The Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
The Murders In The Rue Morgue
by Edgar Allan Poe

The 'locked room' mystery is one of the most intriguing sub-genres of crime writing. These books depict a crime committed in what appears to be an entirely impossible situation such as a locked room where the killer has seemingly vanished into thin air.

The concept of a behind-closed-doors mystery has been a plot device since the heyday of Ancient Greece but it was not established as a sub-genre of crime fiction until the 19th century. One of the earliest examples is Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue where a woman and her daughter are murdered by someone speaking an unintelligible foreign language within an inaccessible room, which has been locked from the inside and is located on the fourth floor of a building. Several other authors (Joseph Conrad, Sheridan Le Fanu and Wilkie Collins) also made early attempts at this style of mystery.

The real kick-starter for the genre came in 1892 when Israel Zangwill used the same locked room puzzle concept for his primary plot device in The Big Bow Mystery. However, he added another classic mystery writing element, the red herring. In Zangwill’s story, a union agitator is found with his throat cut in his apartment which contains no windows, a door locked from the inside and no murder weapon (eliminating a suicide). But unlike Poe’s example, where the detectives end up catching their man, it is discovered that a small detail was overlooked by everyone except one clever detective. This story created the template for what became a well loved crime fiction sub-genre.

John Dickson Carr, who also wrote as Carter Dickson, is probably the king of the locked room mysteries and The Hollow Man is the Dickson Carr book to read to encounter the best example. Also look up The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux.

Locked Room Mysteries

The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr
The Three Coffins
by John Dickson Carr
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
The King is Dead by Ellery Queen
The King is Dead
by Ellery Queen
Kill-Box by Lawrence Lariar (aka Michael Stark)
Kill-Box
by Lawrence Lariar (aka Michael Stark)
Death from a Top Hat by Clayton Rawson
Death from a Top Hat
by Clayton Rawson
Nine Times Nine by Anthony Boucher (aka H.H. Holmes)
Nine Times Nine
by Anthony Boucher (aka H.H. Holmes)
The Act of Roger Murgatroyd by Gilbert Adair
The Act of Roger Murgatroyd
by Gilbert Adair
Suddenly at His Residence by Christianna Brand
Suddenly at His Residence
by Christianna Brand
Satan in St. Mary’s by Paul Doherty
Satan in St. Mary’s
by Paul Doherty
His Burial Too by Catherine Aird
His Burial Too
by Catherine Aird
The Black Curtain by Cornell Woolrich
The Black Curtain
by Cornell Woolrich
Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett
Too Many Magicians
by Randall Garrett
The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin
The Moving Toyshop
by Edmund Crispin
Off With His Head by Ngaio Marsh
Off With His Head
by Ngaio Marsh
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
by Soji Shimada
The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall
The Locked Room
by Maj Sjöwall
Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer
Envious Casca
by Georgette Heyer
Rim of the Pit by Hake Talbot
Rim of the Pit
by Hake Talbot
The Kennel Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine
The Kennel Murder Case
by S.S. Van Dine
Through a Glass, Darkly by Helen McCloy
Through a Glass, Darkly
by Helen McCloy
The Chinese Gold Murders by Robert van Gulik
The Chinese Gold Murders
by Robert van Gulik
The Dead Room by Herbert Resnicow
The Dead Room
by Herbert Resnicow

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