To the police, Archer Coe's death looked like a suicide - especially since it happened inside a room whose only door was bolted on the inside. To Philo Vance, the death quite clearly was murder. He was able to demonstrate his point pretty quickly - but he was far less certain about just how the murderer could have gotten out of that locked room. And while the police tried to figure out that mystery, Vance was far more curious about the presence in that house of a small Scottish Terrier. Perhaps that's why S.S. Van Dine's book is called The Kennel Murder Case. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
"S.S. Van Dine" was the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright, and he appears in the stories as the Watson to Philo Vance's Holmes. The Kennel Murder Case originally appeared in 1933. It has a fairly ingenious plot - even when the locked room puzzle is solved, about three-quarters of the way through the book, it still leaves the murder in a sort of impossible crime situation. Philo Vance was an enormously popular character among mystery readers, and he influenced a great many American "Golden Age" writers, such as Ellery Queen.
I must admit that I find Vance rather difficult to take at times - he has that irritatin' habit of droppin' his Gs, rather like the early Peter Wimsey, don't y'know, and he thinks nothing of interruptin' his detecting to talk for pages on end about such things as Chinese vases. Granted, they play a part in the mystery just as that small Scottish Terrier does.
I think Vance is really quite bearable, overall, in The Kennel Murder Case. There are interesting characters and a very clever plot, and I think readers will enjoy it. At the moment, it's only available in an ebook version from Bloomsbury Reader.
As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one locked room mystery. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.