Sunday, May 31, 2020

Paul Halter: Le Géant de pierre (The Giant of stone), 1998

 "Reader Beware: SPOILERS"

The novel focuses on Crete, and in general volcanoes, and develops on two parallel planes, as sometimes happens with Paul's stories: one in the present, another in the past. Which then inevitably intersect causing various situations.
The protagonist, Patrick Marais, has fallen in love with Nanno, the beautiful daughter and heir of a wealthy shipowner, who cannot have children.
Together they are visiting the slopes of an active volcano in America, when a sudden eruption divides them. Patrick and Nanno run to save themselves. Patrick, however, only realizes after stopping the absence of his wife, who at best could have been saved, in the worst death. The complaint is made to the authorities who begin to suspect Patrick, thinking of a uxoricide, a hypothesis that falls when the guide tells how the events unfolded. Then when a charred body, wearing personal belongings that the husband recognizes to be those of his wife, is found, Patrick finds himself heir to a conspicuous fortune.
Begin to make an expensive life, to travel the world. Years after the death of his wife, on the seashore, he meets a group of hippies, including a young man, Guy, and a woman Helène Garnier. It is above all her that interests him, and he soon falls in love with her. The girl should be carefree, but instead she gets sad sometimes: Patrick, also informed by Guy, soon understands that in her live two different life experiences, belonging to two different time periods: one is in the present, the one that Patrick also lives, the other is in the past. In this other temporal dimension, she is the youngest daughter of Amintore, the king of a happy island, on which however the catastrophe is always imminent: the stone giant, the volcano that rises on the island, could awaken, and when this happened in the past, the events were mournful.
Days go by, and the bond between him and Helène is strengthened: the two go to live together, in a villa that the heir bought. Helène falls prey to her hallucinations, and this often happens when she takes drugs or drinks cocktails; when she is in these almost dreamlike states, Patrick discovers that even the reflection of the fire, or the vision of an eruption, can accentuate the cathartic state in her. And for this she makes sure that she often falls into these hallucinatory states, as she increasingly thinks that she can help him in his research. Marais is prey to his ambitious research: he dreams of finding Atlantis, and he is increasingly convinced that Plato's Atlantis was not in the Atlantic Ocean but in the Mediterranean Sea, and that the eruption that determined the sinking of the continent, is that occurred around the sixteenth century before Christ, which led to the sinking of Thera and the end of Crete.

Photograph received by Paul and taken on the occasion of his trip to Crete
What does Helène have to do with it? Patrick is convinced that Helène is the reincarnation of Cleo, the daughter of a king of Thera, or that in any case she relives past life experiences that apparently are not hers, as a déjà-vu, and that it can help him to identify the point where a great sinking part of the island.
Helène relives the drama of Cleto, and the death of her daughter, sacrificed to the volcano, the stone giant after Maleus, the island's minister, who wanted to marry her to become king, vaticated the need for sacrifice. But when the volcano continues to express its anger, the old king Amintore accuses him of having exploited the volcano's wrath to remove an obstacle to the throne. And so we come to a challenge: Maleus will remain closed in his room, and if Poseidon wants to avenge Amintore, he will die; but if he remains alive, Amintore will abandon the throne. The following day, however, Maleus is found killed by a bronze newt in the locked room from the inside while outside the guards have not noticed anyone approaching. Being able to understand how, is an enigma, especially since the room was closed from the inside by means of a bolt placed inside the heavy cypress door, and on the ground there were the pieces of a terracotta disc and also a dagger of bronze without hilt not used, however, to kill, and with an absolutely clean blade.
The assassination mentioned by Helène in her dreams becomes a way like any other to locate in the city brought to light by an archaeological mission, on the island of Thera, precisely the place of Helène's dream: Atlantis. Moreover, an object found during the excavations turns out to be extremely similar to the terracotta disc which, in the dream, had been found next to Maleus' corpse, broken into a thousand pieces.
Moreover, Helène and Guy seem to see lights in the portion of the sea near Thera. At first Patrick thinks they are mad, but then he too witnesses this phenomenon, and he convince himself of the existence of a marine base of Atlantis.

