Locked room mysteries have been around since the dawn of detective fiction. Traditionally a murder takes place in a locked room where it is seemingly impossible for a perpetrator to have evaded detection. A broader interpretation is that an impossible crime has taken place in a contained setting and the reader is presented with a number of clues that will allow the reader to solve the crime before the solution is revealed. Regardless of whether you solve the crime or not, if you love puzzles, this genre is for you.
French writer Gaston Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room, which was published as a serial from 1907-08, is one of the first locked room mysteries and – you guessed it – involves a murder in a literal locked room. Using the clues provided, including illustrated floor plans, can you solve the crime before the author reveals the solution?
Or pick up the always popular Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, which concerns a murder that takes place not in a locked-room, but aboard a train and features Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
How about the setting of a Scottish castle, a series of questionable suicides and a generous dose of humor? Pick up John Dickinson Carr’s 1941 The Case of the Constant Suicides.
A more contemporary mystery set on a Scottish Highland estate, Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party brings together a group of friends who attended Oxford together for a New Year’s gathering. The guests are snowed in by a blizzard and a murder takes place. Who did it?
How about a eerie murder mystery set on a cruise ship? Check out Ruth Ware’s bestselling The Woman in Cabin 10. Travel writer Lo is on the assignment of a lifetime, but things get dark when she sees a woman thrown overboard. There is one problem, however. None of the passengers are missing.
If you’re a fan of locked room mysteries, you’re probably aware some of the best hail from Japan. We’d recommend jumping in with Seishi Yokomizo’s The Honjin Murders, considered by many to be Japan’s greatest murder mystery. This novel introduces detective Kouke Kindaichi, featured in dozens of Yokomizo’s novels. This traditional locked room mystery is set in a mansion and concerns the double murder of a recently married young couple in their living quarters.
If you’re not averse to gore, Sojo Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders will keep you guessing. We won’t give away the plot to this one, but be aware this is one of the most complex, twisty locked room mysteries ever written.
What’s your favorite locked room mystery? Tell us in the comments.