mercoledì 23 aprile 2014

Ulf Durling : Gammal ost ( italian title: L'ospite che non arrivò), 1971

Ulf Durling is a name that very few people , I suspect, will know . Yet he deserved a mention in the appendix of the famous Mystères à huis clos by Roland Lacourbe, examined ( with its french title: Pour un bout de fromage ) in his beautiful article, A Locked Room Library, by a friend of mine, John Pugmire
(  ) . 
The reason is clear: in that list , the best Locked Rooms were designed in the opinion of a pool of experts. And Gammal ost has a very nice Locked Room : no doubt about it !

Ulf Durling is a Swedish writer , born in 1940 in Stockholm and became then, after graduation and specialization , a famous psychiatrist. In 1971 he tried to start their own com Gammal Ost ( trans. old cheese ) which was a great success , so much to convince others to write . It 's still alive .
The plot takes place in a Swedish pensioner , where they live : the retired printer , founder of the Club of Mystery , Johann Lundgren ; Carl Bergmann , bookseller retired , he also a founding member , and a physician, Dr. Nylander , belonging to the club of mystery ; Alex Nilsson ; the traveling salesman Johanson ; the two teachers , Miss Hurting - Olofson and Mrs. Soderstrom ; Marshal of the army Renqvist .

One of the guests of the pension, Alex Nilsson , 52, already abiding by a few weeks in retirement, is found dead in his room , locked from the inside : lies " fully clothed, next to the bed , as if he were beating the wounded head against the back ... blood on his face and the front of the shirt. On the table .. a bottle of wine and the wine upside down .. spilled on the floor ... and even on the face and shirt Nilsson ". In addition, it is found in the trash a piece of cheese ; and on the bedside table , a very powerful diuretic , the Diclorotride -K. There is also a towel stained with red ( wine only ? ) .

But has anyone heard a commotion in the room the night before , as if there had been a quarrel and then there was a second person , because even appears the request of a patch, by the victim to Mr Blom, the owner of the pension: yet there is no injury , even very small body of Nilsson.

Ephraim Nylander assumed that the quarrel ended in tragedy , and that the murderer didn’t of what it had happened : in essence, the death would have occurred at a later time , and then the same victim would have been to turn off the radio , remained on during most of the night , to close the door and then to remain, and  then to succumb for a stroke previously reported ; Johann Lundgren instead ties to Alex Nilsson to his brother, the mysterious visitor Edvin Nilsson , who would be responsible for a fatal poisoning by methanol (a little ' what happened in Italy many years ago), and would be back by a mysterious inheritance. Edvin Nilsson would have been the guest of his brother in his room at the pension house , without anyone knowing , and to do so they would come up with a trick , that Alex would pretend to be lame because his brother was, and in this way they would be were traded for one another, and there would be no problems. The two would have had a row and Edvin would kill the other brother . Finally Carl offers his theory : the radio “on” during the night, would mean the manner with which Nilsson would fall asleep because of the wine drunk , because he would have an appointment with his murderer who is supposed to be the husband of the daughter:  i.e. Edvin Nilsson would  blackmail Edvin his daughter and her husband. In practice, according to this latest reconstruction, there would have been two visits : the first of a random buddy of Nilsson , with whom he woluld eat cheese and drink wine, and during which the visitor is injured so much as Nilsson ask s Blom  a patch ; then this goes away and here occurs the second visit, during which the second visitor kills Nilsson and then, after killing him with a blunt object , jump out of the window , using a mattress of blankets taken ​​from the pension , which then he sneaks back in across a secondary port.

The second part of the novel instead supports the theory of Gunnar Bergmann , son of Carl , and police officer (Deputy Commissioner ) , according to which the death was due to natural causes : a cerebral hemorrhage not caused by the blow, but that would have caused the heel to the base of the blow.