One fine day, during a dive, Guy, without anyone approaching him, is pierced by a bronze newt in his chest: it is Hèlene who finds him desperate and shortly thereafter to be able to continue the research without the police investigation, the corpse is placed in a grotto. But when the following day they go there to ballast him at sea, they no longer find him. Subsequently Heléne disappears and reappears two days later just to say that she found him in another grotto, alive and well even if aching in the neck: in the grotto there is a mysterious ancient bronze door. Patrick excitedly ventures into the sea next to his woman, until he arrives at a grotto where they find Guy, but who has been dead for three days.
In the dark of the grotto Patrick will be the victim of a murderer, who will leave him with a very reduced life prospect, in that grotto. Will he be saved?
Atypical detective novel, there is no real police investigation, because detective is Patrick Marais himself, rampant archaeologist: he investigates both the impossible assassination of Guy, which occurred a few meters from him, and a crime in a locked room occurred in a distant temporal dimension.
He is in a sense a detective. Then there is another more hidden one: the missionary priest Pierre Roussel
Of the two crimes, the first is of Christe memory: whoever has read all the Christie novels will not hesitate to understand from which Agatha novel Halter drew the foundations for the assassination of Guy. However the second crime, which then in terms of time, is the first, that occurred in a distant time on the island of Thera, is explained with an absolutely original reasoning and solution, which testify to Halter's inventiveness in his sector of literature.

There are, it is good to say three other deaths: one random, used for an exchange of identity, another desired, but whose moral weight will be the spring of all the drama; and finally a suicide.

The victim? Patrick, of course, who in turn is the instigator of another death, as well as whoever condemns him to starvation, and is therefore the executioner, has also been a victim of his in the past.
And death in the past, the one from which everything originates, from a parallelism is connected to that of Scylla, in the story of Helène.
Patrick finally understands the scheming he was subjected to, only when he is in the grotto, in the company of the corpses of Guy (a few days old) and Helène (a few minutes old).
In the novel, several are the ideas that connect him to others of Paul's production:
first of all the omnipresent theme of madness, lucid madness, revenge that goes beyond normal; then, that of the victim who is in turn responsible for another death in the past: like Patrick, also other characters from other novels: the protagonist of "La Lettre qui tue", for example; then the subject victim of Fate: 
who lives by the sword, dies by the sword , seems to echo in Halter.
The novel is primarily an adventure novel, which mixes the historical novel with the thriller and the mystery.
It is pleasant to read, and because of the theme, it seems to unfold like a fairy tale, telling a story that is not clear to what extent a detective novel is; then at a certain point, many events happen, the drama begins and it is understood that many small things, told innocently before, are important for understanding the story.
Those who saw David Mamet's film, "The House of Games" many years ago, will ideally link it to the plot of this fantastic novel by Paul Halter: a bad fairy tale, but a boundless wickedness, in which all the actors, they seem to say when they express themselves, things that have a double meaning. What it says e.g. the missionary priest Pierre Roussel has an extraordinary value: "Killing someone for interest, to improve their life". And turning to Helène he adds: “They are truly ignoble crimes, Miss Garnier. And sometimes the law fails to punish them ... ". These two sentences are the essence of the novel, because they reveal the key that opens the lock of the scheming. If Patrick, at the moment when Roussel affirms it, takes that truth and compares it with what has happened to him in the past, he could also consider that Roussel has probed his soul and has seen at the bottom of his heart, and that of other people, an ancient evil. Roussel himself, after Guy's death, referring to Patrick and Helène, will say he is always amazed how certain people are able to pass over the corpse of relatives and friends and despite being pleasant people, they have turned out to be despicable killers.

