Sealed Room Murder (1941) – Rupert Penny

One (me) could be forgiven (I am) for retitling this book “The Case of the Vandalized Clothes and Floor”, because I’ll be damned if that isn’t what the first two thirds of this novel focuses on.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, you’ll get your “Sealed Room Murder”, and it will be a doozy, but you’ll put your time in until you get it.  For such a no holds barred smack me down title, Rupert Penny takes his sweet time in getting to what you’re looking for.

Fortunately for Penny, he’s one of the better writers of the Golden Age.  Yeah, you’ll sit through 139 pages of nothing to do with a locked room mystery, but I’ll read anything by an author that can make this out of a character introduction:

“Mrs Harriet Steele, while she lived, was above all a thing of flesh and blood, a solid animate mass which ate and slept and rose unrepentant, which dyed its hair and plagued its associates and weighed thirteen stone seven in its unimaginable nudity.”

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Rupert Penny – The Lucky Policeman (1938)

LuckyPolicemanI read my first Rupert Penny book, Policeman’s Evidence, just a few months back.  The combination of a hidden treasure hunt and a locked room mystery checked some key boxes I’m looking for, and although the result wasn’t by any means a jaw dropper, I’ve been keen to get back to Penny ever since.  Fortunately Christmas morning found my Penny stack a little higher, and so this time I decided to dive into what JJ at The Invisible Event decreed to be Penny’s best work – The Lucky Policeman.

Well, there are no caches of treasure tucked away in ruined mansions, nor murders behind locked doors.  In fact there isn’t really any sort of gimmick or impossibility at all.  It’s a somewhat straight forward affair – well, ok, there’s an escaped lunatic running around a forest stabbing people in the head with a sharpened pipe and stealing their shoes – and yet somehow it’s exquisite.

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Policeman’s Evidence – Rupert Penny (1938)

PolicemansEvidenceRupert Penny has been on my radar for a while courtesy of JJ at The Invisible Event.  Penny seems to divide readers into camps who think he’s a long lost craftsman of the golden age, and those who feel his writing is the literary equivalent of hard tack.  I tend to trust JJ on these points, and so Penny was at the top of my birthday wish list recently.

Despite JJ clearly laying out a “best of Penny” post, I somehow got mixed up and put Policeman’s Evidence at the top of my list.  My mind inexplicably translated “fifth best” into “the best”, and so here I am.  I guess on the positive side, there are even better books to look forward to.

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