The third section is one in which one of the three fans , Dr. Nylander , revises his previous theory integrating it with all the new learned: he remodulates it. Nilsson would have had before his return to Sweden from America , a stroke or a cerebral hemorrhage, which would have caused a emiparalisi: from it,  the lame movement lame . In addition, he would suffer for high blood pressure. Just to his state of health would be connected the medicine found on the bedside table , a very powerful diuretic , the Diclorotride -K. How could a patient very diligent in taking the medication, die for a brain hemorrhage? For a piece of hard cheese and another medicine completely harmless .
Ephraim Nylander finds the murderer , who had to protect someone, for which the Nilsson return would have been a damage. A simple murder but equally highly ingenious.
In essence, at the novel by Durling , the 3 major hypotheses head to three different sections of the novel, of course, that frame the same truths , according to three perspectives and three different views.
The novel is an excuse to compare 3 different ways of seeing things. In essence Ulf Durling develops, to the extreme, the confrontation / clash that it’s at Case for Three Detectives by Leo Bruce , where the three detectives are caricatures of Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey and  Father Brown. Moreover it must be remembered that already at the The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley, different exposures of the same background , performed by different characters, led to the identification of several hypotheses with many different makers . It 's the case yet to report , as the same procedure was adopted in The Five Fragments by George Dyers , another extraordinary novel very little known ; the same fact , that seen from the perspective of five different witnesses, different angles and reveals the truth.

In fact, I would almost think that since space in the novel are many references to the authors of the Mystery , which the novel is a tribute ( Bentley, Sayers , Carr, Allingham , Christie , Millar , Brand, Milne , etc. .. ) , and even a reference to the Conference of Dr. Fell in The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr, could very well be that happened rather than taking such Case for Three Detectives  by Leo Bruce , he had taken as his inspiration , just The Five Fragments by George Dyers : could be valid both the first and the second hypothesis . In fact, if the three sections of the book underlying to three different formulations of the hypothesis accusatory , it is also true that for the first formulation (the one that provides the Locked Room ) you get three different sub- hypotheses , which, along with the second and third , they would become five.

As part of the divertissement , which is what is ultimately , the novel is , moreover , written in the form of parody . It is not a unique case , because at least in very close to us , other authors have tried to bring their brick building of the palace of Mystery, writing novels in which the protagonists are amateur detectives who take the moves from other : so John Sladek , so Isaac Asimov, so Peter Lovesey , so ... Ulf Durling .

The Locked Room  is explained only in the first three hypotheses of the first part , because they belong to the idea of ​​murder that includes the direct presence of the murderer with the victim, while in the second , there is not mention of murder because it is a natural death, while at the third par, the death by Nilsson designed with a murder in a few moments before it happens, assumes that the murderer is not  in the room when Alex dies .

All at a very interesting novel , whose solution is already present in the first part , only that it is not probed properly, and that the final solution is made in front of the reader’s amazement,  distracted by something else, not having a way to digest what he reads .

Pietro De Palma

sabato 5 aprile 2014

Peter Lovesey – Bloodhounds, 1996

In the contemporary scene of the writers of detective novels , specializing in the classical genre , Peter Lovesey has a prominent place. Born in Whitton , in 1936 , Lovesey has spent many vicissitudes in 1944 his house was destroyed during a German bombing ; had a passion for sports and dabbled in athletics , but soon realized it was not his way ; attended the University where he met his current wife ; he devoted himself to teaching but then you chose the career of full-time writer . He lives near Chichester. He signed with his real name all his novels except three , signed instead with the name of Lear Petert . His son Phil writes detective novels .
His series are centered on characters such as Sergeant Cribb , the agent Thackeray , Bertie (ie Albert, Prince of Wales ) and Peter Diamond. His novels  earned many awards : in 1976 with Swing, Swing Together
He  won the Grand Prix de Litérature policière ; in 1978 he won the Silver Dagger Award for her novel Waxwork ( repeated in 1995 with The Summon , and in 1996 with Bloodhounds ) ; four years later he won the coveted Gold Dagger Award for her novel The False Inspector Dew . She also won the Prix du Roman d' Aventures with the novel  A Case of Spirits, the Macavity Award with Bloodhounds ( repeated in 2004 with The House Sitter ) and with the same novel also the Barry Award . He also won the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in 2004, and the Agatha Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2008. In 1988 , his Rough Cider has been selected in the final five of ' MWA Edgar Award , and again in 1996, The Summons .

