied compliment. But the murderer is indeed obvious.”
“Mr. Lord, you don’t expect us to believe that you’ve so quickly guessed the solution to…”
He did expect them to believe it—as he explained the correct solution only seconds later.
The lights came on. Miss Alice Little, the well-known poetess, smiled welcomingly; Sidney Malkin patted Geoff on the back; Lee Shapiro, the famous but often-criticized attorney, coughed a trifle nervously; and Alan Tewksbury, the Columbia classics professor, raised an eyebrow—and they all welcomed the latest member of the Puzzlers into the finest dinner in New York.
Which of the six suspects killed the painter?
How did Geoffrey Lord know?
What was the meaning of the dying clue?
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Solution Time (Let’s Try This Again)

OK, folks, I’m revealing the solution to “Ruby Red.” (I would have revealed it before, as promised, but Inurhadi correctly found one of the three major clues.)




































(You still with me?)

The dying clue indicated Fred Mayne, because his birthstone is the ruby (month: July), but the dying clue was faked. The murderer is Raymond Tallder.

Tallder’s motive? Inheritance from the will. But even more than that–Tallder threw suspicion on Fred Mayne by planting the ruby birthstone in Balchek’s hand. Why? As we know, Mayne and Tallder had previously argued; Tallder had said that Mayne was “still fuming,” but the same, from what he said, seems to apply to him.

Clues? Tallder was an expert gemologist, as stated, and therefore knew what stone to choose to indicate Mayne. Mayne, by the way, “tends to focus more on the rings and watches,” as Lt. McKee told us. Could Mrs. Balchek have known about the stone? No–she “had no interest in rare gems or any other part of her husband’s time-consuming profession…” Moreover, it is unlikely that Mrs. B, who had no interest in Mr. B’s profession, knew any of her husband’s employees’ birthmonths–which the murderer had to know because of the birthstone.

But what definitively establishes that the dying clue must have been faked–or, to be rigorously logical about it, is most likely to have been faked? Answer–the calendar. There was a calendar behind the counter on which Mr. Balchek, had he really been intended to be leaving a month-based dying clue, could have marked something–a day, a month–off.

More than that–who knew about that calendar? Balchek, obviously, as the jeweller–and also Fred Mayne. But Tallder? He “…now works mainly in his own office, not behind the counter…”

So the dying clue was faked by the only person who didn’t know that there was an easier way to fake it–who knew about gems and rare stones–who was likely to know his co-worker’s birthday–who benefited from the will–and who had a motive to frame Mayne: Raymond Tallder. QED.

























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Solution Time

If no one else cares to take a guess at it, I can reveal the solution later tonight. I will repeat that the answer was one of Inurhadi’s solutions but that prime information was missing.

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Another Game of Wits

“Ruby Red”

“Damn all dying clues!”

(This from a policeman, viz. Lt. Christopher McKee of the NYPD, whose job it is to investigate said clues, or any clues.)

“That’s one way to put it,” murmured Mr. Geoffrey Lord softly. “What’s wrong, Chris?”

“Who the hell would do something like that right before dying?—Don’t answer that,” McKee snapped. “I was just talking to Pop O’Leary. He said you were pretty good with these riddles—finding patterns and that sorta thing.”

“I try.”

“Well, here goes nothing: hope I’m not bothering you while you’re working on your latest novel…”

“Not bothering me at all, in fact.” Geoff smiled at a private joke. “Paula—Miss Vale, my secretary, y’know—is off to visit her mother, and I’m a vehement procrastinator. Heaven knows when that book will be finished.”

McKee rubbed his hands and began explaining the case.

The victim was Georj Balchek, the well-known jeweller and rare gem expert. He’d been stabbed in his shop but had apparently lived long enough to drag himself to one of the glass cases, smash the case open, and grab a ruby—before expiring, the ruby grasped with the firmness of rigor mortis.

“Suspects?” said the Great Man, filling his pipe.

There were three, according to the Lieutenant: the store’s manager, Raymond Tallder; the other employee, Fred Mayne; and Balchek’s wife Agnes. All three had the only other keys to the jewellery shop and had not given their keys to anyone (by their own testimony); and the burglary alarm had not gone off. Motives? The usual ones—to wit, greed, hate, and jealousy. Mrs. Balchek, who had no interest in rare gems or any other part of her husband’s time-consuming profession, had long wanted a divorce, as she freely admitted, which Balchek had denied her for fear of scandal. She also benefited from the will—as Tallder did, as well, his motive. Mayne had been passed over for promotion in favor of Tallder, and by all accounts (especially Tallder’s), he was still fuming.

“Hm,” said Geoff. “Is Mayne an expert in gemology as well?”

“Not exactly,” said the annoyed Lieutenant. “In fact, not at all—he doesn’t know much about them. Only Tallder and Balchek are—were—experts. Tallder now works mainly in his own office, not behind the counter,  but he is a gemologist. Mayne, on the other hand, tends to focus more on the rings and watches.”

“Right. By the way, Chris”—Geoff paused for a minute—“was there a calendar anywhere around?”

“A calendar? What? There was one behind the counter.”

“And you have the suspects’ birthdates?”

Now McKee was very confused—his normal reaction when he brought a case to Geoffrey Lord—and he expressed this confusion with assorted expletives, which amused Geoff greatly. Then McKee’s face cleared, and he murmured:

“Of course, Geoff. How did I ever miss…? And a jeweller, too! Tallder was born in December, and Mrs. Balchek was born in March, and Mayne was born in July.”


“Well, then, Geoff, thanks, but I’ve got the murderer, then. All we need is proof.”

Geoff rose and puffed pensively on the pipe. “Ah–well!–Chris, there’s just one more point…”

Who is the murderer?

How did Geoffrey Lord know?

What is the meaning of the dying clue?

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