Paul Halter’s The Phantom Passage is now available

This is LRI’s tenth Halter novel, featuring his Edwardian-era detective Owen Burns, who regards murder as an art form if done elegantly enough. It received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly:

I personally think it’s by far the cleverest disappearing street/house/whatever I’ve read, avoiding the overworked sign-was-turned-round trope and its variations.

Paul and I have agreed on the eleventh novel, due out at year-end: it will be La Mort vous invite (Death Invites You), featuring Twist and Hurst. Meanwhile, I’ve submitted another short story to EQMM: The Scarecrow’s Revenge

Speaking of EQMM and honkaku (see earlier post), there will be a story in the December issue by Koga Subarou, who coined the term back in the 1920s. It’s called The Spider.

The Washington Post discovers Honkaku

Japanese honkaku writers rejoice! July 16, 2015 was a red-letter day! One of the most influential mystery reviewers in America, Michael Dirda (a Pulitzer Prize winner and an elegant writer) vowed, in his terrific review of The Decagon House Murders, to discover more honkaku novels, starting with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders:–in-japan/2015/07/15/628391ce-297c-11e5-bd33-395c05608059_story.html

It just so happened a few days earlier that my penpal Dokuta sent me this beautiful English-language page from the Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan:

Price Changes

Dear Reader,

I am pleased to announce that as of today, the prices of the following five Paul Halter books and e-books will be reduced to $15.99 and $7.99 respectively: The Fourth Door; The Demon of Dartmoor; The Seventh Hypothesis; The Tiger’s Head; The Crimson Fog.

The Killing Needle will now be $12.99 and $5.99

“These changes are in response to [fill in the blanks]”

The Decagon House Murders

I’m delighted to announce that Yukito Ayatsuji’s classic is now available on Amazon and Kindle. It’s the book which is credited with re-launching the Golden Age style novel (known locally as honkaku) in Japan after a forty year period dominated by social/police-procedural mysteries.

Although it is an open tribute to Dame Agatha’s And Then There Were None, it is nevertheless brilliantly original and richly atmospheric. Publisher’s Weekly has named it as one of their Best Summer Reads of 2015.

As an added bonus, the maestro of honkaku, Soji Shimada himself, has done me the honor of writing a fascinating Introduction which describes in detail the evolution of Japanese detective fiction and the renaissance of honkaku. Of particular interest is the role played by the Kyoto University Mystery Club, covered in an essay by Ho-Ling Wong, the gifted translator of DHM, himself a member.

The House That Kills

Not for nothing is Noel Vindry known as “the French John Dickson Carr.”  Between 1932 and 1937 he wrote twelve locked room novels, of a quality and quantity to rival the master himself, yet he has so far remained unknown to English-speaking readers.

In its starred review Publisher’s Weekly says: “Vindry displays gifts for puzzle making and a creepy atmosphere that will resonate with fans of John Dickson Carr.”

The legendary Boileau-Narcejac team, responsible for Vertigo and Diabolique, spoke of his “unequalled virtuosity” and “stupefying puzzles.” Thomas Narcejac said that “not even those specialists E. Queen or D. Carr” (sic) were Vindry’s equal. He was the poet of the puzzle novel.

The House That Kills (“La Maison Qui Tue”) was Vindry’s first book, featuring examining magistrate* Monsieur Allou and three baffling locked room mysteries, including the first appearance of one particular puzzle type, to the best of my knowledge.

*an examining magistrate is a peculiarity of the French judicial system. Carr’s first four books featured another one: Henri Bencolin.

RIP Robert Adey, Gentleman and Scholar

I have just learned, to my intense sorrow, of the death of Robert Adey (Bob to all of his friends). Bob, of course, is known to all locked room fans for his bibliography Locked Room Murders, the reference “bible” for all such English-language works.

He was the epitome of the phrase “a gentleman and a scholar,” for he was not only possessed of a prodigious memory and a fabulous private collection, but he was the kindest and most generous of men. Despite a debilitating illness in his final years, he was always ready to help and supplied me with copies of many out-of-print stories. When I asked him to write the introduction to ‘The Derek Smith Omnibus’ he did it splendidly, despite an initial reluctance, doing weeks of research through his old files. I only realize it now, but it must have been literally “painstaking” for him, yet he did it graciously as an act of friendship and a tribute to a late friend.

He will be sorely missed

John P.

Season’s Greetings

I wish all LRI readers all the best for the holiday season and thank you for your support (and your e-mails which are always welcome).

Let us end the year on an encouraging note, from the UK:

Is Golden Age Detection making a comeback? One swallow doesn’t make a summer (as they say in the UK–“swallow” as in the bird) but maybe people are finally tiring of plot-less drivel and social messaging disguised as detective fiction.

Maybe Michael Dirda’s enthusiastic review of the Derek Smith Omnibus in the Washington Post was a foretaste of things to come:

I pledge to do my part:

There will be a lot of interesting stuff by LRI in 2015. I’ll fill in the details as soon as all the agreements are firmly in place. My goal is at least six top-flight impossible crime novels in 2015.

Happy New Year!
John P.

Call for Help

I’m in the process of expanding the scope of my publications, still staying within the locked room/impossible crime sub-genre, but including past and present writers from many more countries. The aim would be to release 6 new publications a year (2 of which would be Halter works.)

To do that I need 4 more volunteer proofreaders. The way it works is that for each new title I send a draft (in English) to 4 proofreaders simultaneously, with a return date of 2 months later. They aren’t professionals: they do this for fun in their spare time and they tell me they love it. Unfortunately most of them can’t fit in more than 3 books a year. So to get to my goal of 6 books a year I need 4 more enthusiasts. There’s no payment involved, although you do get a copy of the final publication, signed if the author is still alive.

You don’t need any training: all you need is an eagle eye for spelling errors, missing periods, missing quotes, etc. If you’re interested, send me an e-mail at I have an incredible number of great stories and you could help bring them to market.