Roussel is therefore the voice of Fate, which nails anyone who has done an action unworthy of their responsibilities, perhaps repaying it in the same currency, in another form. Roussel is the true detective, who on the basis of his own life experience, knows how to go to the bottom of men's hearts and see the hidden evil: he before the last line of the last page of the novel has been written and the last truths have been revealed, sees and recognizes who is a murderer. In a way, Roussel is what Dieudonne is in La nuit du loup, Halter's masterpiece tale.
It also reveals Halter's traditionalist Catholic spirit, which he cannot forget as well as the death of an innocent, a newly conceived child, is still an assassination even if masked.

So basically a gorgeous novel, of Paul Halter  to the maximum of his possibilities, his imagination and his ability to invent fascinating plots and stories.

Pietro De Palma

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Paul Halter: Le Cri de la sirène, 1998

 "Reader Beware: SPOILERS"

Le Cri de la sirène is a 1998 novel. As the title mentions, it talks about a mermaid, not the mermaid of course with a fish tail, but a demonic being who usually kidnaps sailors and attracts them to the bottom of the sea.
The Alan Twist that we find here is an Alan Twist of origins, so much so that someone with a lesser imagination than Paul could have entitled the novel: The first case of Alan Twist.
The novel begins in an extraordinary way: a snowy night. Two doctors conducted who assist two women in two distinct places: however the two girls who are born, of the same father but of a different mother, seem to be twins. One of them is taken to the father's home and entrusted to him by the doctor, on the same night that his wife Hela dies in childbirth. However the two girls at the age of four are separated: one will live in the environment and will bear the surname of the Cranston, the other will be the shepherd's daughter and will live among the sheep. She will be identified by the village gossips in the siren that with her tears disturbs the consciences of the locals.
Alan Twist is an occult scholar who is primarily concerned with exposing charlatans. He was called to Jason Malleson's castle, to solve his problem: there is an ectoplasm, a spirit, a ghost that is to be said that terrifies him: since he returned to the end of the war, four years earlier, first in lightly, then more and more markedly, he heard footsteps in the attic. But obviously there is nobody in the attic. Not only. There is also a so-called forbidden room, in the castle, since an event attributed to the devil occurred many years before: the old landlord had challenged the devil, and in response, a wardrobe, one of the feet of which he was so eaten but it had never given problems, in the middle of the night it overturned and fell with everything it contained, including books, from one of which came out a very compromising letter, which clearly showed her husband's betrayal of Lottie, the wife. From that moment the room had remained closed, and the only key was kept in a specific place. In recent times, Malleson had encountered light from below, and therefore feared that a demonic presence was there.
Twist, welcomed at the castle, checks the condition of the places, and above all the pink room, which, open, proves not to be dusty and full of cobwebs as you would expect, but neat and clean, and indeed fresh and fragrant, throughout and for all a room that could have hosted a guest in the canopy bed. Twist finds one thing above all: the landlord is truly frightened and prostrated by these "presences". Moreover, the castle has been a cursed place since other times: in fact, both the one who had challenged the devil and his son were the object of the attentions of the Banshee, a demonic being, who repeatedly made his presence felt in Moretonbury: she appears with a broken comb in his hands, and utters a heartbreaking scream. The legend says that whoever does not hear it is destined to die. Both old Cranston and his son hadn't heard Banshee's tears, and were dead on time.
However, these demonic presences are not the only ones that catalyze Twist's attention, but also other things. The young Scotland Yard Hurst inspector, met by chance, with whom he befriends, talks to him about another puzzling fact, which he deals with: various voices raised even on the occasion of the arrival of Malleson, tend to speculate that Lydie Cranston's husband not the real Malleson but an imposter, a fellow soldier, Patrick Degan, who killed him on the front by stealing his identity and memories and passed himself off as a husband. This is evidenced by various clues: the fact that he became a great chess player while before he was a mediocre player, the fact that he dresses carefully and above all wears beautiful ties, that he uses seduction and charm to seduce his beautiful wife, who reads obscene books, that he curls his mustache with his fingers, but also at the expense, that his dog has not recognized him. Therefore they subject Malleson, with the help of his cousin William Lucas, a traveling salesman who sells women's stockings, and of Dr. Jeremie Bell, lexicographer, a supersympathetic type who knew all the boys of the place many years before, to a series of tests, after which Malleson shows himelf to be just what they said he was: the Malleson that Jeremie had known many years before.

