Stumbled across this book following an article about the author I saw in a writing magazine. As a wannabe writer myself, with a love of crime fiction, locked room mysteries and Jonathan Creek, this tickled my fancy so I thought I would download it for my Kindle and give it a whirl. I must admit, my expectations were low, and I thought it might be some dreadful vanity project that smacked of amateurism. I couldn't have been more wrong.
This is a very very good read. OK, some aspects of the "howdunnits" do stretch credibility a little, but in the locked room sub-genre writers have to be incredibly inventive to come up with original ideas. Full marks to the author for his originality then, and I was more than happy to allow enough suspension of disbelief to overlook some of the more outlandish or unlikely elements to some of the solutions. This is because there is an unbroken logic and essential honesty to all of the stories, which earns the writer respect and credibility - however implausible some of the solutions might be, they are always logistically possible, so you never feel cheated.
In fact, the howdunnit solutions are not the best thing about this book - it is the characters who really shine through. This was a huge surprise, as I expected the plot to overshadow everything else in this type of fiction where the mechanics of the "impossible" murders are the unique selling point. A lazy writer would have conjured up the plots and then used any old stock characters to fuel the story. Not so here, where the characters are wonderful creations in their own right and immensely enjoyable to read about. In particular JP and Cassie are great, as they have just enough individual eccentricities to make them unique, but not unbelievable. The fact that they also become embroiled in, and solve, locked room mysteries is almost a bonus.
So we have decent enough plots and great characters. But there's something else about these stories that really knocked my socks off - the quality of the writing. I must admit that part of my decision to buy the book was to "check out the competition" and satisfy myself that I could probably write a far better version myself. I honestly expected the writing would be so pedestrian and full of clichés and grammatical errors that I would be cringing all the way through it. Boy was I wrong. The quality of writing was superb throughout. This was a very easy book to read, because the writing was so perfect for the plots, characters and locations. Just enough detail to set the scene each time and great use of dialogue between all the characters. The little turns of phrase, especially in the dialogue, just rang true time and time again and I found myself marvelling, not wincing throughout.
The combination of plot, character and writing here is just perfect. You can almost see how this would make a great TV adaptation. I wish I could write stories as brilliant as these. I can't imagine anyone who has ever read a Sherlock Holmes short story or enjoyed watching an episode of Jonathan Creek would not enjoy this book. These stories deserve a wider audience so I will certainly be recommending this book to my friends.
I should add that upon finishing this book, I was compelled to download the Whodunit Hallowe'en collection (various authors) so I could read the first ever Impossibilities story - A Bolt from the Blue - contained therein. Again, this was another cracking story mirroring my comments above. However, the quality of the story was even more evident in contrast to some of the other offerings from other authors in that collection. Some of those other stories were really quite bad - just very basic, very boring or poorly written. I did do quite a bit of wincing as I read through. The quality of A Bolt from the Blue really shone through, and more than justified the purchase price for the whole collection.