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The Seventh Hypothesis [Paperback]

Paul Halter , John Pugmire
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Dec 2012
Characters dressed in the garb of 17th century plague doctors roaming alleyways haunted by Jack the Ripper...A plague victim vanishing off a stretcher under the noses of witnesses a few feet away…The corpse of the same victim reappearing under the nose of a police officer half a mile away. How are such things possible in the London of 1938? Are the events connected to a conversation overheard between a celebrated writer of mystery plays and his principal actor, where each accepts a challenge to commit a murder and pin it on the other? What is the connection to a replica of Maelzel’s chess-playing robot? The famous criminologist Dr. Twist and Inspector Hurst of Scotland Yard face one of the most diabolically clever criminals in their long collaboration. “The Seventh Hypothesis” is the fifth Paul Halter novel to be translated in English. The author, a best selling novelist in his native France, has written over thirty novels, almost all "locked room" or "impossible crime," and is widely regarded as the successor to John Dickson Carr. He appeared on BBC Radio 4’s programme “Miles Jupp in a Locked Room,” broadcast on May 21, 2012. His prize-winning novel “The Fourth Door” and “The Demon of Dartmoor” both also featuring Dr Twist have been published by Locked Room International, as have two novels featuring the dilettante Owen Burns: “The Lord of Misrule” and “The Seven Wonders of Crime.” A sixth novel: “The Riddle of Monte Verita” by Jean-Paul Torok (“wonderfully captures and evokes the glory days of the detective story”) was published earlier in 2012. For information about signed and lettered editions of all six novels, limited hardcover editions of Halter’s critically acclaimed “The Night of the Wolf” and future publication plans, please go to or contact

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Product details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (6 Dec 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1481080598
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481080590
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 15 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 851,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Paul Halter, a best selling novelist in his native France, has written over thirty novels, almost all "‘locked room" or "impossible crime," and is widely regarded as the successor to John Dickson Carr. He appeared on BBC Radio 4’s programme “Miles Jupp in a Locked Room,” broadcast on May 21, 2012. His prize-winning novel “The Fourth Door” and “The Demon of Dartmoor” both also featuring Dr Twist have been published by Locked Room International, as have two novels featuring the dilettante Owen Burns: “The Lord of Misrule” and “The Seven Wonders of Crime.”

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4.0 out of 5 stars A plague o’ both your houses... 15 Aug 2014
By jxn
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The apparent impossibilities that are Paul Halter’s hallmark – although present and served up in the first two chapters – aren’t the focus of The Seventh Hypothesis. Instead, the core of the book revolves around a did-they-didn’t-they murderous challenge between two are-they-aren’t-they rivals. Without doubt, this proves that Halter is as capable as the best of them when it comes to constructing devilish plots, and relegating the impossible strand to a subplot is a nice touch given how richly that vein has featured in his other books that Locked Room International have published in English.

Detective fiction is, of course, a rather aged and curmudgeonly beast these days and so inevitably there are elements of Halter’s work that recall the classics he has so superbly resurrected. Here, the two-header mystery echoes Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies, and even the revelation of the final line features in a Poirot short story (though it predates the same idea being used in an episode of Jonathan Creek , this being originally published in its native French in 1991). What is so impressive about Halter’s novels is that, even with these footsteps echoing down the alleyways of his crimes and their investigations, he’s still able to conjure up such imaginative patterns that utilise these old ideas not out of a lack of inspiration but rather because he can add new colour to them and enrich them from a different perspective. It’s not what I’d call completely original, but it is inspired to see someone take something so well-worn and make it feel so fresh.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars slow 8 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It takes a long time to get to the point. And I must say it is not the best version of this type of story.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Halter's finest 14 Dec 2012
By Patrick - Published on
On a night in August of 1938, police constable Edward Watkins is walking his beat when he comes across some strange sights. It seems that somebody is walking around the streets of London in the garb of a seventeenth-century plague doctor. Soon afterwards, Watkins has a conversation with an odd character calling himself Doctor Marcus, a doctor of crime. Suspicious, the officer is convinced that the doctor has hidden a body inside a nearby trash can--a suspicion that Doctor Marcus confirms! Watkins looks into them and finds they are all empty, much to Marcus' apparent surprise. So the mad doctor skips off, but as a parting shot he tells the officer to look into the trash cans once again just in case. When Watkins does this, he discovers to his horror that there's a dead body inside after all.

But how did it get there? And where did Doctor Marcus disappear to? All this seems like it is nonsense, but a few months later, Dr. Alan Twist and Inspector Archibald Hurst are visited by a man named Peter Moore, secretary to Sir Gordon Miller, a prolific author of mystery plays. According to Moore, Sir Gordon received a visitor in his study and the two men had a verbal duel of sorts, which ended in a murder challenge. The two men toss a coin, and the result will determine which man will commit a murder. That man must try and pin the blame on the other, and under no circumstances are the two players allowed to refer to the "game". Unfortunately, Moore could not see what the coin landed on...

