“Dear Whoever. Please come to an isolated castle on an island off the coast of Cornwall. I’ve got something important to announce and you probably won’t get murdered like people tend to do in this sort of book. Promise. P.S. I’m not a loony.” Or words to that effect…
Thus begins an adventure for a mixed group of people who, for the most part, haven’t met each other before. But soon the ghost of King Arthur will rise, take the sword from the stone and kill someone who is “safely” locked inside a chamber at the top of a tower. Someone who has already announced that he is going to be murdered and seems to be going happily to his impossible death.
This is the eighth novel from Paul Halter to be translated by John Pugmire, but the recent novels have been a bit hit and miss. How does this one measure up?
You see that pile of salt over there. Take a large pinch of it. No, probably more than that. Just grab a handful. You’re going to need it.
This is silly. Not in a bad way, don’t get me wrong. It’s a really entertaining read that just flies by (and not just because of the low page count). The central impossibility is cleverly (and simply) done and fairly clued and the plot rattles along developing twists and turns as it goes and moves quickly enough that you almost don’t notice the rather fundamental problems with the plot. Namely that every single character is both stupid and blind. And the overall villainous plot is a bit ropey too.
As a Golden Age pastiche, it’s odd that it chooses to use one particular trick, as that trick is the reason that one Poirot novel completely falls apart at the end. But the story is delivered with enough panache to excuse these flaws, for the most part. Not on a par with The Demon of Dartmoor or The Seven Wonders Of Crime but much better than The Tiger’s Head and The Crimson Fog. Recommended, especially for Golden Age locked room fans.