Bloodhounds , translated and published in Italy as Il Signore dell'Enigma ("The Lord of the Enigma ") , is dedicated to John Dickson Carr. [1] 

A group of loyal readers of thrillers , known as the The Hounds , come together in an underground chapel of the Church of SS. Michael and Paul, at Bath . They are : Milo Motion , Hilda Childmark , Jessica Shaw, Polly Wycherley , Rupert Darby, Sid Towers. At one day also ,  Shirley -Ann Miller joins to these. She made himself known for her versatility in the kind of knowledge and for her kindness . The Hounds occupe themselves principally about  Mystery , while somehow they abhor the rest .
Inside, Shirley -Ann recognizes dynamics certainly not idyllic , that make well understand how , beyond the similar knowledges, the affiliates to the group are not all united by feelings of close friendship : she already sees the day when Rupert ports downstairs her dog , provoking the ires of someone, especially Hilda Chilmark, an old heir of an illustrious family fallen into disrepair, who  not mindful about this, treats others as if they were a notch below her . The attitude of rejection towards Rupert and his dog , is accentuated at another occasion , during which both Sid Towers and Milo Motion ( both Carr fans) would have to bring along a copy of The Hollow Man , to discuss it into the group , and also read the Conference by Dr. Fell. 

At this occasion, just the lady Chilmark has an attack of hyperventilation , and then recovers by the intervention of Jessica Show that after she eliminated a paper bag where Motion kept his copy of the Carr, she provides to Chilmark to restore her proper breathing. The fact is that the incident provides an opportunity to introduce into the copy of the novel by Carr , owned by Syd Tower, a rare stamp from 1 penny black , stolen a few days earlier from a city museum , theft which had been announced in advance by a message in the form of quatrain , and that he had alerted the city police : the same Peter Diamond , superintendent of police of Bath, and head of the homicide departments , had provided some of his men to Inspector Wigfull, including Inspector Julia Hargreves, to find the stolen stamp.
At the moment in which the stamp reappears, at the meeting of The Hounds, and after the attack of hyperventilation of Hilda Chilmark, the suspect (also in the reader ) that one of the hounds may have been the thief of the stamp, creeps.
Syd , after a confrontation with the other hounds , he decides to go to the Police Station and report the discovery in his book, which he swears he never left from the time when he took on board his boat  where he lives . The fact is that Syd , after denouncing it in most interviews, and be able to demonstrate that he was not the theft of pennies, returns to the boat owned by him in the company of John Wigfull , and , after opening the lock with which he holds closed the cabin , he finds dead Milo Motion: the lock is of a special type , German, with only two keys that can open it , and one key of both fell  in the water where the boat is anchored more a year before ; The cabin has no other openings , if not another door that is bolted from the inside , however, by a number of bolts ; Syd swears that the only key to open the lock was always in his hands , and at the same time professes her innocence . Further investigation will show that he is not the killer . How did Milo Motion to enter into the booth and why? How did someone kill him and be able not only to open a padlock Syd swears that it has closed , but also to close it, for the physical impossibility that the lock may have other key to open it? And above all, why was he killed ?
The most incredible thing is that the impossible murder appears to have been previously announced by another quatrain , whose meaning is incomprehensible before subsequently put in  report to the novel by Carr. It ‘s clear at this point that if someone had previously suggested that the thief could be one of the Hounds, now there must be between them even a murderer , if the murderer is not also the thief.

