Having enjoyed Halter’s short story collection “The Night of the Wolf” I asked JJ for some good starter novels. I think he suggested “The Tiger’s Head” and “Death Invites You” but when I was looking those up on Amazon and ebay I found second-hand copies of this book and “The Seven Wonders of Crime” at very good prices and being a Yorkshireman my decision was obvious.
This stand-alone novel begins various people considering invitations they have received from Gerry Pearson to visit him at his castle situated on a Cornish island where they will witness a “singular experience”. After dinner on the first evening Gerry gives them all an appropriate nickname from the Arthurian legend before revealing a sword stuck fast in a stone and the Holy Grail. He also makes some astonishing predictions before locking himself in a room that is then sealed with the guests’ personal items. Given this is detective fiction and Locked Room International in particular we know what is going to happen next…
The first half is brilliant as the scene is set and the “singular experience” occurs. There is then some good stuff after the murder but this then descends into a lot of running around à la episode three of a four part Doctor Who serialisation. The locked room trick is very well done and appropriate to the story as a whole.
The ending however is rushed, leaving some questions regarding what might have happened unanswered, and the characterisation after the first couple of chapters is as wafer-thin as Mr Creosote’s after dinner mint.
The story is set in 1936, which is important to enable the Invisible Circle to be created, but apart from that there is no real sense of that era.
Having said all that, this was an exciting fast paced read and even if “The Seven Wonders of Crime” is not up to scratch I still enjoyed this more than enough to give the recommended works a go.