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Locked Room Authors Index: B


Many of the best locked room classics have been written by authors who only wrote one or two titles in the genre. This page is the second instalment of our locked room classics index, covering all these minor locked room authors, without author pages, whose surnames begin with the letter B. New titles will be added to this page as information becomes available on titles that are currently unavailable or where sufficient information cannot currently be found. Details on many of these titles are quite hard to find – if you have information to add please let us know on our GoodMystery Facebook Page!


Locked Room Novels: B


body beautifulThe Body Beautiful (1949)
Author: Bill S. Ballinger
Detective: Barr Breed 

 

Best Review
****

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Note: Follow yourself?

On date number one, the beautiful showgirl was cool, Barr Breed determined. On date number two, she was warm and his hopes were high. On date number three, she was stone cold dead…

The body of Coffee Stearns lay stretched out in the orchestra pit at the Marlowe Theater – with a long knife firmly planted in her gold-painted back. Who would have wanted to murder her? And why? Chicago private eye Barr Breed has to solve the case in which there appear to be no clues and no suspects… unless he counted the man who was Coffee Stearns last date… himself.

The Body Beautiful, the second and last in the Barr Breed series, is a thriller about vice, vengeance and murder. 

The impossible crime in this classic private eye noir involves the show girl being in a gilded seat hanging high above the stage when she is stabbed to death.


5 fatal wordsFive Fatal Words (1932) 
Author: Edwin Balmer & Philip Wylie
Detective: Donald Cornwall

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: A will to die for?

Melicent Waring has been out of a job for nine weeks and is becoming desperate when she reads an ad in a “Help Wanted – Female” column – asking for a young lady who “must have no ties” and “willing to devote entire time for one year” to her job. She is interviewed by a reputable lawyer and soon takes a position as a companion to the wealthy Miss Hannah Cornwall. However, her innocent seeming position becomes quite uncomfortable, when she discovers that Cornwall’s father left a 200 million dollar estate that pays a life income – but can only be inherited by the last living member of the family!

This of course leaves all concerned living in fear and dread, which ends up in a horrible string of murders, including an electrocution in a locked bathroom. 

Read Beneath the Stains of Time great review by Moonlight Detective in our Best Review


cobra candlestickThe Cobra Candlestick (1928)
Author: Elsa Barker
Detective:Dexter Drake

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: A medium turned locked room author!

Elsa Barker began as a medium publishing a series of fake spiritualist messages from an LA judge, then came back to write three fairly good locked room detective stories featuring ‘independent consultant’ Dexter Drake and his sidekick, Paul Howard. The Cobra Candlestick was her debut novel and deals with the murder of John Marshbitter, who was alone in the library, with all the exits watched by members of the family, when he was killed by a single blow to his temple.

Another great Beneath the Stains of Time review by Moonlight Detective is our Best Review 

Other Titles:
The C.I.D. of Dexter Drake (1929)
The Redman Cave Murder (1930)


13th coachThe Case for the Thirteenth Coach (1958)
Author: E G Bartlett
Detective: DR. Singh & David Leigh

 

No Review

Available only in used hardcover editions.

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Note: A missing bullion car!

It was not just a consignment of half a million in gold ingots for the Bank of England that had disappeared, the extra coach of the non-stop relief from Newport had vanished into thin air when the train reached Paddington. Significantly, it was the thirteenth coach. From then on events move rapidly, and Dr Singh, the Indian private detective, goes to work on the case with patience and subtlety, aided by his Dr Watson-with-a-difference…


house strange EBThe House of Strange Secrets (1899) 
Author: A. Eric Bayly
Detective: Laurence Carrington

 

Best Review
***

Available only in ebook and used paperback and hardcover editions.

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Note: A  deadly killer stalks the night?

A man on a bicycle forces Mr. Carrington’s coach to stop at night in the middle of the Yorkshire moor, then breaks the carriage window and puts a shot through his top hat. The old man’s son, Laurence, decides to play amateur sleuth and uncover the identity of their attacker and the reason why his father always lives in a state of terror. The locked room aspects enters when the next attack occurs inside a guarded bedroom. Not much detection, and Victorian racism abounds.


death deck chairDeath in a Deck Chair (1984) 
Author: K.K. Beck
Detective: Iris Cooper

 

Best Review
****

Available in ebook and used paperback editions.

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Note: Murder at sea!

It’s 1927 and young Iris Cooper is sailing home to America after traveling all around the world with her Aunt Hermione in this affectionate homage to 1920s detective novels. Aboard the S. S. Irenia, she encounters an international cast of characters with secrets, and solves a murder with wisecracking newspaperman Jack Clancy.