Various hypotheses will make their way on the identity of the thief, also able to explain the murder , but the resolution will come only at the end of the novel, after we will admire two hypotheses about the solution of the Locked Room (at the second , Diamond will destroy the first by Wigfull , after the discovery by police divers of the first key of the padlock ) for brilliance and flair , after a second murder will throw more sand in the eyes of the investigators ( Rupert Darby will be killed , awkward and unpopular man to most people) ; and after that someone will begin to suspect a blackmail for the detriment of another member of the Hounds, uncomfortable for a pregnancy and the birth of a secret son , always gravitating in the group of The Hounds .
The novel has not a granted end, because two tight end are taking place: the first , with two culprits almost sure but announced too , and another , the true final, with a guilty not granted , not far from the action and at the same time never kept in mind of the investigation, and brought under the spotlight , only after the final reflection by Diamond.
Spectacular and beautiful novel , it presents an incredible variety of characters (and thus driving ) , even within a narrative structure , already consolidated and addressed in other novels by other writers: in fact, the so-called association of The Hounds , formed by readers and passionate lovers of thrillers , is only the last in order of time , among the many that have preceded it : suffice it to say that Blacks Widowers by Isaac Asimov , or The Seven Solvers in Invisible Green by John Sladek , or even the three friends mystery fans , who will face off in Gammal Ost by Ulf Durling .
It is necessary to recall that Lovesey , in the novel also introduces a vein decidedly humorous , and ironic ( just remember that The Hounds meet themselves in an underground chapel of a church , nor they were the followers of a sect , within collide rivalries , hatreds , and are committed thefts , blackmails and murders : a satanic cult , almost) : it is as if the author himself ironized about who takes terribly seriously the Mystery Genre.
Lovesey , however, impresses in this novel,  his recognizable trademark : a tribute to John Dickson Carr, recalled from beginning to end , through allusions , quotations and conferences , which have as a reference, the most novel reminded by Carr : The Hollow Man (The Three Coffins). This giveaway is not only formal but also substantial because is processed a double Locked Room enigma : a murder in a cabin of a boat, hermetically sealed from the outside by  a padlock thief-proof , and from the inside by another door closed by  a bolt ; the appearance of a rare stamp , stolen from a museum, in a book that the owner swears he never deposited elsewhere ( and he is not the murderer ! ) .
Added to this is the mood light which permeates the novel, the humor always present , the tumult of the suspects , the true and false tracks , the crackling inventions that are never final , but always leave a second chance to reasoning.
Unlike by other authors who keep up rytm with the  action , Lovesey fails to attract the reader's attention (which doesn’t fool till the end ) only with the his ideas. Indeed , the fact that in twenty pages from the end, Lovesey indicates a possible suspect , it is not for me to be put in relation with the tendency of some writers of the old school to use the last few pages , as a kind of summary that explains the facts earlier; for me, instead, the author is launching another false bait, so that the ultimate truth is found elsewhere : it is the old assumption by Agatha Christie , whereby because the picture of the situation can be said to be solved at all, it is necessary that all pieces of the puzzle fall into place , not in any way forcing their inclusion.
The only thing that leaves here and there dumbfounded is the hidden explanation of a particular event,  not communicated to the reader immediately and instead only revealed at a later time (the  splashes of white paint not only on the basque by Rupert but also on the coat of fur of his dog, which had not been brought by him to the inauguration of the painting exhibition ), even if you immediately understand its scope : it holds high the reader's attention on the contextual  assumption, until it is revealed the hidden detail , which it leads to a solution diametrically different, though not definitive as regards the discovery of the killer.
Lovesey 's attention about the personalities of the actors in the drama , most importantly , is not at all related , and this is demonstrated by the influence that all the characters have in the course of the narrative : even what would seem to be the only person not to can be inserted into the group of be suspected , because the only  joined the group of The Hounds after, will play a very important function albeit indirect , and this person will enter by force in the final solution , although not personally .
So in the novel , the trend of action will see the beginning coincident with the end and vice versa.

