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Philip MacdonaldLocked Room Titles

MacDonaldPhilip MacDonald (1900 – 1980) was an English mystery and thriller author, one of the better known authors of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. MacDonald was the grandson of the writer George MacDonald and son of the author Ronald MacDonald and the actress Constance Robertson. During World War I he served with the British cavalry in Mesopotamia, later trained horses for the army, and was a show jumper. He also raised Great Danes. After marrying the writer F. Ruth Howard, he moved to Hollywood in 1931. He was one of the most popular mystery writers of the 1930s, and between 1931 and 1963 wrote many screenplays along with a few radio and television scripts.

His detective novels, particularly those featuring his series detective Anthony Gethryn, are primarily “whodunnits” with the occasional locked room mystery. His novel ‘X v. Rex’ (1933), aka The Mystery of The Dead Police, is an early example of what has become known as a serial killer novel (before the term “serial killer” was coined), in which an insane murderer is killing police officers one after the other. Perhaps his best-known novel is ‘The List of Adrian Messenger’.

His work in screenwriting included not only screenplays based on his own works (such as ‘The Mystery of Mr. X’ in 1934, ‘Who Killed John Savage?’ in 1937, based on The Rynox Mystery, and many others) but also original stories and screenplays for series characters such as Charlie Chan (Charlie Chan in London, 1934, and Charlie Chan in Paris, 1935) and Mr. Moto (Mysterious Mr. Moto in 1938, Mr. Moto’s Last Warning and Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation in 1939). He did not receive any screen credit for his work in adapting ‘Bride of Frankenstein’. He adapted a story written by Agatha Christie for the movie ‘Love From A Stranger’ (1947). MacDonald and Michael Hogan adapted the novel ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier, from which Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison created the screenplay for ‘Rebecca’, the 1940 film. Sherwood and Harrison were nominated for an Academy Award.

In later years MacDonald wrote television scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Malice Domestic”, 1957) and Perry Mason (“The Case of the Terrified Typist”, 1958).

His novel ‘Patrol’ was issued as one of the first twenty Penguin Books, and, as”W.J. Stuart”, he wrote the novelisation of the 1956 science fiction film ‘Forbidden Planet’. MacDonald also infrequently dabbled in science fiction under his own name, writing four SF short stories over a span of decades; despite his meagre science fiction output, two of MacDonald’s SF short stores (1931’s “Our Feathered Friends” and 1949’s “Private – Keep Out!”) are frequently anthologized.

MacDonald twice received an Edgar Award for Best Short Story: in 1953, for ‘Something to Hide’, and in 1956, for ‘Dream No More’.  MacDonald also wrote as Oliver Fleming, Anthony Lawless and Martin Porlock.

Edited from Wikipedia

Mike Grost on Philip MacDonald

Anthony Gethryn

Philip MacDonald Locked Room Novels

raspThe Rasp (1924)
Detective: Anthony Gethryn


Best Review

Available in used hardcover and paperback editions – and soon to be released in ebook format. 

Book  eBook

Note: MacDonald’s first introduction of Anthony Gethryn

Not much of an impossible crime, but it does involve the apparent locked-room murder of the Minister of Imperial Finance in the Government of the day. Gethryn at his irritating worst!

white crowThe White Crow (1928)
Detective: Anthony Gethryn


No Review


Available only in used hardcover editions. A very rare and expensive volume, with no modern or archived reviews.


Note: A true mystery book!

So much is known about almost every other book by this famous golden age mystery author, but not his title! Robert Adey in ‘Locked Room Murders’ tells us that this story involves a ‘Death by Shooting in a locked office’. ‘The Rasp’ will be released as an ebook in December 2015, perhaps they will soon get to this volume.

RynoxRynox (1930)
AKA: The Rynox Murder Mystery; The Rynox Mystery
Superintendent Shanter

Best Review  Goodreads  Film Review

Available only in used paperback and hardcover editions.


Note: An experimental mystery that breaks all the rules.

Superintendent Shanter is not really the detective in this story, because there really is no detective, the solution is actually reach by the victim’s brother. The locked room angle is tied to the shooting of the Rynox company’s CEO by an apparently untraceable killer in what should have been a guarded area. Ranked as one of the best on Edward D. Hoch’s list of all time best locked room mysteries.

PollferryThe Polferry Riddle (1931)
AKA: Orinal title: The Choice; also The Polferry Mystery
Detective: Anthony Gethryn

Best Review

Available only in used paperback and hardcover editions.


Note: A serial locked room killer!

The scene is an isolated country house, where a woman is found dead in her bedroom, with her throat cut, but no murder weapon is to be found. Downstairs, her husband and his two guests give unshakeable alibis for each other, and none of the other four guests seem like a plausible suspect. But Anthony Gethryn is under increasing pressure to solve this case, when two of the guests soon die in mysterious accidents, and a third has several attempts made on her life. 

Ranked as one of the best on Edward D. Hoch’s list of all time best locked room mysteries.

crime conductorThe Crime Conductor (1931)
Detective: Anthony Gethryn


Best Review

Available only in used paperback and hardcover editions.


Note: A nice long bath!

The “Crime Conductor” is not a person who directs crime. Instead, he is similar to an electric conductor which attracts crime – namely Anthony Gethryn. Gethryn is talking with his wife’s cousin, a surgeon, when  the doctor is asked by the police to examine a man drowned in his bathtub. The bathroom door was securely locked, but the death still looks suspicious and Gethryn decides to take a closer look.

friars pardonMystery at Friar’s Pardon (1931) 
Author: as Martin Porlock


Best Review

Available in paperback and ebook editions.


Note: A haunted house and poltergeists!

From Pretty Sinister Blogspot (see best review above) : A haunted house, poltergeist activity, and a legend of previous owners of Friar’s Pardon drowning in a locked room in the forbidden East Wing are at the heart of this excellent example of a Golden Age country manor detective novel. Several nervous and suspicious servants, a foppish secretary, the browbeaten niece, her billiard-playing mismatched suitor are among the many suspects when Enid Lester Greene, a harridan of a romance novelist, is found dead in her locked bedroom. She has succumbed to the curse. True to the legend she has drowned, but no water no any trace of water can be found in the room. 

Philip MacDonald Locked Room Short Stories

Something HideThe Green-and-Gold String
Detective: Doctor Alcazar

Collection: Something to Hide
AKA: Fingers of Fear
Best Review

Available only in used hardcover editions and radio play recordings.

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Note: MacDonald’s other detective

Doctor Alcazar, MacDonald’s “clairvoyant” detective, appears in two novelettes in this volume, ‘Green and Gold String’ and ‘Something to Hide’, along with four Gethryn short stories. The Alcazar stories are not true impossible crimes, but they do attempt to rationalize the supernatural a la Carnaki.

Complete Philip MacDonald Mystery Bibliography

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