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John Russell Fearn Locked Room


jr fearnJohn Russell Fearn (1908–1960) was a British author of sci-fi, mystery, and westerns, and one of the first British writers to appear in American pulp science fiction magazines. A prolific author, he also published mystery novels as John Slate, and used various other pseudonyms including Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong, John Cotton, Dennis Clive, Ephriam Winiki, Astron Del Martia. His series include Adam Quirke, Clayton Drew, Golden Amazon, and Herbert. At times these drew on the pulp traditions of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His work received praise for its vividness, and criticism, being deemed “unpolished”.

Edited from Wikipedia


John Russel Fearn Locked Room Novels


black mariaBlack Maria, M.A. (1944)
Author: as John Slate
Detective: Maria Black

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: Death by shooting in a locked library!

When Ralph Black, chain store magnate, is found shot by his own gun in his locked library in his palatial home, the New York Police Department pronounces it suicide. However, his family members believe he was murdered. His sister in England, Maria Black, M.A., Headmistress of a girls’ school, wants to discover the truth. She travels to America, and with her penchant for solving crimes, sets to work to trace the mysterious plot against Ralph. Can she unmask the amazing truth about her brother’s death? Or will the first case of “Black Maria” also prove to be her last?


thy armsThy Arms Alone (1947)
Author: as John Slate
Detective: Maria Black

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: Death by hanging in a locked cellar!

Betty Shapley was a local beauty, for whose charms three young men fell heavily. But she never expected that her coquetry would lead to the sudden and horrifyingly brutal death of one of her admirers, the shy, inoffensive Herbert Pollitt – plus the life of a fugitive for another, Vincent Grey; as well as the role of a murder-case witness for the third, Tom Clayton. Inspector Morgan and Sergeant Claythorne of the local police investigate the death, and suspect that the now-vanished Vincent Grey, against whom the evidence seems overwhelming, was responsible. So Betty, once a pupil of Roseway College for Young Ladies, asks the forbidding Miss Maria Black – “Black Maria” the headmistress detective – to prove Grey’s innocence. 


framed guiltFramed in Guilt (1948)
Author: as John Slate
Detective: Maria Black

Best Review
***

Available only in paperback editions.

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Note: Death by stabbing in a locked office! 

William Barridge, meek and mild solicitor’s clerk, is found lying on the floor of his employer’s locked office with a knife in his back. But how could a man so innocuous have had any enemies? When Superintendent Henshaw investigates, however, it becomes evident that Barridge had mysterious dealings with his brother in Australia – and an association with an attractive potential divorcee. Added to the list of suspects is Henry Minton, Barridge’s employer – the only person with a key to the locked office.


death silhouetteDeath in Silhouette (1950)
Author: as John Slate
Detective: Maria Black

Best Review
***

Available only in paperback editions.

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Note: A man is killed by a blunt instrument while all alone!

Maria Black, the woman’s school headmistress who doubles as a detective, is invited to attend the engagement celebrations of an ex-pupil of her college. There she finds herself involved in the mysterious suicide of the prospective bridegroom, Keith Robinson. All the circumstances – death by hanging in a locked cellar – support the idea that Keith took his own life. The coroner, too, is satisfied that such was the case – but certain peculiar factors of the death lead “Black Maria” to think otherwise. Aided by her American Bowery companion, “Pulp” Martin, Maria sets out to prove how Keith really died – and in doing so uncovers an ingenious plan of cold-blooded murder. But who is the killer – and why was Keith murdered? This final novel in the Black Maria series is a classic “locked-room” crime novel, one that will leave the reader guessing right up to the last page!


Merridrew Marches On 
Author: John Russel Fearn
Detective: Mayor Merridrew

No Review

Not currently available.

Note: May be a lost title, some other Merridrew still available!

Not currently available. Deals with a death by poison gas in the middle of a desert. Mayor Jenkinson Talbot Merridrew is a 300 pound English butler in the midwest!


John Russell Fearn Locked Room Short Stories


more whodunitsChamber of Centuries 
Author: John Russell Fearn
Detective: Jane Melrose

Collection: More Whodunits, Morlan and others.

No Review

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Note: A ghost appears once a year in the middle of a locked room!

A ghost is not always a ghost in John Russell Fearn’s “Chamber of Centuries.” In 1936 columnist Alexander Brass learns why “He Couldn’t Fly.” Michael Aurland  In 1930s’ Kansas Lonni Lees’s “The Blue-Eyed Bandit,” a bank robber finally meets his match. Detective Bentley Hollow returns to the world of high-priced collectibles in “The Fenton Art Glass Murder,” by Gary Lovisi. Also a rare Gerald Verner story ‘The Grey Monk’. 


within roomWithin That Room (1946)
Author: John Russel Fearn
Detective: Dick Wilmott

Collection: Novelette; Toronto Star Weekly, Jan. 19, 1946

No Review

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Note: A man is mentally assaulted while alone in a locked room?

A novelette, apparently developed from the Chamber of Centuries short story.  A man is mentally assaulted while alone in a locked room and a ghost appears once a year at a specific time in the middle a locked room.

Dick opened the door again swiftly, Vera clinging to him – and they were so astounded at what they saw that he forgot for the moment to slam the door shut again. For the phantom was there – clearly visible in the sunlight, which now blazed across the upper half of the great window. A strange, incredible caricature of a being hung in the dusty air, a haze of blurry light surrounding it from the back. There was the pointed tail, the simian ears, the long needle-chinned face, bent arms flexed as though to pounce forward. He seemed to be grinning horribly. Yet he was in mid-air and through him the ancient stone wall could be distinctly seen. This was the ghost – the horror – that everyone knows haunts Sunny Acres Castle, the house that Vera Grantham has just inherited from her late uncle. Together with her boyfriend, Dick Wilmott, she must uncover the secret behind the mansion – a secret worth killing for! 


robbery violenceRobbery Without Violence
Author: John Russel Fearn
Detective: Sawley Gearson, scientist.

Collection: Novelette, Toronto Star Weekly, Dec. 14, 1957

No Review

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: Disappearance of gold bullion from a sealed bank vault. 

In “Robbery Without Violence,” gold worth fifty million pounds vanishes overnight from an impregnable bank vault, Chief Inspector Hargraves of Scotland Yard finds himself completely baffled. And when the owner of the bank then dies under mysterious circumstances, Hargraves is again spurred to seek outside help from scientist Sawley Garson, a specialist in solving “impossible” crimes. But can even he explain the inexplicable? Also included in this collection is “Death at the Observatory.”


John Russell Fern mystery bibliography


Locked Room 101: The Masters


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