Pietro De Palma 

[1] As Carr lost his home in World War II in an air raid, also Lovesey lost his home in 1944, destroyed by a V1 Flying Bomb.

venerdì 14 febbraio 2014

Fredric Brown : Night of the Jabberwock, 1951

Fredric Brown is famous for original and bizarre plots and unusual ends in his novels.
Now, it is clear that his plots are not conventional , even very original , reading his works : I would say that it was a normal thing too , since the author was a famous science fiction author , and therefore the fantastic futuristic was for him a way of looking at everyday things in a different light. However, beyond that he was or was not , essentially an author of science fiction borrowed to crime fiction or an author of crime fiction borrowed to the sci-fi or both together, Brown was always trying. Sometimes the surprise is related to the use of instruments or strange events that follow the science fiction (i.e. The case of a strange customer , the novel that we reviewed recently ), sometimes in very strange situations .
Night of the Jabberwock , is a novel of 1951.
It 's the story of a small publisher , who resides in a small town in Illinois , Carmel City, where nothing ever happens . This forces him to rage over what could have been if he had lived elsewhere, and unfortunately procure the strangest news in the ranks of those cheesy , that can happen in a country where nothing ever happens. So, just to say something, even he managed to stand against the local police, whose the sheriff did not forgive the attacks against him. In fact, Doc Stoeger would like a nice crime, not for the purposes for which Gervase Fen by Crispin wanted it, i.e. an intellectual challenge , but to have material for a nice article . In fact, the thing he would like to do , would be a last great number, in which he could write everything he ever wanted, and then close the magazine at least in beauty.
But nothing ever happens at Carmel City .
Doc has two real friends : Carl Trenholm , a lawyer , and the bartender Smiley Wheeler, and with them he spends most of his time with the first reflecting, with the second drink (which is alcoholic). A third is his acquaintance Al Grainger, a young man whose the revenues nobody knows which they are, but that in himself leads a carefree life , and that engages Doc in endless games of chess.
One day, it happens all that did not happen in too many years: a series of facts so out of the ordinary ( always with reference to the routine of life of Carmel City ) that even only one would have been enough to cover the hole in the layout of the first page.
In essence, he assists in what would seem a bank robbery , but penetrated through a window ( it is a provincial bank , in 1951 , not a modern bank, where if you also have a key on you, the metal detector at the entrance does not let you pass! ) stretches the bumbling thief , only to realize he is the teenage son of an acquaintance of his , the banker and master of bank, Clyde Andrews ; learns that the husband of her maid , had an accident in the Department of Roman Candles , a fireworks factory , burning one hand;  he realizes that at his small town turn the bad guys , two gangsters , one of which is wanted , famous for their ferocity , who almost did not swell with fists, just because he would not say which city was the one in which they had arrived by car, gangsters whom he subsequently will find by Smiley : Smiley also recognized them , and they will be saved from certain death just because Smiley will take advantage of a moment uncertainty of the two gangsters, shooting them with the gun whom Doc has in his pocket; a lunatic escapes from the asylum , and the police organizes roadblocks to catch him ; Ralph Bonney , rich industrial fireworks factory owner , and Miles Harrison , deputy sheriff , who is escorting him because of the wages of workers, from one bank to another city , they vanish into thin air; and finally one last amazing event happens before the eyes of the unbeliever Doc: he be gone before our eyes, after a little time . But the thing that most he can not believe is that , about any of these extraordinary things, he can write a piece , because for one reason or another, the people involved therein accepts that he write a piece about the fact or about themselves .
However, are all things that Doc did not properly lived , except the adventure along with Smiley against the two gangsters.
What it happens to him now rather it’s incredible.
In an interval between one thing and another, not his friend Grainger who entertains him with challenges chess but a strange little man  who shows up on his doorstepwith, who qualifies himself as Yehudi Smith: he entertains him about his knowledge of Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland: few people know that years before Doc wrote his own practice about this visionary and that is quite a scholar . Soon Doc focuses on the strange guy that is fascinating for him, as is evident , because of his knowledge of the work of Carroll, also of essays by Carroll, very little known about the math: so the two become comfortable and Doc  by Yehudi is invited to a meeting in an abandoned and haunted house, where there will be a true rite about the existence of the fantasy world of Alice, in another dimension.
They go together, enter into an attic , they find a little table with a small key and a small bottle with a label that says DRINK ME (as into Alice in Wonderland): Yehudi drinking from the bottle and he slumps ... poisoned and stiff .