“A delightful throwback to the 1920s . . . It’s like turning back the pages to early Christie. . . . Beck handles familiar ingredients without slipping into cliche.” – Washington Post Bookworld


fabulous winkThe Fabulous Wink (1951)
AKA: The Wink
Author: Kem Bennett

 

 

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****

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Note: A spiritual epiphany?

“Happy reading for all who prefer the delayed-reaction chuckle to the hearty roar … for all who can appreciate eternal problems handled with reverent mirth.”

The scene: A watering place on the cliffy coast of Normandy, one of the smaller, cheaper beaches which foreigners delight in discovering as typically French. To this place comes:

The Rev. William Henry Thoroughgood Anker in search of an unwonted and unwanted holiday. For him vacations were always “a purgatory of idleness and anxiety, during which he never ceased to worry whether his curate was going about things the right way to fill the empty pews.” 

Mrs. Esther Biddlesome Hackett of Hartford, Connecticut, a rich American lady interested in things of the spirit and given to such leading remarks as “Any friend of God is a friend of mine!”

Hector Mukerji  companion of Mrs. Biddleston; an Indian mystic under a vow of perpetual silence. (For a mute, Mr. Anker decided, he was almost garrulous.) He is a saint. He knows God and is superlatively comfortable as a result. He competes with nobody because he does not need to. He doesn’t even compete with himself and therefore has no need to beat himself to a pulp or wear a hair shirt or sit on a pillar.

One hot afternoon, to escape Mrs. Hackett’s interminable questions on reincarnation, transubstantiation, and the magical erection of the Pyramids, Mr. Anker ducked into the village’s Roman Catholic church. There, while praying for the Pope’s conversion to a more logical theology, a miracle occurred that was to transform the sleepy hamlet into a beehive of activity and the English clergyman from a glum sergeant-major of a parson into a joyous and compassionate servant of God.

What happens from here on is too mad and wonderful a secret to reveal, for this story turns out to be a treasure hunt, and to take the treasure without the hunt is to rob oneself of two-thirds of its delight. 

Locked room element involves the disappearance of a small statue from the locked and sealed church.


belphegorBelphegor, the Phantom of the Louvre (1929)
AKA: The Mystery of The Louvre 
Author: Arthur Bernede
Detective: Chantecoq

 

Best Review
****

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Note: A French mystery classic!

The sinister, ghostly presence of the mysterious Belphegor is haunting the Louvre, seeking the Treasure of the Kings of France. Against him are pitted the indomitable Chantecoq, the King of the Detectives, and the fearless journalist Jacques Bellegarde. A duel to the death begins between the murderous Phantom of the Louvre and his enemies throughout the City of Lights. Written in 1927 by Arthur Bernède, the author of Judex, this classic of French criminal literature spawned no less than three motion pictures, one television series and one animated show. This new, unabridged translation by J-M. & R. Lofficier also includes a detailed synopsis of the celebrated 1965 remake starring Juliette Greco.

Bernede also wrote The Haunted House (1930)


The Penny Murders  (1979)penny murders
Author: Lionel Black
Detective: Kate & Henry Theobald

 

Best Review
****

Available only in used hardcover and paperback editions.

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Note: A bad penny?

Miles collected everything – rare coins, fine women…and a bullet in the brain. They found his body in his fabulous fortress-like London townhouse. All the doors were locked from the inside. The alarm had not gone off. His keys were undisturbed. The police ruled suicide. Then why were a few pieces of change missing from Miles’ numismatic cabinets? Kate Theobald, crack London reporter, knew a bad penny when she saw one.

More on Lionel Black


no return ABThere Is No Return
AKA: The Riddle of the Dead Cats
Author: Anita Blackmon 
Detective: Adelaide Adams

 

Best Review 
****

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Note: Spiritual possession and murder in the Ozarks!

When a series of seances at an out-of-the-way hotel threatens to get out of hand, Ella Trotter sends for her old friend Adelaide Adams, hoping that her fellow spinster will be able to bring a modicum of common sense to proceedings and debunk the perpetrators as opportunistic conmen. But soon, Adelaide finds herself trapped in a spooky mountain retreat, with a series of gruesome murders on her hands – murders that may just have been committed by the reincarnation of a wealthy tycoon’s suicidal daughter…

