La mort vient de nulle part (Gensoul & Grenier)

  • By Alexis Gensoul & Charles Grenier
  • First published: France, STAEL, 1945; translated into English as Death from Nowhere, Locked Room International

Soupart, Fooz & Bourgeois (Chambres closes, crimes impossibles, 1997) say this unjustly forgotten little novel offers an agreeable surprise; the solution shows real originality, even if used by other authors. This is really a scherzo, a playful spoof on the detective story. Old friends are assembled at Breule Manor, home of the Baron de Malèves; one of them announces he will commit a murder. He shuffles the cards, shouts ‘And the Emperor of China be damned!’ – and upstairs a man is shot. The cards are thrown down again and again, the Emperor of China cursed, and three more fall victim as terror mounts. We are keyed up to expect something monstrous: is the house a death-trap (with electricity or psychedelic maze)? Do giant centipedes scuttle behind the wainscoting? And then the light-hearted solution blows all the nightmare away. The authors don’t play fair; the reader has little chance to solve the mystery, but he will be charmed.