When on 7 October, 193- the first of the “Marius Letters” letters arrived at the offices of several London newspapers and Scotland Yard announcing “I am going to commit a murder…on the night of the 11th”, the inclination was to take it as a hoax. Subsequent letters arrive containing further information, each stoking speculation and theories. Is this a game, or is there someone who out there who believes that, not only is the murder necessary, but that they will not be caught?
Then at 7:37 pm 11 October, Scotland Yard receives a call with the message, “A murder has been committed!” The police race to where the call has been traced, the home of Thomas Richleigh. And Richleigh is indeed dead, killed within moments of the arrival of the police, a knife protruding from his chest, in a room with all of the doors and windows locked from the inside.
While the police have been unable to prevent the crime, their investigation soon reveals a motive and suspects that are all too obvious. Richleigh was a thoroughly disagreeable man with four nephews who will inherit his estate. Unfortunately, each and every one of them also has a watertight alibi.
Former Scotland Yard Detective John Franklin, now head of Durangos Limited private enquiry department, has also been working on case. Ludovic Travers, Durangos’ financial wunderkind, has taken an interest as well, so much so that he arranges events so as to be at the crime scene with the police. For the police this case, which “seemed to abound with clues” at the outset, ultimately grinds to a halt. It is left to Franklin and Travers to continue the investigation. But they come to realize that in order to solve the case they will need to prove the impossible.
Damn the impossibilities…A man of keen intelligence actually announces that he can’t be caught. He flaunts before everybody the assertion that the police can have no chance. And why? Because he found a way to murder a man and not be there, or he may have discovered how to be in two places at once. And yet you people will persist in looking for the possible.”
This was very enjoyable to read. It has an intriguing storyline that is well plotted with good pacing. The prologue was very intriguing, offering three events related to the crime which offered the reader “the solution to the mystery or at least its main ingredients”. I tried very hard to keep it in mind as I read and it was fun to take the information obtained from the investigations and try to tie them to the prologue.
What is very different about this story is that the how, and the who are actually revealed, while not early, earlier than you might expect. But it is that revelation on which the story depends. It becomes more about how to lay the crime at the feet of the culprit, which allows for some ingenious thinking, and some very good scenes between Franklin and Travers. While Franklin is the principle investigator, Travers provides insight where needed. And though the actual time he spends contributing to the case is small, it is by no means insignificant. It is he who solves the locked room scenario as well as making the connection between two outwardly unrelated events. If I have one quibble, it would be that his character is not seen more.
My Judgement – 4.25/5