Doc runs away from home , he goes to the police station where he denounces all to the sheriff who does not believe him , but sends his second deputy to the house , where there is nothing; but from the trunk of Doc’s car blood is dripping: with the Doc Yale key that he found on the little table in the attic, they open the trunk of the car and they find the industrialist and the deputy sheriff vanished, dead.
Doc must have been ! It’s clear: he is mad! All because of all the liquor that he gobbles up !
The sheriff Kates who hates him , is about to kill him when Doc manages to escape and hide in the bar of Smiley: in the fumes of alcohol, he seesYehudi sitting at a table and talking to him and answering his questions. There is nothing supernatural : Doc putts into the mouth of his extension of his subconscious the answers he seeks, and finally he understands how the whole thing could have happened , who might have done to organize the conspiracy against him, and why he killed three people. And with the information had from Smiley , about the phobia of which would suffer the alleged murderer , the pirofobia (fear of fire) , he manages to force him to make a full confession .
It happens more in this novel and the ending is whimsical , though without upheavals of the last line .First, the novel , like many others in the production of Brown, is a hybrid: it melees environments and situations hardboiled , with a deductive enigma . We could say that it is very close to the atmosphere of Jonathan Latimer and Craig Rice : gangster and punches , alcohol and guns , but also fantastic Carroll atmospheres, a poisoning , a corpse that disappears , and two corpses that appear in the trunk of the car, a key that would open a small door and instead opens a trunk, and a bizarre plan to accuse an innocent and at the same time inherit a fortune.
In essence we are dealing with a Pout -pourri , a soup of hilarious and ironic situations, bizarre and rambling , but also dramatic and tense and especially a series of circumstances absolutely paradoxical : a paradoxical situation , a paradoxical subject , paradoxical ambiance , a paradoxical poisoning , disappearance and reappearance of a paradoxical , and above all, a paradoxical murderer and a paradoxical motive . Almost we could say that if  Brown didn’t write the novel and he did not pack in such a way, falsely arranged but stylistically very popular , we could attribute it to the deranged fantasies of an alcoholic writer .
The fact is that motive and murderer , sticking out like a cabbage to snack: why just that person should be the murderer and why Doc can figure out what could be the motive? If anything, he imagines what could be , but ... without a shred of proof .
It almost seems that the drinks, cocktails , calls into motion his nerve cells. Doc is an alcoholic and like all alcoholics need to drink to be able to get better:  in our case he uses the drink to be able to understand how it was hatched the plan , why and by whom. And the delirium tremens gives him the solution by splitting his identity in two : he and Yehudi . Yehudi , now dead, appears as an alter ego of Doc, his subconscious . This interview absurd , dreamlike and unreal between the conscious part of Doc ( Doc himself) and his subconscious ( Yehudi ) does not embody nothing more than the pursuit of truth in himself, the Socratic dialogue: if Socrates found the truth through the dialogue (Method of philosophical inquiry otherwise known as “Socratic method” ), Doc , through dialogue with a part of himself that asks questions, takes the connection . In other words , Γν
θι σεαυτόν .
The nice thing is that all this is embodied in Doc , a man who needs to drink to think.
But the "drink" in addition to being the spring to learn , makes Doc arrives at the truth in a very strange way : i.e. assuming , without evidence , on the basis of a theorem absurd, so if everything that happened in that night is absurd , also the truth must be.
Did Brown mean that the truth not ever can be reached with absolutely rational methods and that sometimes even the chance and luck are important in human affairs ? Or they may find “the truth” without evidence , basing on absurd mental constructs ?
Here then is the final by Brown, for me is the real punch in the stomach : on what evidence or even better, on the basis of what evidence, does Doc nail his enemy, the murderess ? Nothing .
The revelation occurs through the torture:  by placing before the threat of being burned, the murderer reveals everything Doc has already thought It could not have happened that the murderer was not the real one and that he admitted to be him only because victim of psychological torture (for him also real ) ?
Why don’t we think that Doc to save himself, invented an ending of convenience, creating an ideal culprit , which in turn be able to absolve himself?
Why don’t we think the ending by Brown accounted in his case  a “Je t'accuse” about the torture?
Therefore, for me, because it is a fascinating tribute to Alice in Wonderland ( each chapter is introduced by a verse of Carroll's book ), and for his hiddeen meanings, this is one of the best works, perhaps, by Fredric Brown.

