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No Sherlock
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I'm no Sherlock Holmes. Recently, when I read John Dickson Carr's classic locked room mystery The Hollow Man (also known as The Three Coffins) I made no particular effort to figure out the solution. I learned long ago that trying to solve locked room puzzles is a fool's errand, at least if I'm the fool reading. Nevertheless I enjoyed being perplexed and anticipating the explanation. It's rather as if I watched a magician cut his lovely assistant in half and reassemble her and he then took me backstage and and revealed the trick boxes, screens and mirrors used to create the illusion.

In our writing collaborations Mary is usually the magician in charge of creating the trick that will fool the reader. Which is odd. By all rights, she ought to be the lovely assistant. I'm not really the lovely assistant type, although I guess I do tend to supply a lot of the scenery and misdirection to hold the reader's attention while Mary's working the apparatus.

So it is odd that our first short story for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, The Obo Mystery, involved a sort of reversed locked room mystery which I had been thinking about for years, albeit with no idea how to write it.

A few years later, inspired by a collection of Ed Hoch's Sam Hawthorne impossible crime stories, I came up with another puzzle of my own. The "locked room" in A Leap of Faith is the top of a tall column, in the middle of a public square, in sixth century Constantinople. The victim is a holy man who has lived atop the column for many years.

Although I often contribute a bit to our mystery puzzles, those two are the only ones that were, primarily my inventions. I like the mystery genre as a framework. Solving a murder gives the protagonist something to do, a chance to visit interesting places such as dark alleys, and talk to fascinating people. Murder suspects are always interesting aren't they? But as both a writer and a reader I am pretty much content to just follow the detectives around, watch them do their jobs, and then listen in admiration as they explain how they identified the culprit.

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