In Anita Blackmon’s second Adelaide Adams mystery, There Is No Return, Adelaide comes to the rescue of a friend from the Hotel Richelieu, Ella Trotter, who is embroiled in mysterious goings-on involving spiritual possession at a backwoods Ozarks hotel, the Lebeau Inn. Return opens with yet another splendid declaration of the “Had I But Known” mystery tradition in the part of Adelaide: “As I pointed out, to no avail, when the body of the third disemboweled cat was discovered in my bed, had I foreseen the train of horrible events which settled over that isolated mountain inn like a miasma of death upon the afternoon of my arrival, I should have left Ella to lay her own ghosts.” The isolated setting in Return (Adelaide and the other guests are trapped with a multiple murderer at the Lebeau Inn after the bridge washes out) is memorably evoked by the author, though the tone of the book is grimmer, with more chills than chuckles (at times one is even reminded of Stephen King’s The Shining). Yet There Is No Return is a worthy sequel to Murder á la Richelieu and it is very pleasing to encounter the old battle-ax in all her sleuthing finery one last time.

More on Anita Blackmon


abominable snowmanThe Case of The Abominable Snowman (1936)
Author: Nicholas Blake
Detective: Nigel Strangeways

 

Best Review
****

Available in ebook, paperback, and audible editions.

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Note: One of the great GA authors!

One of my favourite Golden Age mystery authors, this is Nicholas Blake’s (AKA: the poet Cecil Day Lewis) only locked room contribution. For more on all the great books in the Nigel Strangeways series, see Nicholas Blake Mysteries on GoodMystery.com

Poet turned detective Nigel Strangeways is summoned to Easterham Manor in the depths of winter to investigate a series of strange events, which culminate in the apparent suicide of a wealthy young woman whose behaviour has scandalised the village.

As Nigel begins his investigations into the dead girl’s past it soon becomes clear that someone in the manor is trying to hide something, and they will stop at nothing to keep their secrets safe.


man disappeared EBThe Man Who Disappeared
Author: Edgar Bohle
Detective: Dick Stoddart

 

Best Review
****

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Note: A bad trip?

The 1959 winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Mystery Novel. 

A scientist working on a classified project, Dr. Haklos, is exposed to certain chemicals which have made him the victim of hallucinations – and his collaborator, Dick Stoddard, is also close to the breaking point and persuaded that his visitation from Dr. Haklos is a delusion. But the attack against Stoddard’s life which follows seems very real – and with a girl who now shares his belief in his sanity he undertakes the search for Haklos which ends in a frantic cross-country chase. 


dream walker CAMurder Without Clues (1940) 
AKA:No Man’s Hand
Author: Joseph Bonney
Detective: Simon Rolfe

 

Best Review
****

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Note: Sherlock 2.0?

An amateur pugilist who plays the violin, dabbles in chemistry, smokes pipes when he’s pondering, deduces expertly, investigates crime, and has a roommate named Watson.

Yes, as you surmised, I am alluding to Simon Rolfe, who regards Sherlock Holmes as an “incompetent bungler.” There are differences, of course; Rolfe reads mostly, perhaps only, of the works of Montaigne.

While he criticizes some of Holmes’s deductions, Rolfe himself occasionally falls short in exercising that talent. For instance, Watson tells Rolfe that he does a lot of typewriting and moons about when he’s trying to straighten out a plot sequence or characterization. Rolfe responds: “You’re a writer, then?”

In this novel, either the first or the second of two featuring Rolfe – I’d deduce the first, since he meets Watson in this one – the police are baffled by a locked room stabbing at the home of a former vaudeville memory champion.

Not only was the room locked, with untracked snow outside the windows, but all the inhabitants of the house have alibis, including the man the stabbed woman accuses of the murder just before she dies. The weapon, which could not have been removed from the house, cannot be found.

An interesting detective, appearing in a lost gem of the literature necessarily, but nonetheless a good read.

– From The Mystery Fancier, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1989.


sinister house CBSinister House: A mystery story of Southern California (1927) 
Author: Charles G. Booth
Detective: Kerry O’Neil  & Gale Hollister

 

Best Review
****

Available only in used paperback editions.

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Note: The sound of surf breaking on the beach!

There is a real atmosphere of mystery and romance in Charles G. Booth’s “Sinister House”… It is set in the charming scenery of Southern California, and the noise of the surf breaking on the beach in front of the “House of Yesterday” is continually reaching the ears of the reader. The story opens with a hold-up and develops suddenly into a murder mystery, the victim of which is an intrepid wanderer, Conniston, whose chief possessions are some intaglio gems. There are several reasons why Kerry O’Neil should be suspected, but these Gail Hollister, refuses to countenance, and the remainder of the story tells of her efforts to clear his name. Mr. Booth’s mastery of characterisation and aptness in fitting his characters for the positions allotted to them and keeping them in these have combined to produce a story which will be read at one sitting, or reluctantly laid aside if necessity compels interruption. (Dundee Courier, 19 Apr 1927)


man without headThe Man Without A Head (1947)
Author: Joseph Bowen
Detective: Manuel Cortina

 

Best Review
****

Available only in used hardcover editions.