Pietro De Palma

lunedì 20 gennaio 2014

John Sladek : Black Aura, 1974

John Thomas Sladek

When John Sladek wrote Black Aura was 1974: up until then he had written only  science fiction novels .
The " conversion" to the Genre Mystery ,  it had occurred two years before, when The Times had announced a competition for the best unpublished mystery story , “The Times Detective Story Competition” - and bear witness to the high quality of selection
conversely would have guaranteed the high quality of work winner , there was also the presence of Agatha Christie among the jurors:  He was awarded winner, with a flattering opinion by A.Christie .
The story was called By an Unknown Hand (in Italy it  is still unpublished): a locked room of extraordinary level, as the best by Carr or by Rawson.
Sladek had a feature (he died 12 years ago of pulmonary fibrosis) , typical of science fiction novelists : his novels had some fantastic plots , verging on the bizarre and on the visionary ( like some by Fredric Brown ).
The plot and the staging of the impossible crime is one of the most exciting in the flow of crime fiction in general, and more specifically of the locked rooms, I 've ever read. Because, even if the substance would be impossible (the subject enters into a hotel room, and then when you enter into, he is strangled to death . And there was only the detective to guard the front door and he swears that no one came out of it. But someone has murdered a man , in a room from which no one left or entered from the outside) , but the solution is reduced to an orange chair and to an old trick as the world . The detective , Thackeray Phin , with the help of readings by Carr and by Chesterton,  finds the key to the problem and reveals very ingenious premeditated murder, by virtue of an unprecedented imaginative virtuosity (except Fell, Merrivale , Bencolin , Don Diavolo , Merlini , and a few others ) .
I mentioned the story, because Black Aura, the first between two novels , takes up a lot from the story : the first, Sladek entrusts the investigator part just to Phin , and he prepares an ingenious  plot.. Then , he disseminates a series of impossibilities  really impossible. In essence, what we can say to introduce the novel is that Sladek was an author so intelligent than a simple and straightforward reading is never enough to understand the mechanisms that conceal the plot : you often resume reading and go to re-read what you just read, to have a mindset and to be able to follow the author and his detective, in the labyrinths of the plot.
Black Aura is so.
The birth of a visionary fantasy . But at the same time it is a clear-cut answer to own convictions . Sladek was a positivist and as such, a materialist subject : everything did not fall within the scope of demonstrable , it was discarded. For example the occultism . His intellectual conception , had already been released in his sci-fi works in the form of irreverent and sarcastic judgments .
Phin works within a community of spiritualists , conducted by a medium that prides to get in touch with many otherworldly entities , and so doing seems she ensnared some of her members; and he suspects that in this community there is not just plagiarism or circumvention of the weak and incompetent persons, but also real crimes . Therefore, he who does not believe to mediums and seances, pretends to want  join , although some of the followers of this cult know very well he is a detective.
To heterogeneous group , a company of the ethereal Mandala, part several persons: there is a reverend, a psychologist, a retired military officer , a pop singer , and, of course, the medium, and a scientific researcher .
Everyone is there for a purpose : there’s who exploits the gullibility of others, who in order to avoid any interference of entities that are not beneficial, who really gets in touch with the ghosts by his dead . It’s the case of Lauderdale , who lost his son Dave . It is said that his ghost has appeared to the pop singer . Dave was a drug addict , who had come into possession of an authentic Egyptian talisman , which is said to bring bad luck, a cursed talisman in the form of a beetle .
He died for a drug overdose: this is the verdict by the police. But some is not convinced . The fact is that Phin begins to investigate . He knows nothing about Dave, but he wants go to the bottom of things and he starts asking questions . At one day , Lauderdale, in front of everyone , including Phin, goes to the bathroom : Steve Sonday , the pop singer and his friend , is out.  Some time elapses, but he does not come out . Eventually they decide to go to see if he felt bad, but they found the empty room, without he has been able to get out without the others could not see : vanished into thin air.

