A clever magician tries to solve the case of a locked-room murder that only a talented escape artist could have committed.
Freelance scribe Ross Harte is working on an essay about the sad state of the modern mystery novel when a scream comes from the hallway: “There is death in that room!” Harte finds a trio of conjurers trying to get into the apartment of his neighbor, the mysterious Dr. Cesare Sabbat, famed occultist and, for the past few minutes, a corpse. They break down the door to find Sabbat lying in a pentagram, face twisted from the agonies of strangulation, but with no bruises on his neck. All the doors were locked, and the windows drop straight down to the river below. Only an escape artist could get out of that room, and Sabbat knew quite a few. To make sense of this misdirected muddle, the police bring in the Great Merlini, an illusionist whose specialty is making mysteries disappear.
“Don’t miss this story.” —The New York Times Book Review “A cornerstone of detective fiction.” —The New York Times “One of the topflight mystifiers in the whole bloodhound business, a favorite with plain fans and fancy connoisseurs alike.” —Fred Dannay, co-creator of Ellery Queen “[A] wonderful wizard of crime.” —Eleanor Sullivan, editor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Clayton Rawson (1906–1971) was a novelist, editor, and magician. He is best known for creating the Great Merlini, an illusionist and amateur sleuth introduced in Death from a Top Hat (1938), a rollicking crime novel which has been called one of the best locked-room mysteries of all time. Rawson followed the character through three more adventures, concluding the series with No Coffin for the Corpse (1942). In 1941 and 1943 he published the short-story collections Death out of Thin Air and Death from Nowhere, starring Don Diavolo, an escape artist introduced in the Merlini series. In 1945 Rawson was among the founders of the Mystery Writers of America. He served as the first editor for the group’s newsletter, The Third Degree, and coined its famous slogan: “Crime Doesn’t Pay—Enough.” Rawson continued writing and editing for the rest of his life.
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