Le cercle invisible (Halter)

  • By Paul Halter
  • First published: France, Masque, 1996; translated into English as The Invisible Circle, Locked Room International

An Arthurian fetishist invites seven people to his Cornish castle, expecting one of them to murder him. He’s skewered in an inaccessible tower room, doors and windows duly locked, bolted, or barred. The criminal, moreover, has a claim to be rightwise king born of all England: they pulled the sword out of the stone in which it was cemented. Throw in a homicidal lunatic, something horrible and batlike swarming up cliffs … and the Holy Grail.

Halter’s imagination certainly can’t be faulted, and the book moves swiftly … but this is the impossible crime as pure spectacle, as mise en scène. The murderer, as far as I can see, gains nothing from such a fantastically elaborate scheme. Why the whole Arthurian / Horatian charade?

Ur jnagf gb xvyy Znqtr. BX. Jba’g vg ybbx fhfcvpvbhf vs ur cerfragf uvzfrys gb n ynjlre naq gevrf gb pynvz gur sbeghar?

There’s an in-text explanation: the murderer wants to be admired for his intelligence: “a form of narcissism, of self-admiration, so to speak, for his ‘work’. It’s a spectacular, tremendous show he’s put on for us.” It serves Halter’s purpose of amusing the reader … but nobody rational would think of committing a crime in such a way when pushing his victim in front of an oncoming bus would be easier and safer. Believe me, I know.