International Impossibilities

It’s always satisfying (and comforting) to have one’s efforts recognized, as with the Frankfurt Book Fair digital edition of Publisher’s Weekly, p 18.

It is my experience so far that, the more LRI gets known, the more treasures I stumble across. There is no shortage of great forgotten books: the only constraints are (a) how much time I can spend in a given year and (b) whether there are any rights issues.

Welcome to the new site

Well, the material is basically the same, but I’ve switched to a new format based on WordPress, which will theoretically allow more flexibility as I go along (and is, apparently much better suited to viewing on mobile devices.)

I’ve also added a second, shorter, domain name:, which will also bring you to this site ( was already taken.)

Astute observers will have noted the presence of a book not translated from the French: The Derek Smith Omnibus, which, incidentally,  got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, followed by a rapturous review from the Washington Post:

This reflects a broadening scope of LRI’s mission: we shall be adding out-of-print locked room jewels by English authors as well as translations from other languages than French — for example Swedish– wherever we can negotiate a reasonable royalty deal.

More of this in more detail as we go along. Thank you for your patience.

Soji Shimada

Soji Shimada is credited with the revival of the Golden Age style of mystery writing in Japan:the New Orthodox or Shin Honkaku style.. The publication of his masterpiece The Tokyo Zodiac Murders in 1981 challenged the social school of writing dominant at the time and encouraged a new generation of Golden Age authors. Would that the same had happened here….

Jean-Paul Török

M. Török is a versatile and well-respected figure in French cultural circles. He is a celebrated film critic, radio producer and film director of note, having been nominated for the Golden Palm for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival for La Ligne de Sceaux. In addition to his directorial talents, he also wrote the screenplay for A Bad Son. He is equally well-known in literary circles, his biography of Pierre Benoit, author of l’Atlantide, having been honored by the Académie française.

Paul Halter

Paul Halter was born in Hagenau, Alsace, in 1956. He pursued technical studies before joining the French Marines in the hope of seeing the world. Disappointed with the lack of travel, he left the military and, for a while, sold life insurance while augmenting his income playing the guitar in the local dance orchestra. he gave up life insurance for a job in France Telecom and, upon discovering the writings of John Dickson Carr, gave up the guitar for the pen.

Paul Halter, a Master of Locked Rooms.
Paul Halter’s own website

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders: Update

LRI had been planning to re-publish Shimada Soji’s masterpiece in August, but there has been a complication regarding rights and it will not happen, at least for the time being. Further explanations will be forthcoming at the appropriate time, but I can assure readers it was not the result of any disagreement between the author and myself. Our relationship is very amicable and I hope to publish more of his works at a later date.

The Derek Smith Omnibus

Derek Smith (1926-2002) was a reclusive character with poor health but a fertile mind, who turned his hand to writing mystery fiction while in convalescence, after being invalided out of the army in the late 1940’s. His chosen field was locked room mysteries, about which he possessed a truly phenomenal knowledge. He tried both short stories and novels, only one of which ever saw publication in his native land.  But that single exception has earned him a place in the pantheon of locked room authors.

   Whistle Up the Devil (1953) pops up regularly in “Best of” lists, and for good reason. Publisher’s Weekly’s (starred) June 30 review calls it “one of the most intelligent and crafty impossible murder novels of all time.” Lacourbe et al’s 1001 Chambres Closes ranks it among the masterpieces. No locked-room library is complete without a copy.

   Come to Paddington Fair, probably written in the same period, never found a publisher in the English-speaking world. Ironically, it was left to a discerning Japanese collector and reviewer, Hidetoshi Mori, who regarded it as an impossible crime masterpiece, to publish it privately (in English). It involves “a clever murder committed in plain sight on a London stage during a performance” (PW again).   

   Model for Murder (1952) appears to have been Derek’s first novel, specifically written for the Sexton Blake market. Sexton Blake (“the poor man’s Sherlock Holmes’) was the fearless detective hero of over 4,000 stories by more than 200 authors of whom Derek, alas, was not destined to be one. His manuscript was rejected, possibly because it was too cerebral for the intended audience. Nevertheless, it is a well-written story with a solid locked room element.

   The omnibus itself was the result of detective work. Having long admired Derek’s novels (thanks to Bob Adey I had photocopies of Model for Murder and Come to Paddington Fair and owned a copy of Whistle Up the Devil), I decided to try to locate the owner of the rights to see if they would agree to publication by LRI. Bob, who knew Derek better than anyone, had given me the phone number of his one-time solicitor. They were unable to give me any specifics, but steered me in the direction of the UK Probate Registry. Two months after filling out a printed on-line form and forking out the princely sum of 6 GBP (which included mailing to anywhere in the world), I received a copy of Derek’s will in the mail.

   I was stunned to find I knew the owner of the rights: Derek had bequeathed the rights of all his published and unpublished writings  to Douglas G. Greene, well-known to mystery fans as the owner of Crippen & Landru.  Doug, with whom I have been communicating for nearly 10 years, was thunderstruck when I told him. He could not understand why the executors had neglected their basic duty to inform him. After digesting the news, he graciously invited me to publish the stories and I, of course, agreed. Doug suggested publishing all three novels in an omnibus, which turned out to be a smart decision because it allowed us to qualify for reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and two other periodicals. We are both delighted that Derek Smith will get another chance to be read, and I am deeply grateful to Doug for the opportunity.

*Yes, I know it says Locked Room International, but that doesn’t preclude British writers. I’m looking at another one for 2015…

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders: Personally Dedicated Copies

In February 1936, Heikichi Umezawa, a demented artist, is found dead inside his studio, barred from the inside. Paintings with Zodiac themes are stacked against the walls and a letter from him, filled with alchemy and astrology references, is found in a drawer. In it, he details his plan to slaughter his six nieces and daughters and create Azoth, the perfect woman, from body parts removed from each of them. Fortunately, it appears that he was murdered before he could execute his insane plan….

… But, in the weeks following his death, his stepdaughter is raped and murdered and the police begin to discover the corpses of the six Umezawa women buried all over Japan, each apparently poisoned by a different alchemic element and each missing a vital body part. A Japanese Dr. Frankenstein seems to have carried out Heikichi’s mad project, yet Azoth herself is never found and the killer is never unmasked, despite the outpouring of theories provoked by the nationwide revulsion to the crimes. On the surface, they were the fruit of a diseased mind, a serial killer, but were they really…?

In 1979, a young fortune-teller, astrologer and amateur detective, Kyoshi Mitarai, takes a rash bet that he can solve in one week a mystery that has eluded all efforts over more than forty years. He succeeds and unmasks the diabolical killer and the extraordinarily clever plot, featuring possibly the finest red herring in all detective fiction.

Despite its magical and horrific overtones, this is a work of classical detection and a locked room mystery. It launched a revival of the Golden Age style (honkaku) in Japan (and, incidentally, introduced the serial killer theme one year before Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon.)

LRI is privileged to republish “TTZM.” Take advantage of this unique opportunity to acquire a personalized signed copy of this acknowledged masterpiece, dedicated to whomever you wish: contact me at before June 15.