The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr

Published in 1935. Titled ‘A Hollow Man‘ in the UK edition.

  “Two murders are committed within hours of each other. Both occurred under seemingly impossible conditions, with odd clues, no suspects, and nothing that makes any sense. Can the police find a murderer who appears to have simply vanished? 
  In the first case, he has disappeared from Professor Grimaud’s study after shooting the professor—without leaving a trace, with the only door to the room locked from the inside, and with people present in the hall outside the room. Both the ground below the window and the roof above it are covered with unbroken snow.
   In the second case, a man walking in the middle of a deserted cul-de-sac at about the same time is evidently shot at close range, with the same revolver that killed Grimaud and only minutes afterward, but there is no one else near the man; this is witnessed from some distance by three passersby—two tourists and a police constable—who happen to be walking on the pavement
An excellent locked room mystery! Of course what else do you expect from Carr? There was a sizable list of possible culprits and I certainly never in my wildest dreams would have figured this out. The murdered man and his brothers were from Transylvania. This lent a spooky, mysterious air to the story. There is a mysterious painting of three toppling headstones in the room with the dead man. It was slashed with a knife in 2 places. What could this mean?

What I found fun about this book was that at one point, Dr. Fell says, “I will now lecture on the general mechanics and development of the situation which is known in detective fiction as the ‘hermetically sealed chamber’. Having been improving my mind with sensational fiction for the last forty years, I can say–“ Then another character interrupts and asks, “But, if you’re going to analyze impossible situations, why discuss detective fiction?” to which Fell answers…“Because, we’re in a detective story, and we don’t fool the reader by pretending we’re not. Let’s not invent elaborate excuses to drag in a discussion of detective stories. Let’s candidly glory in the noblest pursuits possible to characters in a book.”

He goes on to list legitimate classifications of locked room murders. And also mentions other novels and authors from his time for examples! Great fun!

UK 1st edition

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