The Seventh Hypothesis by Paul Halter

Seventh HypothesisAugust 31, 1938. PC Edward Watkins is on patrol that night with no expectations of anything unusual happening. He then

a) spots the silhouette of a plague doctor – complete with a beaked mask – not worn for centuries;

b) bumps into Dr Marcus, Doctor of Crime – wearing old-fashioned clothes – who promptly makes a plague-ridden corpse appear inside a dustbin that was empty seconds before;

c) comes across the boarding house where the victim stayed, only to discover that Dr Marcus and the plague doctors came to collect the victim – only for the victim to vanish into thin air in the middle of a corridor.

And that’s basically just the prologue…

This is the fifth of Paul Halter’s many mysteries to be translated by John Pugmire. I suppose I need to mention the oft-stated “heir to John Dickson Carr” quote about Halter but this is something quite different from Carr’s work. It seems to me that Halter is more willing to experiment with the locked room genre than Carr was. True, Carr did some genre-bending work – The Burning Court is the obvious example, but there others, such as The Black Spectacles aka The Problem Of The Green Capsule that are rarely, if ever, imitated, but of the five translated books to date from Halter, only The Demon of Dartmoor and The Lord of Misrule are what could be called “typical” locked room mysteries. The others have all had something rather special about them.

This book features Dr Alan Twist, Halter’s most frequently occurring sleuth and is a rollercoaster of a read. Once the introductory sequence is out of the way, we are introduced to a duel between a writer and an actor – the notion of the duel is, apparently, to successfully frame the other for murder. But are things as “simple” as that? How are these two characters related to

Basically, think an over-the-top version of Sleuth, with an impossible disappearance and appearance thrown in for good measure. If I was being picky, I think it’s a bit lacking as a fair-play mystery, feeling at times a little like an intellectual game of tennis, but that to criticise it for that would be missing the point of the book. As I said, Halter is trying something a little different within the genre and it works a treat.

And I should mention again the translating skills of John Pugmire. When you can’t tell that a book has been translated, then the translator has done their job perfectly, as is the case here.

So, this makes the ideal review for my 400th post – a modern day novel emulating the classic mystery novel with a new spin. Exactly what I was looking for when I started this blog. So, obviously, this is Highly Recommended.

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
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17 Responses to The Seventh Hypothesis by Paul Halter

  1. lesblatt says:

    Great review. I really enjoyed this book too – my own review is still a couple of weeks down the road (you’ve beaten me to it again…sigh…). But I agree with your description calling the main plot an “over-the-top version of Sleuth,” though Sleuth itself is certainly over the top. And the whole setup of the moveable corpse and the plague masks is wonderful. I also agree with you about about the high quality of Pugmire’s translations. I’m going to have to read more Halters.

    • Thanks, Les, I look forward to your review. As for the other Halter translations, The Demon of Dartmoor is the best and The Lord Of Misrule is probably tge weakest.

  2. John P. says:

    Many thanks for the kind review:). The sixth Halter is just about to launch: see
    http://www.lockedroominternational.com.
    John P.

  3. I am a new follower of this blog and can see I am in for a treat. This is a new author for me. Not exactly my niche, but this review is intriguing. Thank you

  4. Congrats on your fourth century mate – mightily impressive! Glad to hear this is worth having – I’ve got a few Halter books to get back to (once my stuff finally gets out of storage) and I am certainly looking forward to getting the English version of this one too – cheers mate. Print too I hope, and not just epub?

  5. Donna says:

    Found “Night of the Wolf” in our library system catalog, but none others by Paul Halter. Perhaps I can twist some arms……

  6. Pingback: The Puzzly – The ISOTCMN Book Of The Month – June 2013 | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

  7. Santosh Iyer says:

    I have just read this book and I regard it as brilliant and highly entertaining.
    It is a page-turner from the beginning and it never lets up.
    There are twists within twists in the book which will confound the reader, but in the end everything falls into place with an ingenious solution.
    The book is well clued with clues cleverly placed.
    I have read 5 books by Paul Halter and I regard two, this book and The Demon of Dartmoor as masterpieces, must reading for mystery fans.
    I have now only one more English translation to read, The Tiger’s Head. I note that you have not yet reviewed it.

    • Glad you enjoyed this one, and many thanks for pointing out that The Tiger’s Head has just come out. I might have missed that otherwise. Review coming sooner rather than later

  8. Pingback: The Crimson Fog by Paul Halter | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

  9. Fortunately, I was able to borrow this book from Amazon by being a Prime member. While it’s a little tough getting through the prologue and the fake plague doctors, the book is starting to move at a fast clip and I know exactly why the Puzzle Doctor compares it to Sleuth. (If you have no idea what Sleuth is about, stop reading this and rent it from Netflix—immediately! It stars Michael Caine, a young Christopher Reeves, and Diane Keaton.) Only a third of the way through, and I’m hoping the rest of the book delivers on the opening. More later as I finish it!

  10. Wow! This is considered one of Paul Halter’s weaker novels? (At least by some of the nitpick critics at Amazon.) If that’s the case, I need to read the other six novels NOW! I may have to order one of his French books and slowly translate it via Google because I don’t know if I can wait for John Pugmire to translate the rest. Thanks, PZ for calling this author to my attention!

    BTW, if you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow The Seventh Hypothesis for free. I won’t be returning the book because I intend to buy it!

    • Glad you enjoyed it. It might be less liked as it’s a bit different (the Sleuth-yness of it) from Halter’s other novels. It’s certainly not the worst of the translations – The Lord of Misrule is – but The Demon of Dartmoor, The Seven Wonders of Crime and The Fourth Door are certainly better. Hope you enjoy them.

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