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Another corker of an ‘impossible crime’ novel

5100BXQ+vUL._AA160_After I blogged about Derek Smith’s Whistle Up the Devil I downloaded his other ‘impossible crime’ novel, Come to Paddington Fair. I was planning to save it, but soon succumbed and what a corker it turned out to be. I would definitely have included it in my list of favourite books set in theatres if I’d known about it.

The death scene in the final act West End play goes very wrong in front of a matinee audience to which someone has invited a Scotland Yard inspector, Steve Castle, and  his friend, Algy Lawrence, the amateur sleuth who featured in Whistle Up the Devil. A gun has been loaded with bullets instead of blanks and a very unpopular actress ends up dead. The theatrical setting is very well done, and I was completely bamboozled by the puzzle. At one point I did have the faintest of inklings about how it might have been done, but I couldn’t bring it into focus and was completely and satisfyingly foxed. When the solution was revealed, it was both ingenious and yet – in a way – obvious: perfect.

I was sad to discover that Derek Smith wrote so little. Come to Paddington Fair was apparently only published in a small print run in Japan and wasn’t published in the UK at all. Given its quality, this seems extraordinary and I am so sorry that Smith didn’t write more. I applaud Locked Room International for making these these lost classics of the genre available.

6 Comments

  1. Martin Edwards
    February 29, 2016

    I haven’t read this one, but I have the Smith omnibus and hope to get round to it soon. I agree that Locked Room International do a truly excellent job.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      March 1, 2016

      I am really surprised that Derek Smith isn’t better known. Perhaps because he didn’t really make a career out of writing. I really enjoyed this and I think you will, too.

      Reply
  2. moira @ClothesInBooks
    March 6, 2016

    Chrissie, you just made me get hold of Whistle up the Devil, and now you’re forcing me to look for this one too! What are you doing to my TBR?

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      March 7, 2016

      And what are you doing to mine! We are bad influences . . . But it is fun! BTW I have just reread more of the Block Scudder novels and some of them feature horrible violence towards women – could not recommend. You have to pick and choose, I think.

      Reply
  3. John Pugmire
    March 17, 2016

    Christine, many thanks for the kind remarks.

    I think you’d also like any of the Paul Halters (the successor to John Dickson Carr).

    Or the Japanese “Decagon House Murders” (honkaku= Japanese Golden Age-style).

    Or “the funniest book I’ve read in a longtime,” the Swedish “Hard Cheese.”

    John P.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      March 17, 2016

      My pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed both the Derek Smith’s and will take a look at the others that you published.

      Reply

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