In the meantime, inexplicable facts continue to happen or seem to happen at the castle: Malleson hears footsteps, has frightening nightmares, and above all he sees each time a model of a sailing boat approaching or distancing himself from a light, on the edge of the fireplace, despite the fact that he is fussy that is, reposition it every time. The nightmares that haunt him are those that make him plunge back into the frightening life in the trenches every day, or during the sinking of the Argo, in which more than two hundred people had died.
Also disturbing the atmosphere is the not quite idyllic relationship that Jason has with a cousin of his wife, Edgar Rice, who has lived with her from an early age, since Lydie remained an orphan had been entrusted to Aunt Rebecca, the mother of her cousin . Now, it is he, without a family anymore, who lives in the Mallesons' house, doing nothing but composing poetic verses.
Moreover, there is also another very strange relationship: that of the two "twin sisters not twins" Lydie and Ingrid, daughters of Ian Neilsen and his wife Hela. Twins not twins, because despite being very similar, they are actually half-sisters: they are the daughters of two different relationships, which Ian has had with two different women. The one with Hela spawned Ingrid, the one with Julian Cranston's wife, Mary, instead Lydie. However Lydie was apparently adopted by the two Cranstons, and so what is her natural mother becomes her stepmother. But only because at the time of the adoption, the most tame girl was taken while the most irascible one, Ingrid, remained at the stake. One fine day it happens, after finding the beautiful Lydie passed out in the Pink Room, that Edgar crosses the castle tower and after a frantic shout from the Banshee that appears to him, he falls from the parapet of the tower and dies. A short time later the same fate will happen in Malleson. Twist after acquiring other clues, will give his own version of the facts, crediting the track of the suicide of the two. But then a long time later, when Hurst has already become a famous face of Scotland Yard, going to visit Lydie, an unmarried widow, he will reveal the true dynamics of the facts, and how a certain person had been the cause of Edgar's death and that of Jason, and how he protected her. For this reason he does not feel like accepting the attentions of the beautiful widow and decides to devote himself to criminology and the capture of heinous and mysterious killers.
Let's say right away that the novel is one of the most fascinating that I have ever read, out of Paul's pen, not so much for the puzzles per se, as for how the stories are described, and how he manages to explain in detail all the events narrated, even the least comprehensible: e.g. Who was the Pink Room used for? It is evident that someone from the castle other than Malleson used it, namely Lydie or Edgar. But everything acquires a different flavor when it is discovered that the room was not used either by one or the other, but by both, for extramarital encounters. That is, in simple words, the wife cheated on her husband at home by giving herself to the lover who lived under the same roof. Or why Jason Malleson (Jason) was so obsessed with the cursed shipwreck of the Argo? To remember is the myth of the Argonauts, of Jason and of the ship Argo, and of how Jason had been the cause of the death of his companions: even in literary reality this is true.
In short, the novel fascinates for its ability to narrate, for how the narration in itself fascinates. It reminded me of what I thought before reading this novel, being the best novel for the narrative structure, that is Le Brouillard rouge: both novels have a very intense ability to narrate and both have an explosive beginning. Le Brouillard rouge also has an absolutely extraordinary ending, as much as the beginning while Le Cri de la syrene, to justify Twist's abandonment of occultism and his dedication only to solving mysteries inextricable from a criminal point of view, I must say that he proposes an alternative ending that does not seem to me to be of the same weight as the first: in other words, if the two deaths could be explained by suicide, or