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Mystery Monday Review – Rim of the Pit

Rim of the Pit by Hake Talbot

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This 1944 mystery is a classic locked-room mystery. Set in a cabin in wintry New England woods, the characters have gathered for a séance to be conducted by a medium who is the widow of a logging baron. The baron’s spirit will announce who among the living has the logging rights to his lands, that is to say, the lands he owned when he was still among the quick. The séance gets out of hand when the baron’s spirit floats around and puts everybody, even the skeptics, into a tizzy.

The conniption doesn’t help clear thinking when the medium is murdered inside a locked room. The bloody tomahawk points to the current husband of the medium as does evidence that he flew out a window, over freshly fallen snow, to land over 100 feet away from the house. His fingerprints are on some grisly hunting trophies mounted high on a wall over the fireplace. Naturally, the characters assume that the current husband is possessed by a supernatural beast we have met in Algernon Blackwood stories, the widigo.

Critics and fans of the locked room mystery consider this book a masterpiece. Blog critic Mike Grost points out that John Dickson Carr must have influenced Talbot in that the reader is often misled about the order and significance of events and that action is mainly characters moving about, with their location being crucial to the solution of the impossible crime. Talbot – whose real name was Henning Nelms, a magician – sets an eerie tone, so weird that even we skeptical readers can go along with the supernatural explanation. At least for a time.

The incidents become rather convoluted, about on the same level as “two guns confusion” in Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason novels. The reveal, however, is sensible and logical. Readers who like the intricate puzzles of Carr, Christie and Queen will probably like this one.






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