Before long, Peter Moore is found dead, shot during an attempted burglary inside the home of his own employer! Dr. Twist and Inspector Hurst hurry to the scene of the crime, and they attempt to solve this complex mystery. Hurst instantly comes up with six hypotheses, but Dr. Twist isn't entirely convinced, and postulates that there must be a seventh hypothesis to explain everything.

The Seventh Hypothesis is quite possibly Paul Halter's masterpiece. There is so much meat to this story and you're never quite certain what on earth is going on until the end, even if, by some chance, you tumble to the secret behind a trick or two before the end. There are at least two impossibilities in this novel. The first has an excellent and simple solution. The second is a bit more complex and harder to guess, but I liked the solution to the first one a little more. Just as much fun as the impossibilities are the verbal duels, which seem like they were inspired by the verbal duels in Sleuth, with revelation after revelation further complicating the plot despite there being only two principal actors.

The most notable achievement is that Paul Halter effectively gives you a mystery with only two suspects and challenges you to guess which one has committed the crimes. You have a 50:50 chance, right? And yet Halter manages to calculate just how your brain will work. Hmm... you say to yourself. It seems impossible for X to have done it, so he's got an elaborate alibi that will get busted wide open, but if that's the case it means Y must have done it to frame X, but if that's the case, it must be an elaborate double-bluff designed to get you to think Y has done it when it was really X, but if that's the case... I made my official guess near the start of the novel, but must have changed it a good five or six times before I got to the end. This is quite simply a diabolically ingenious detective story, a masterpiece of plotting at its finest! In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to call this one of the best detective stories I've read all year long.

To write this review, I read both versions of the novel. My French edition is found in an omnibus released by Le Masque, and I bought the English translation in Kindle form. I can highly recommend both of these editions. John Pugmire has done an excellent job of getting to the heart of Halter's writing style. I can't define it in technical terms, but I performed the only litmus test I can offer: I read one chapter of the book in French, read the next in English, then switched back into French. All three chapters felt like they were part of the same book: an accomplishment for which John Pugmire must be lauded. He finds that sense of play: Halter challenges his readers to solve the crime and then leads them on a merry chase down several garden paths simultaneously.

Overall, The Seventh Hypothesis comes highly recommended for fans of complex Golden-Age-style plots. This is one of Halter's best efforts and one of Dr. Twist's most complex cases. It ends on a wholly satisfactory note, and the solution is diabolically ingenious. The writing is most agreeable, with a sense that the whole thing is a challenge to the reader: a challenge Halter won hands-down. This is plotting at its finest, and is not to be missed under any circumstances!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Truly an impossible-crime mystery 14 Jun 2013
By Patto - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Inspector Hurst of Scotland Yard and Dr. Twist, the brilliant criminologist, spend hours in this book concocting hypotheses, demolishing them, reconstructing them, and brooding over them. The seventh hypothesis is the one they haven't thought of yet.

There's a theatrical murder, an attack that might have been meant for murder, and an accident that could have been murder. There are two suspects whose motives can only be wildly surmised. Both are stereotypes (clever egotistical writer, vain self-satisfied actor). Suspicion shifts at a dizzying rate between one and the other.

I normally enjoy Paul Halter's mysteries, but this one was too unbelievable for me, the plot too convoluted, the happenings too preposterous. I also couldn't keep the characters straight until deep into the book.

I would suggest reading The Demon of Dartmoor and/or The Fourth Door rather than this one.

Of course, The Seventh Hypothesis belongs to the impossible crime genre, so maybe I shouldn't be objecting to its improbability. My husband liked the book. Other intelligent people did too. See what you think.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could've been better 26 Jan 2013
By Wreditor - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Although I'm most definitely a Paul Halter fan, I found THE SEVENTH HYPOTHESIS somewhat disappointing. I gave it three stars because the author's usual inventiveness and solid plotting ability are fully in evidence. As I pointed out in my review of his THE LORD OF MISRULE, characterization is not one of his strengths. But in other works of his, characterizations, however sketchy they might be, are attempted. I can't say the same for this novel. I thought everyone sounded alike, and it was often difficult to remember who certain people were, requiring me to page back to identify them.

That said, I nevertheless hope John Pugmire will continue to bring us translations of Halter's work.
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for those still insisting their love of Dame Agatha ... 1 May 2014
By Holly - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Set in pre-WW2 London in the Ripper's old stromping ground of Whitechapel, this chaotic crime pastiche attempts to answer the question: How many locked rooms and hidden identities can you cram in before a book collapses, black hole-like, under the burden of its own gravity? Perfect for those still insisting their love of Dame Agatha is purely ironic.
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific book from Paul Halter! 1 Mar 2013
By Leaper - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Here's why I'm so enthusiastic: I figured out the method for the impossible crimes very early on. Yet I was still riveted until the very end.

Usually, a lot of my enjoyment comes from the puzzle, but Halter in this book extends the interest beyond the seemingly impossible events he introduces. By winnowing down the people of interest to a small, intimate cast and weaving a complex web of lies and confusion around them, he was able to present a gripping tale that kept me hooked. I figured out the impossible crimes, but I still failed to answer the most important questions behind the story. And I didn't mind one bit!

Extremely entertaining. I look forward to more of Halter's work in English!
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