Phin is the most worried . And while others persons are scrambling to look in all the corners of the building , he is increasingly concerned , as the time passes and Sonday is not found : did Sonday dead? This fact becomes apparent when they found him in the shed , in a kind of vertical caisson , sitting and strangled .
Is not the only disturbing thing, though. Some time later, just Steve Sonday , the friend of Lauderdale, organizes an experiment in which he can prove to the group, even disbelief , that he can levitate in the air, in front of their eyes , to the height of the balcony. Too bad! He precipitates and he remains stuck in the gate . In short, too many criminal events . To which again it is associated the attempted poisoning of the medium, and the extraordinary disappearance of Reverend: he comes to pray in the mortuary chapel of the funeral company , although there are no other means by which he can come out, if not precisely the coffin, he mysteriously disappears , he vanishes into thin air , only to be found elsewhere, in a state of unconsciousness.
To Phin will be hard to find the key to the problem , and nailing a slippery and unpredictable murderer.
Again Sladek demonstrates a capacity to surprise, playing with the readers: by directing them in one direction and then making fun of them with pure conjuring tricks : for example, the disappearance of the reverend. How did he vanish into the chapel ? The two doors were guarded : the first  by  two pallbearers , the second by the other persons of the Company spiritualistic: someone obviously is not telling the truth. Or .. is it possible that the coffin might contain two bodies. The reality will be less gruesome than you might think, but the  possibility that in the coffin there could be two bodies, it drews The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen ( and I'm sure that this remembrance Sladek  had in mind when he designed the situation ) .
The levitation that is an optical trick : which writer does it bring to our mind who put a famous optical trick at his very famous novel? J.D.Carr , at The Hollow Man, but also at a short story with Colonel March: The New Invisible Man .
The trick of the bathroom is a variation of a locked room he designed in the case of Invisible Green: in the first novel, Sladek devised a locked Room, making finding the victim locked in the bathroom; here, he invented a disappearance from a closed bathroom.
But the best thing about the novel is the literary quality , the suspended tone between the satirical and the ironic , with some good joke;  the rhythm is smooth and the style is flowing , very light. The inventions are wasted , and so the tension remains very high until the end .
But like any good final, at the manner by Fredric Brown, Sladek is astonishing : where Mrs. Webb was defended from the charge of stealing the ring from a dead , citing the fact that a martian entity Martian had given her it  , Phin fixes a spaceship : it will not be true that the Martians really exist ? , is as
Sladek wants tell us .
Talking between us, if we must say, the two disappearances from the bathroom and from the chapel they are not much, because the astute reader directs his gaze in the right direction: it is the levitation levitation the real trick who leaves us completely astonished .
Then when he will explain the trick, someone will can say, of course, could not be otherwise.
Strange nobody has thought before, though.

Pietro De Palma