Death Invites You by Paul Halter

Death Invites YouAlan Twist’s friend, Inspector Archibald Hurst, is claiming boredom. After weeks of dealing only with “thugs”, he wants a meaty case. Be careful of what you wish for…

Meet Harold Vickers, the acclaimed mystery writer whose reputation is on the wane. But apparently he has one great book left in him. The mysterious tale of someone who receives an invite to dinner, only when they arrive, they discover their host’s quarters locked. On breaking in, they discover a freshly cooked meal on the table, with the host face down in a still-sizzling frying pan. And for some reason, there is a bowl of water near the locked window. DS Simon Cunningham, the paramour of Vickers’ daughter, received an invite from Vickers to come to dinner. On arriving, he finds his host’s quarters locked and… well, you can problem figure out the rest. Needless to say, Inspector Hurst’s spell of boredom is well and truly over…

Death Invites You (La Mort Vous Invite) is chronologically only the second Alan Twist mystery and the third book written by Paul Halter (after The Fourth Door and The Crimson Fog, which gets a rather clumsy, spoilerish reference early on). As today is Paul’s sixtieth birthday, this review is part of Paul Halter Day, as hosted by JJ over at The Invisible Event. In total, there are currently twenty one Alan Twist novels, of which six have been translated to date, including this one, by John Pugmire, in a rather ecletic order. It’s worth pointing out at this point that the fact that the book is a translation could pass the reader by – it’s an excellent job on his part.

As for the plot – I think this might be my favourite book from Halter. The set-up is utterly bonkers and the reader may well suspect that there is no way that the author can possibly come up with a solution that makes an ounce of sense. And things get even more complicated before there is even a hint of an explanation. And yet…

… it works. The machinations of murder, bizarre as it may seem, have a reasonably straightforward explanation – as long as you ignore the fact that nobody could smell the meal while it was cooking – and, like the best locked room mysteries, working out the how (and why) doesn’t completely signpost the who.

All in all, this is a bit of a cracker. I’ll say no more, for fear of spoiling anything, but this is a top-notch mystery from the master of the fantastic impossible mystery. Highly Recommended.

And be back later today for another Paul Halter post…

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17 comments

  1. Delighted you enjoyed this as much as I did, and especially curious to see what your second post will be — many thanks for getting so on board!

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  2. I’m genuinely surprised that you enjoyed this one as much as you did. I remember there being pretty big flaws in the solution (though I can’t recall the specifics – something to do with a window, I think). I mean, I liked it. It was short and not unpleasant. I just thought it an inferior Halter, more along the lines of THE TIGER’S HEAD than, say, THE FOURTH DOOR.

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      • I so so love The Tiger’s Head; I know you’re not a fan of the genie, Doc, but I think it’s the fact that it doesn’t have to be a genie that makes me love it even more – that additional flourish to make it harder for himself is just so frickin’ novel that I can’t help but be impressed.

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  3. Hello! I’m think I’m on Puzzle Doctor’s and JJ’s side on this one. I’m really glad to read this review, as many of the other reviews cropping up today – including my review on ‘Invisible Circle’ – seem to be drawing attention to the weaker entries within Paul Halter’s oeuvre. Having said that, I don’t think ‘Death Invites You’ belongs to the same league as ‘Seventh Hypothesis’, which left me gasping by the end. 🙂

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  4. I didn’t quite mind the solution to the locked-room scenario as I thought it was reasonable; what spoilt it for me was that I watched an episode of ‘Death in Paradise’ which was, to say the least, very helpful in pointing me in the right direction.

    What I enjoyed was that Halter’s choice of culprit(s) fitted well with the set-up, and even with the novel as a whole. The same trick was played in a couple of Halter’s other novels I read prior to this one, but with much less success.

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