rather by accidental fall, taking into account the highly emotional nature of the two victims and the danger of the roof and the absence of a parapet of the old medieval tower, and of the cliff, not otherwise you can think of the alternative ending, with the attribution of a murderous paternity, albeit difficult to judge, to a person who simulating a cry would have scared to death the two and he would have made them fall one from the tower, the other from the cliff. Even more in detail, even the first death could still be explained in this way, but the second is difficult for me to explain with the appearance of the murderer disguised as Banshee that scares the victim enough to make her commit suicide by the cliff. Sometimes, to justify something highly difficult to explain, Paul climbs the mirrors: it had already happened in the explanation of the crime of The Demon of Dartmoor, with the camera broken. Beyond this detail (it seemed to me but I can be wrong, that the second ending was added later), the novel is magnificent and indeed, in a certain sense, the double ending responds to the need for the murderer to be something else sex compared to what was believed to be responsible. What do I mean? That reading the novel it seemed to me, regardless of the precise identification of the person in charge, that sex should be a very specific one, and indeed I was amazed that the story went in another direction: instead the ending that overturns the revealed truth, has to its time sanctioned that I was not wrong.
It is, however, at the same time a very cerebral novel: the insistence on genealogy, on family crossings, on the theme of the double, both male and female, both in the meaning of the double (Patrick Degan / Jason Mallesot) and in that of the "Twin not twin", with all the annexes and connected: that is to understand who is the real bad of the two, and who is the bad of the twin girls. In this I undoubtedly find a decidedly French flavor: if in fact the theme of the impossible crime on a tower had already been laid out by Carr in two of his novels (He Who Whispers, The Case of the Constant Suicides) and despite the novel has decidedly Carrian atmospheres, and indeed one of the characters, Jeremie Bell is outlined in the same way as the literary tradition reminds us of the character of Gideon Fell (large black cloak, glasses with pince nez, mustache, gigantic, great beer drinker, and pronouncer of famous invectives that they have historical or mythological subjects: "for Mercury's sandals" for example), the subject of the double shot and turned over brings us to Boileau and his magnificent La Pierre qui tremble, while Edgar's clandestine love for his cousin Lydie, more great of him, wife of a soldier who went to war and then came back to me, makes me think very clearly, Raymond Radiguet's Le diable au corps, an extraordinary novel very passionate, brought to the screen equally suggestively by Gérard Philipe in the eponymous film by Claude Autant-Lara.
Another reason that characterizes this novel compared to the others of the same hand, is the fact that it presents a similar trend to Ellery Queen's The Greek Coffin Mystery. In fact, those who have in mind the novels of the two cousins, will remember how Ellery's characters change more and more as we move away from the very first, but that unlike other novelists, the first adventure of Ellery Queen that we would expect was the first to to be published, that is, The Roman Hat Mystery, is not that but rather The Greek Coffin Mystery, which was the fourth to be published, and which was presented as the first extraordinary case of Ellery Queen. Here we have the same trend: after several previous novels, in which we had already met Alan Twist criminologist, and in one even a former policeman (La malédiction de Barberousse), here we see his genesis as a detective committed to solving crimes (therefore even before La malédiction de Barberousse), on his first meeting with Archibald Hurst, and even on his first and last love adventure. It will be precisely this disappointment (and the consequent developments) that will channel in a very precise direction his will to devote himself to crime instead of occultism.