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Note: A little bit western, a little bit locked room?

The sleepy village of Taos awoke one July morning to discover that its most picturesque “character,” old Edward Ponsonby, was dead – murdered in his gloomy, ramshackle house in spite of locked doors, barred and boarded-over windows, and the miniature armory which he had installed in every room. A  local boy, now Deputy Sheriff, must solve this rather gritty mystery, but nearly comes a cropper. 


washington deceasedWashington Deceased (1990)
Author: Michel Bowen
Detective: Richard Michaelson

 

Best Review
****

Available only in used hardcover editions.

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Note: A little bit thriller, a little bit locked room?

For some it is an “honor cottage.” For United States Senator Desmond Gardner it’s a minimum security federal prison that he and Sweet Tony Martinelli now call home. Unlike Gardner, Martinelli’s rap sheet smacks more of crime in the streets than crime in the suites…which is why it makes no sense that when Martinelli is killed in a locked room in the honor cottage, it is Gardner who is implicated. Is this a case of prison misdirection or are Washington politics at play?

Gardner’s daughter, Wendy can’t believe her father is responsible and enlists Richard Michaelson to uncover the real criminal. It doesn’t take Michaelson long to figure out that the worst criminals aren’t in the honor cottage…


some die hardSome Die Hard (1979)
Author: Stephen Brett (AKA: Stephen Mertz)
Detective: Rock Dugan

 

Best Review
****

Available in ebook and used paperback editions.

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Note: Death in a sailplane!

Dead man flying! Ex-stuntman and private detective Rock Dugan faces the toughest challenge of his career. How was his wealthy client murdered while flying alone in a sailplane, in full view of all the suspects in the case? How will Rock survive when gangsters and crooked cops want him off the case? Which of the beautiful women involved in his client’s murder can be trusted – and which may turn out to be deadly?


creative murdersThe Creative Murders (1971)
Author: Carter Brown
Detective: Al Wheeler

 

Best Review
****

Available only in used hardcover editions.

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Note: An unfortunate suspicion?

Goldie Baker was sitting in the shower, blonde, naked, beautiful – with a bullet hole in her breast. And the man in the lewd photographs with her had blown his brains out. Lieutenant Al Wheeler finds himself entangled in a world of corporate espionage, where sex and LSD spell blackmail, and a pistol is the quickest way up the corporation ladder! Wheeler had to move fast – for the suspect was him!


lady transparentThe Lady is Transparent (1962)
Author: Carter Brown
Detective: Al Wheeler

 

Best Review
****

Available only in used hardcover editions.

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Note: Meet the family spectre?

A gabled mansion on Bald Mountain… A deserted room, its windows boarded, its door locked from the inside…. And in the room the corpse of an unsuccessful suitor, his throat savagely and efficiently torn out of his body. Police lieutenant Al Wheeler comes to Bald Mountain to investigate murder, and finds himself the unwelcome guest of the Harvey family. Ellis; his two luscious dark-haired daughters, Justine and Martha; the well-traveled, money-seeking Uncle Ben; and the family ghost Dehlia, a passionate wanton who is the Spectre of Death.


Thin Air HBThin Air (1954) 
Author: Howard Browne
Detective: Ames Coryell

 

Best Review
****

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Note: An old standard!

A tale told in several movies and TV Series. A man and his wife return home after a vacation while she sleeps in the back seat with their three year old daughter.  She goes into the house first and her husband follows moments later to find her missing. He is the obvious suspect, accused of killing her and dumping her body on the way home. The game is on. He must solve the crime before he is arrested.


Smith SlayerThe Smith Slayer  
Author: Burmar (AKA: Richard Marr)
Detective: Inspector Davide Reefe

 

Best Review
****

Available only in rare used paperback editions.

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Note:  A little bit farce, a little bit locked room?

This is a multiple-murder detective novel, which begins with a newspaper advertisement: “God help all whom it may concern: The Smith Slayer commences his campaign.”

Soon people with the surname “Smith” begin to he murdered in the face of the rather incompetent efforts of Scotland Yard to protect them. Still, it’s hard to blame the police force when even a doctor blithely attributes a death to “probably one of those little known Eastern drugs.”

Doug Greene  – The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 1984/85.


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