Eden Phillpotts: Locked Room

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Eden Phillpotts Locked Room Titles

Eden PhillpottsEden Phillpotts (1862 – 1960) was an English author, poet and dramatist. He was born in Mount Abu, British India, educated in Plymouth, Devon, and worked as an insurance officer for 10 years before studying for the stage and eventually becoming a writer. 

He was a prolific author, writing hundreds of novels, short stories, plays, and poems, many focused on his beloved Dartmoor. His Dartmoor Cycle of 18 novels and two volumes of short stories still has many avid readers despite the fact that many titles are long out of print. Phillpotts also wrote other books with a Dartmoor setting. He was for many years the President of the Dartmoor Preservation Association and cared passionately about the conservation of that area. Phillpotts was also a close friend of Agatha Christie who spent much of her time at her nearby Greenway Estate in Devon. 

Phillpott’s most famous locked room novel is ‘The Grey Room’, the plot of which is centered on a haunted room in an English manor house. He also wrote a number of other mystery novels, both under his own name and the pseudonym Harrington Hext.

Most of his mysteries are now long out of print. I have tracked down a few, but there is little information available on many of his other mystery titles. 

(Edited from Wikipedia: Eden Philpotts)

More on Eden Phillpotts 

Author Locked Room Novels

Tiger CubA Tiger’s Cub (1892)
Detective: Richard Silver



Not Reviewed or Rated

Available only in a rare used hardcover edition

No copy found

Note: A locked treasure house mystery

A man disappears from inside a locked treasure house. ( Source: Robert Adey, Locked Room Murders, Crossover Press, 1991 – bibliography) Critics of the day noted that ‘A Tiger’s Cub’ proved that Phillpotts was an excellent storyteller, though still showed a somewhat immature writing style in this, his third novel. Still, it is agreed that Phillpotts knows how to create a truly mysterious atmosphere, without resorting to supernatural trickery, and that”There is all the material of a very bad nightmare” in this tale of horror. (The Speaker, Volume 5, Mather & Crowther, 1892)

grey roomThe Grey Room (1921)
Detective: Signor Mannetti



Best Review

Available in paperback and free ebook editions.

Book  eBook

Note: An old Borgia secret revived?

‘The Grey Room’ is a sleeping chamber with a haunted reputation, until an Italian nobleman uncovers an old Borgia secret! The story takes place at a manor house on Phillpotts beloved Dartmoor. It is the ancestral home of Sir Walter Lennox. Lennox is hosting a dinner party, when the guests start talking about the Grey Room, a bedroom in the house where several people have previously died. All the deaths were officially ruled as ‘natural’, but Sir Lennox is still reluctant to allow anyone to sleep in the room. His son-in-law believes this is all ridiculous superstition and announces that he will sleep in the room to prove there is nothing to fear. The next morning, he is found dead – with no apparent reason for this young healthy man to have died. Nor is he the last one to challenge the Grey Room – and lose – before the secret is finally revealed. What lies inside that normal looking room that could cause the death of so many, over such a lengthy period of time? The writing style could be described as ‘Dickensian’, and contains a great historical twist. A fairly good, if rather slow paced, locked room read. If you like Victorian prose, you will appreciate this novel, though many do not share this opinion. (See below – Warning! Serious Spoiler Alert!)

More on ‘The Grey Room’

Marylebone MiserThe Marylebone Miser (1926)
Detective: John Ringrose



Not Reviewed or Rated

Available only in a rare used hardcover edition.

No copy found

Note: Death by stabbing inside a locked room

Source: Robert Adey, Locked Room Murders, Crossover Press, 1991 – bibliography

Clue starsA Clue From The Stars (1932)
Detective: Inspector Thomas Warner



Not Rated

Available only in used hardcover edition. Not listed on Amazon.ca


Note: Phillpotts other popular locked room title!

The tale of the disappearance of Sir Julian Marchant, whom bloodhounds traced to the middle of a field from which he seems to have taken to wings. Inspector Warner plods through the investigation and finally gets a confession. Good plot and characterization, but the movement of the story is painfully slow. 

Best Review

“In the case of Eden Phillpotts it is perhaps not surprising to find him writing a mystery story in a Trollopian setting since Mr. Phillpotts, almost alone of English authors, still habitually sings the praise of the old English country life… A Clue From The Stars.. has all the merits that one usually requires in a mystery story except that of rapid action, and after all there is no particular reason why the action of a detective tale should be any more rapid than that of any other kind of tale: certainly detectives themselves are not often in a hurry. In point of sustained interest and suspense and a perfectly legitimate throwing of the reader onto false scents, “A Clue from the Stars” lives up to the best tradition of detective fiction. The denouement is concealed until the last minute and is both ingenious and plausible. The story has the additional merit of being admirably written and excellent in characterization.”

The Saturday Review of Literature, April 16, 1932, p 671, From unz.org

Eden Phillpotts Locked Room Short Stories

The Witching Hour (1934)
Detective: Inspector Edward Maine
Collection: Once Upon a Time, Eden Phillpotts

Not reviewed or rated.

Available only in rare used hardcover edition. Not listed on Amazon.ca


Note: A moving corpse in a glass coffin?

A moving corpse  inside a glass topped coffin that can only be opened from the inside – all locked inside a chapel.

Originally published in Holly Leaves (#3192A, November 20, 1934), The Sporting and Dramatic Publishing Co.  Later included in ‘Once Upon a Time’, Eden Phillpotts Short Story Collection, Hutchinson, 1936.

Eden Phillpotts Bibliography

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