black ball point pen with brown spiral notebook

“L” is for Locked Rooms

My topic for this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge is

Elements of Crime Fiction.

I am a great fan of detective novels. Cosy mysteries, police procedurals, psychological thrillers– you name it. For the month of April I am going to try and break up crime fiction into its components and see what makes it tick.

My topic for today is :


Perhaps the most difficult or unfathomable puzzles in crime fiction occur in locked rooms. These are crimes where the murder or robbery is carried out in a space that is locked or otherwise inaccessible from the outside. This type of detective story appeals to those who enjoy crime fiction as an intellectual puzzle or exercise.

The onus for making this kind of story believable rests on the author. The writer has to present the crime in a way which seems unsolvable. Yet the solution that he/she presents at the end must be entirely plausible. This is a tall order but some authors specialize in it. J. D. Carr was a master of the locked room. I recently read a story by him in which the locked room situation is presented in a unique manner. A woman is found strangled on a beach. there are no footprints in the sand except her own. Without giving away the end I can tell you that a device was used.

Many locked room stories especially murders involve the use of a mechanical device that the killer sets up prior to the entry of the victim and his securing the room. In one case a heavy statue was balanced on a block of ice on a shelf above where the victim was going to sit. The victim locked his room and sat in his customary chair as he did each evening. After some time the ice melted and the statue crashed on the poor man’s head killing him instantly.

In some locked room stories the culprit uses some device to lock the room after himself such that it appears locked from the inside. A pair of forceps or pliers can be used from outside in a keyhole to manipulate a key on the inside of a room. In other cases, there is a secret passageway or other opening that is at first missed by the investigators. I consider this ‘cheating’ on the part of the author. The reader relies on the author to provide correct information to begin with.

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2022 Badge

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