Pietro De Palma

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Paul Halter : Meurtre dans un manoir anglais, 1997

 "Reader Beware: SPOILERS"

Meurtre dans un manoir anglais, is a 1997 novel. 
Paul Halter wrote it after L'arbre aux doigts tordus, from 1996 and before Le cri de la sirène from 1998, in the Twist cycle. Actually in 1996, he had written another novel, Le cercle invisible, with a subject in its own right.
First of all this is not a novel. I have sometimes said, in my analysis of Halter's novels, that in my opinion, except for some well-identified cases (obviously among the most important novels, Le cercle invisible, La quatrième porte, La mort vous invite, La mort derrière les rideaux, La chambre du fou, La septième hypothèse, A 139 pas de la mort, La toile de Penelope, Le brouillard rouge, Le fleurs de Satan, La tête du tigre), Halter often builds his books by joining separate stories and then joining them directly arrival: e.g. Le géant de pierre or L’image trouble (in which a story in the distant past is linked to one in the present), Le cri de la sirène (in which the stories of two people are linked together), and various others. In this case even, the novel becomes a container that brings together seven stories and then unites them in what is the origin of a famous board game, the Cluedo, and in which Twist and Hurst appear in the beginning, and in the end that explains everything.
Basically something has happened that is not known whether to explain as an accident, murder or suicide. Hurst gropes in the dark, and Twist to whom he turned, advises him to read the seven stories of those who were invited one evening, to Dr. Lenoir's home, to participate in a new game invented by their host: each of them, involved in a fact of blood, either as a spectator or as an interpreter, he would have to tell his story, in front of the others, together with the landlord, or in the absence of the same to a representative. Then they would play together with the target shooting, they would have dinner together, and then at the end of the evening the landlord would give them a sensational surprise. So Hurst reads the seven stories involving seven guests: Miss Rose, Colonel Moutarde, Dr. Lenoir, Professor Violette, Mrs. Leblanc, Dr. Olive, Mrs. Pervenche. Among them, according to Twist, the murderer is hiding, because what they are involved in, in his opinion, is a premeditated murder.
The seven stories are:
Rose: Locked Room. Rose's boyfriend Philip, while in the company of his uncle, in a library closed from the inside, does not know how to explain how Rose's uncle behind him was killed by an arrow, with the window wide open, but in front of a high wall and an immaculate snow in which the footprints of those who should have fired the mortal arrow are not noticed
Doctor Lenoir: disappearance of his wife and reappeared in the bench chest of a tenant from the same building. The fact that a key opens two apartments of the building, gives rise to two antithetical hypotheses, in the context of a machiavellic murderous plan, in which a candlestick stained with blood enters, two chests, one per apartment, and a key that opens two different apartments and therefore allow not only the condemned to kill but also Lenoir to enter the apartment of others and use it for the same purposes.
Colonel Moutarde: premonition of arson, blackmail, and murder. The Colonel would have discovered that at the time he served in the police, a colleague of his had blackmailed the owners of the properties where a psychic predicted that fires would break out, so that they would pay if they didn't want them to really burn their property.
Professor Violette: premonition, murder of a woman when a friend of hers dreams that it will happen. The psychic is suspected of having hatched a trap to mask his guilt, but is then recognized innocent, except to discover that when he was a child he had witnessed the same scene, in which his mother had been killed by the same murderer of his friend.
Mrs. Leblanc: impossible crime and not suicide of Sir Jerry Cadosh, archaeologist. Apparition of a golem in his home before suicide, in the kitchen closed from the inside. A mysterious statuette depicting a winged bull suggests a curse. In a second time, the fingerprints of the dead are not found on the gun, and therefore the hypothesis of an impossible murder, made by a winged bull, makes its way, given that beyond the window ajar in an expanse of dried mud beyond it, no fingerprints are found.
Doctor Olive: crime of a famous entomologist and exchange of person at the basis of the murder. There is a large hourglass, and a pitted box from which it came out is not known if a large butterfly or a large spider.
Mrs. Pervenche: impossible suicide of a friend of hers, of which she is accused, while it turns out that it was another person who had faked a bomb alibi with the help of a double.
The evening had ended, after the opening of two chests, one of which was set up for a buffet dinner, and the finding of cushions, and then under a sofa, a bottle of Veronal, and a dartboard, as well as numerous objects concerning the single stories, with a criminal hypothesis concerning Dr. Lenoir, who is found beyond the target, slumped in a chair and hit by the bullets of the seven guests.
Among them a murderer who would have left in his story an important clue, first discovered by Lenoir that would have blackmailed the suspect to support his whims and his board games, and then by the police many years later, after a bombing by the Germans of a Palace of London, where the killer lived undisturbed, having found a very important clue that would have revealed a hidden truth. In the epilogue, Twist, without knowing this clue, frames the killer and which clue would have escaped the killer and present in his story, would have given the possibility alone to unmask him.
The novel, as we said, begins where it ends.
It is a way of writing that we find other times in Halter: we find it for example in Le brouillard rouge, where in the prologue we see a man painting a room red and then in the epilogue we understand that ... ; here as the novel begins, it ends: with Twist and Hurst busy identifying the edge of the skein.
It is not easy to guess, as has happened to me before, who the killer might be, because on this occasion there is not a single fact, a single story that winds from start to finish (and Halter's endings are so to speak almost always pyrotechnics, for which there is almost always a reversal), but more stories, more events that intersect, but distinct in themselves, and finding the misleading clue is very difficult. Nonetheless, the ability to narrate, to enchant the reader is unchanged and always very high: Halter is comparable to Carr not so much in the locked rooms, but in the ability to evoke atmospheres, to tell stories. With these premises, we must abandon the ambition to compete with the writer (this is one of the limits of the novel, however, because the clue is very subtle and weak, not so flashy, like a bottle without a label and containing iodine tincture, in one of Ellery Queen's first novels, The Egyptian Cross Mystery: writer and reader should fight on equal terms, which is not the case here) and read the book abandoning ourselves to history
All the stories are well written, and the proposed solutions are also plausible: in particular that of the first Locked Room is remarkable. In spite of this, we still and always find in this novel a whole series of references and remembrances, not only of other people's novels, but also by the Alsatian author himself: the chest in which Lenoir's corpse would be found and is not there, and that in which his wife is actually found, recalls the chest in La mort vous invite where a corpse is kept for some time: after all a chest or trunk used for this purpose, are used in many other novels and stories, by Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert in The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest by Agatha Christie, in Le Tueur N.2 by Pierre Mac Orlan; and moreover a chest set for a buffet, recalls the trunk set for a buffet in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (and the coincidence seems to me by no means casual). The obsession with the corpse inside a sofa derives from Carter Dickson's The Red Widow (there was an armchair) and stabilized in Halter in the previous La Quatrieme Porte. The corpse with an arrow stuck in the neck, closed in a room, immediately recalls Carter Dickson's The Judas Window; not only that: a corpse and an innocent person inside a locked room from the inside, also recall Helen Reilly's Dead Man Control. And the huge spider of Olive's story recalls other spiders, first of all that of Halter's novel, La toile de Penelope. In short, looking for references, they are found galore. Another interesting and recurrent reference in Halter's works is a murderous teenager, already found in La malédiction de Barberousse, and then also in Le diable de Dartmoor, and Spiral. And wanting to look for the number seven is already present in Les sept merveilles du crime, 1997.
The same form used by Halter and original for him, finds a historical correspondence in Agatha Christie's The Big Four.
On the back cover, it alludes to Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers, as a comparison of the setting in which it rattles off the story, but in reality 10 little Indians has to do here as a snack cabbage
What puzzles me, is what it feels like after reading the book: a kind of final flop, not the usual highly spectacular Halter ending (exceptional for example in Le Brouillard Rouge, or The image trouble), almost a personal dissatisfaction; which is so much bigger, if you think about other Halter’s novels more spectacular than this one.
However it is a highly enjoyable product.
Presenting her as an invented origin of Cluedo, Halter intelligently refers to the historical version invented by an employee of a lawyer, in the very last lines of the novel: this, by Anthony Pratt is a real historical reference, as well as of the seven suspects, the only one present in the version of the game Cluedo, and in the literary version of Halter, is Colonel Mustard (here Moutard), like some of the weapons mentioned in the board game and in the novel: the wrench, the candelabrum, the poison, the revolver, the rope .
For me Halter manifests himself once again, a splendid chiseller of tales, losing instead in the construction of large narrative cathedrals, where it is necessary not only to explain the solution but also to keep at bay the different personalities of the suspects and to know how to make them interact within a multi textual container. Except of course some wonderful examples.
But the comparison between the Halter writer of short stories and the Halter writer of novels, for me, makes the balance move sharply towards the first term of comparison.

Pietro De Palma