Edward D. Hoch: More Things Impossible (2006) (Part 2)

Concluding our look at the second collection of Dr. Sam Hawthorne impossible-crime stories. The first part is here.

“The Problem of the Octagon Room”

What seems to happen: Sheriff Lens, Dr. Sam’s lawman buddy, is getting married, and his fiancee Vera wants to tie the knot in the famous Octagon Room at historic Eden House. On the morning of the big day, a tramp is found knifed to death in the room, which as you might expect is locked from the inside. 

There are all kinds of impossible crimes, but there’s nothing quite like a good solid locked-room mystery, and this is a fine one, with a solution that would not be out of place in a John Dickson Carr story.

“The Problem of the Gypsy Camp”

What seems to happen: (1) a patient at Pilgrim Memorial Hospital dies of a bullet to the heart even though there’s no entry wound. (2) the Romany band from “The Problem of the Christmas Steeple” returns to Northmont, and somehow every one of its members, plus all their horses and wagons, disappear while the local cops are blocking the only exit they could have used.

Two weak solutions here. I suspect Hoch realized neither of them was a winner and tried to do a story that would offer quantity over quality.

“The Problem of the Bootlegger’s Car”

What seems to happen: Under observation by Dr. Sam, bootlegging kingpin Tony Barrel gets into the back seat of his car, but when Sam goes over to talk to him, the car is empty.

The impossibility is a minor one and seems like an add-on to what is basically a suspense story about Dr. Sam being kidnapped by bad guys who need him to treat their wounded boss, put in because every story in the series had to have a miracle problem in it.

“The Problem of the Tin Goose”

What seems to happen: barnstorming pilot Ross Winslow visits Northmont, and after performing his stunts he lands his plane in the usual manner. He never comes out, though, and when Dr. Sam breaks into the locked cockpit, he’s been stabbed to death.

Another good one, although I confess I was able to spot the murderer and the method!

“The Problem of the Hunting Lodge”

What seems to happen: Ryder Sexton’s hunting lodge is surrounded by fresh snow when he walks into it alive and well. No one else makes any tracks, but someone manages to enter the lodge anyway and club him to death.

Not a bad solution, but it’s basically the same one from another, earlier no-footprints mystery.

“The Problem of the Body in the Haystack”

What seems to happen: Local farmer Felix Benet covers a haystack with a tarpaulin; Sheriff Lens, who’s helping to look for a bear that’s been in the area, keeps a constant watch over the area around the haystack and sees no one approach it; yet when the tarp is removed, there is Felix’s murdered body underneath. 

Another pretty basic solution; fittingly, Hoch lets the sheriff solve this one without Dr. Sam’s help.

“The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse”

What seems to happen: someone throws Harry Quay out of the top of the lighthouse he runs as a tourist attraction, even though there was no one there to do it.

A pretty good one, with a false solution that’s almost as satisfying as the true one.

So the second half of More Things Impossible isn’t quite as good as the first, but overall the collection has a lot of entries that are well worth reading.

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2 thoughts on “Edward D. Hoch: More Things Impossible (2006) (Part 2)

  1. Again, we’re fairly agreed on many of these stories, except for “Gypsy Camp”, which I thought was rather awesome. I don’t think that the solution to the first impossibility is particularly weak. In fact, I think it’s one of Hoch’s best solutions.

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    1. I guess what I didn’t care for about the first impossibility in “Gypsy Camp” was (using rot-13) jr jrer gbyq gung gurer jnf ab ragel jbhaq, ohg gura ng gur raq, va rssrpg, “bu, lrnu, gurer jnf na ragel jbhaq”. Nyfb, gur vzcbffvovyvgl erdhverq chggl be syrfu-pbybherq znxrhc, ohg fvapr gur crecrgengbe jnf qbvat vg nyy ba gur syl, vg frrzf njshyyl pbairavrag gung gurer jnf fbzr ba unaq.

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