Probably the most successful program I have ever held at my library was a “minute mystery” program–where I simply posted a short mystery and invited teens to solve it. Today, I’m have a review of a collection of short stories by French novelist Paul Halter. You may remember that a little more than a month ago, I posted reviews of two novels by Halter.
I am amazed by Halter’s ability to continue to spin new tales out of the same building blocks, and the same premise of the “impossible crime” or “locked room mystery.” And as I note in my review, Halter’s short mysteries, all built around the same structure, should be perfect for the kind of teens who loved my minute mystery program, especially those looking to stretch their investigative skills a bit further.
HALTER, Paul. The Night of the Wolf. tr. from French by Robert Adey. 150p. Locked Room International. Sep. 2013. pap. $15. ISBN 9781492199090.
Adult/High School–In these 10 brief stories, Halter works several ingenious twists on the locked-room mystery. His basic structure stays surprisingly constant throughout the tales: a murder from the past is recounted at length to an expert in impossible crimes (often one of Halter’s two long time heroes, Owen Burns and Alan Twist). The crimes are imbued with a healthy dose of the supernatural, and in one case even the murder’s solution fails to completely dispel this overtone; the investigator pushes his interlocutor for several details, in particular the later lives of the participants and any “seemingly unimportant clue” they can remember; and the murder is ingeniously solved. Rather than leading to a sense of repetition–or worse, boredom–-these structural similarities help Halter to bring these tales fully to life by focusing readers on the specifics of its impossibilities, and on the logic of the investigators’ solutions. The repetitions also help to orient readers in the direction of solving the crime for themselves. This collection could well be enjoyed by teens who have graduated from such puzzle books as Donald Sobol’s Two-Minute Mysteries (Scholastic, 1967). The book is great fun, and a great introduction to Halter. It should lead readers to seek out his more complex novels.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA