The full list of impossible mystery short stories

This will be a fairly boring post, because it'll mainly consist of the list of all those short stories that I identified as good and/or important enough to belong to the ultimate selection of impossible mystery stories. But I guess it's good to have them all in one place so it's easy to refer to the list whenever necessary.

First one other thing though. One of the stories I selected is "Dnr 94.028.72- Mord" by Jan Ekström, mainly because of its great setup. Just the other day I managed to find out that this story has actually been translated into English, so if anyone wants to check it out it's possible to do so. It was published in the anthology "Locked Rooms and Open Spaces", published by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, which seems to be a collection of Swedish locked room mysteries. I've not read it myself, but Ekström's story is good enough that you might want to seek it out. As a bonus you'll get around 10 other stories that might be worth the price of admission...

Anyway, back to this big list. In the end, I selected a whopping 212 stories. And that's not all, because then there's all the Dr. Hawthorne stories by Ed Hoch, where I have a hard time selecting which should be discarded... Even if I manage to cull them down to a more manageable number, I'm sure there'll be another 20-30 stories to add to the list.

The list is ordered chronologically after publication year. That's a bit misleading, because some stories weren't published until long after they were written - and some of the other stories are written as pastiches of earlier times, so reading them in this order would not necessarily mean that you go from old-fashioned stuff to more modern writings, though the general trend is obviously in that direction. I was happily surprised to see that there's so many stories from recent years. For all my griping about modern mysteries, it's apparent that the subgenre is alive and well.

In coming posts, I will try to divide these stories in different groups according to various criteria that I think are useful. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Enjoy this list instead. And please alert me if you spot any mistakes.

Edgar Allan Poe The Murders on the Rue Morgue 1841
Edgar Allan Poe The Purloined Letter 1844
Arthur Conan Doyle The Speckled Band 1892
Arthur Conan Doyle The Lost Special 1898
Samuel Hopkins Adams The Flying Death 1903
Victor L. Whitechurch Sir Gilbert Murrell's Picture 1905
Jacques Futrelle The Problem of Cell 13 1907
Jacques Futrelle The Missing Necklace 1908
Freeman Wills Crofts The Mystery of the Sleeping-Car Express 1909
R. Austin Freeman Aluminium Dagger 1909
G. K. Chesterton The Invisible Man 1911
G. K. Chesterton The Secret Garden 1911
Melville Davisson Post The Doomdorf Mystery 1914
Ernest Bramah The Tragedy at Brookbend Cottage 1914
Edgar Wallace Missing Romney 1919
Arthur Conan Doyle Thor Bridge 1922
Jacques Futrelle Absence of Air 1922
Agatha Christie The $1,000,000 Bond Robbery 1923
Agatha Christie The Sign in the Sky 1925
Agatha Christie At the Bells and Motley 1925
Edgar Jepson & Robert Eustace The Tea Leaf 1925
G. K. Chesterton The Oracle of the Dog 1926
G. K. Chesterton The Vanishing of Vaudrey 1927
Agatha Christie Temple of Astarte 1928
G. D. H. Cole & Margaret Cole In a Telephone Cabinet 1928
Grenville Robbins Broadcast Murder 1928
John Dickson Carr The Murder in Number Four 1928
Nicholas Olde Invisible Weapon 1928
MacKinlay Kantor The Strange Case of Steinkelwintz 1929
Agatha Christie A Christmas Tragedy 1930
Ronald Knox Solved by Inspection 1931
Lord Dunsany The Two Bottles of Relish 1932
Dorothy L. Sayers The Poisoned Dow '08 1933
Vincent Cornier Duel of Shadows 1934
Agatha Christie Problem at Sea 1935
Agatha Christie Miss Marple Tells a Story 1935
C. Daly King Codex' Curse 1935
C. Daly King Nail and Requiem 1935
C. Daly King Vanishing Harp 1935
Ellery Queen House of Darkness 1935
Ellery Queen Lamp of God 1935
Agatha Christie Poirot and the Regatta Mystery 1936
Agatha Christie Murder in the Mews 1936
John Dickson Carr The Wrong Problem 1936
Agatha Christie The Dream 1937
Agatha Christie Dead Man's Mirror 1937
John Dickson Carr Blind Man's Hood 1937
John Dickson Carr The Third Bullet 1937
Margery Allingham The Border-Line Case 1937
Cornell Woolrich The Room with Something Wrong 1938
John Dickson Carr Persons and Things Unknown 1938
John Dickson Carr Crime in Nobody's Room 1938
John Dickson Carr King Arthur's Chair 1938
E. C. Bentley The Flying Shot 1939
John Dickson Carr Silver Curtain 1939
John Dickson Carr Emtpy Flat 1939
John Dickson Carr The Diamond Pentacle 1939
John Dickson Carr Strictly Diplomatic 1939
John Dickson Carr The Proverbial Murder 1940
Stuart Towne Ghost of the Undead 1940
Stuart Towne Death out of Thin Air 1940
Stuart Towne Claws of Satan 1940
Stuart Towne The Enchanted Dagger 1940
Craig Rice His Heart Could Break 1943
James Yaffe Department of Impossible Crimes 1943
C. Daly King Little Girl Who Wasn't There 1944
James Yaffe The Problem of the Emperor's Mushrooms 1945
Leonard Thompson Close Shave 1946
Ngaio Marsh I Can Find My Way Out 1946
John Dickson Carr The House in Goblin Wood 1947
Joseph Commings Fingerprint Ghost 1947
Joseph Commings Murder Under Glass 1947
Joseph Commings Spectre on the Lake 1947
Manly Wade Wellman A Knife Between Brothers 1947
Clayton Rawson From Another World 1948
Ellery Queen The Dauphin's Doll 1948
Fredric Brown The Laughing Butcher 1948
Helen McCloy Through a Glass, Darkly 1948
Joseph Commings Black Friar Murders 1948
Joseph Commings Death by Black Magic 1948
Clayton Rawson Off the Face of the Earth 1949
Edmund Crispin Beware of the Trains 1949
Joseph Commings Ghost in the Gallery 1949
Judson Philips Room Number 23 1949
Thomas Flanagan The Fine Italian Hand 1949
Edmund Crispin Name on the Window 1950
Ellery Queen Double Your Money 1951
Peter Godfrey Newtonian Egg 1951
Vincent Cornier O Time, In Your Flight 1951
Afonso Carreiro Lying Dead and Turning Cold 1952
Ellery Queen Snowball in July 1952
Anthony Boucher The Anomaly of the Empty Man 1953
Adrian Conan Doyle & John Dickson Carr The Adventure of the Sealed Room 1954
John Basye Price Death and the Rope Trick 1954
Edmund Crispin A Country to Sell 1955
Edward D. Hoch The Man from Nowhere 1956
Edward D. Hoch The Hoofs of Satan 1956
John Dickson Carr Ministry of Miracles 1956
Agatha Christie Greenshaw’s Folly 1957
Joseph Commings Serenade to a Killer 1957
Christianna Brand Cyanide in the Sun 1958
Clayton Rawson Nothing Is Impossible 1958
Clayton Rawson Miracles - All in the Day's Work 1958
Hugh Pentecost The Day the Children Vanished 1958
Poul Anderson The Martian Crown Jewels 1958
Samuel W. Taylor Deadfall 1958
Edward D. Hoch Sword for a Sinner 1959
Theodore Mathieson Leonardo da Vinci, Detective 1959
Anthony Boucher Gandolphus 1960
Arthur Porges Horse-Collar Homicide 1960
Arthur Porges No Killer Has Wings 1960
Edmund Crispin Too Clever for Scotland Yard 1960
Joseph Commings Murderer's Progress 1960
Arthur Porges A Puzzle in the Sand 1961
Julian Symons As If By Magic 1961
Joseph Commings Castanets, Canaries and Murder 1962
Joseph Commings The X Street Murders 1962
Joseph Commings Hangman's House 1962
Arthur Porges Birds of One Feather 1963
Joseph Commings The Giant's Sword 1963
Arthur Porges Coffee Break 1964
John F. Suter The Impossible Theft 1964
Michael Collins No Way Out 1964
Edward D. Hoch The Long Way Down 1965
Stephen Barr The Locked House 1965
William Krohn Dr Satanus 1965
Arthur Porges The Scientist and the Vanished Weapon 1966
Joseph Commings The Glass Gravestone 1966
Michael Harrison The Facts in the Case of the Missing Diplomat 1966
Arthur Porges The Scientist and the Multiple Murder 1967
Arthur Porges The Scientist and the Invisible Safe 1967
Arthur Porges Murder of a Priest 1967
Harry Kemelman The Man on the Ladder 1967
John Lutz The Crooked Picture 1967
Stanley Ellin The Twelfth Statue 1967
Anthony Boucher The Smoke-Filled Locked Room 1968
Christianna Brand The Gemminy Crickets Case 1968
Edward D. Hoch The Magic Bullet 1968
Edward D. Hoch The 'Impossible' Impossible Murder 1968
William Brittain Mr. Strang Takes a Field Trip 1968
Edward D. Hoch The Vanishing of Velma 1969
Edward D. Hoch The Leopold Locked Room 1971
Jeffrey Wallmann Now You See Her 1971
Edward D. Hoch A Melee of Diamonds 1972
Bill Pronzini Proof of Guilt 1973
Jan Ekström Reg. No. 94.028/72 Murder 1973
Arthur Porges The Scientist and the Exterminator 1974
Edward D. Hoch Captain Leopold and the Ghost Killer 1974
William Brittain The Impossible Footprint 1974
Arthur Porges The Scientist and the Missing Pistol 1975
Edward D. Hoch The Theft of the Bermuda Penny 1975
Edward D. Hoch The Theft of the Venetian Window 1975
Bill Pronzini The Arrowmont Prison Riddle 1976
Edward D. Hoch Impossible Murder 1976
William Brittain Mr. Strang Accepts a Challenge 1976
Jack Ritchie Box in a Box 1977
Bill Pronzini Pulp Connection 1978
Bill Pronzini Thin Air 1979
Joseph Commings & Edward D. Hoch Stairway to Nowhere 1979
Peter Godfrey Flung-Back Lid 1979
Bill Pronzini Where Have You Gone, Sam Spade? 1980
J. F. Peirce The Magician's Wife 1981
Edward D. Hoch The Witch of Park Avenue 1982
Edward D. Hoch The Theft of the White Queen's Menu 1983
Edward D. Hoch The Vanished Steamboat 1984
Joseph Commings The Vampire in the Iron Mask 1984
H. Edward Hunsberger Eternally Yours 1985
Edward D. Hoch The Return of the Speckled Band 1987
Stephen King The Doctor's Case 1987
William F. Smith Almost Perfect Crime 1987
Paul Halter The Dead Dance at Night 1988
Hake Talbot The Other Side 1990
Paul Halter The Night of the Wolf 1990
Paul Halter The Tunnel of Death 1993
Bill Pronzini Cloud Cracker 1994
Bill Pronzini Desert Limited 1995
Bill Pronzini Horseshoe Nail 1997
Edward D. Hoch Shower of Daggers 1997
Lynne Wood Block & Lawrence Block Burglar Who Smelled Smoke 1997
Bill Pronzini Medium Rare 1998
Paul Halter The Call of the Lorelei 1998
Paul Halter The Flower Girl 1998
Paul Halter Murder in Cognac 1999
Amy Myers Murder Strips Off 2000
Edward Marston Blind Eyes 2000
Kate Ellis Odour of Sanctity 2000
Margaret Frazer Traveller's Tale 2000
Michael Kurland Stolen Saint Simon 2000
Paul Halter The Cleaver 2000
Peter Lovesey Amorous Corpse 2000
Peter Tremayne Murder in the Air 2000
Susanna Gregory Ice Elation 2000
Paul Halter The Abominable Snowman 2002
Paul Halter The Robber's Grave 2002
J. A. Konrath On the Rocks 2004
Joseph Commings The Whispering Gallery 2004
Edward D. Hoch The Gravesend Trumpet 2005
J. A. Konrath With a Twist 2005
Bill Pronzini Devil's Brew 2006
Bill Pronzini The Carville Ghost 2007
Edward D. Hoch Gypsy Gold 2007
Maria Hudgins Murder on the London Eye 2007
Hal White Murder at an Island Mansion 2008
Hal White Murder in a Sealed Loft 2008
Paul Halter Nausicaa's Ball 2008
Arthur Porges The Scientist and the Poisoner 2009
Arthur Porges The Scientist and the Heavenly Alibi 2009
Soji Shimada The Locked House of Pythagoras 2013
Paul Halter Jacob's Ladder 2014
Rintarō Norizuki The Lure of the Green Door 2014
Szu-Yen Lin The Miracle on Christmas Eve 2016
Jochen Füseler The Witch Doctor's Revenge 2017
Pietro de Palma The Barese Mystery 2017
Edward D. Hoch The Hawthorne mysteries 1974-2008


  1. I'm not sure if you accept this as a mistake, but "Death and the Rope Trick" should only appear on a list of worst detective/impossible crime stories. I consider it to be one of the all-time worst. You also listed "The Scientist and the Heavenly Alibi," which I don't remember being an impossible crime story, but "The Scientist and the Wife Killer" is nowhere to be found! And that's one of the better stories from the series.

    On the upside, I'm glad someone else finally recognizes "Eternally Yours" as a great example of the impossible crime (short) story.

    Anyway, you did a marvelous job in weeding out most of the chaff and putting together this fine selection. It's the most comprehensive overview of short impossible crime stories I have come across to date. Very much like Pugmire's 2007 Locked Room Library for impossible crime novels.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. It was actually good fun to do this project, because there were very few stories that were complete duds. There's always something to keep my interest up.

      I just hope that this has been of help and interest to others. If that means I've made a small contribution to the mystery field, that's just icing on the cake.

      As for your comments on "Rope Trick", I can definitely see where you're coming from. It has aspects that are incredibly hokey - particularly the way they transported the boy from the scene of the rope trick, which actually just now reminded me of the very similar trick in Joe Commings' "Murderer's Progress". But I admired the very audacity of Price in choosing that particular trick.

      "Heavenly Alibi" is an impossible crime insofar as it's a story about proving that a man could commit a murder even though it was "proven" that he was somewhere else when the murder took place. So I guess it's up to you whether you consider this type of ironclad alibi stories as impossible crimes.

      I had some complimentary words for "The Wife Killer", so it's definitely not a bad story. I just thought it a bit too formulaic and in some respects too reminiscent of some of the other, selected Grey stories.

  2. Well, you'll never get a 100% consensus on any best-of list. Let alone on one as big and comprehensive as this selection. I just think "Death and the Rope Trick," as audacious as it may be, is so bad it could chase away new readers from the genre.

    Anyway, I drew on my own locked room reading to compile a short list of locked room stories you overlooked. I hope you won't mind.

    Max Afford - "The Vanishing Trick" (a clever impossible disappearance)
    Frederick I. Anderson - "Big Time" (a witty locked room with an amusing solution)
    Robert Arthur - "The Glass Bridge" (an overlooked classic)
    Laurance Clarke - "Flashlights" (a rare WWI impossible crime story from 1918)
    Richard Curtis - "Odd Bodkins and the Locked Room Caper" (an original impossibility and explanation)
    Keith McCarthy - "The Invisible Gunman" (I remember it being good)
    Keikichi Osaka - "The Monster of the Lighthouse" (this story is the stuff nightmares are made of and the impossible situation is as original as it's clever)
    Stuart Palmer - "The Riddle of the Yellow Canary" (an inverted locked room)
    Stuart Palmer - "The Riddle of the Whirling Lights" (an impossible stabbing at the Planetarium)
    Herbert Resnicow - "The Christmas Bear" (not as strong on the impossibility as "The Miracle on Christmas Eve," but written in the same spirit)
    Max Rittenberg - "The Invisible Bullet" (a 1914 story toying around with an idea that anticipates many of the locked room classics)
    John Sladek - "By An Unknown Hand" (a prize-winning locked room story that gave us the brilliant Black Aura)
    John Sladek - "The Locked Room" (a spoof of the impossible crime story)
    Herbert Beerbohm Tree - "The Mystery of Howard Romaine" (a comedic locked room comparable to "The Strange Case of Steinkelwintz")

    1. I don't mind at all, because with the exception of one story I've not read any of them and now I have to try to find them.

      Well, maybe I do mind that bit... Are any of these stories readily available?

      The one exception is "By an Unknown Hand" by John Sladek, and I can't for the life of me understand why I didn't review it, because I have it and like it a lot. I even have it in the back of my mind that I've written something about it, but obviously it's not anywhere on this blog... Argh.

      I'll have to look into it and add it both to this list and the "stray impossibilities" page. Thanks for reminding me!

    2. You can read "Flashlights" and "The Mystery of Howard Romaine" in Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums, which I compiled with JJ of The Invisible Event. You can download the book, free of charge, by visiting this link.

    3. Right. I've been meaning to have a look at it, but just never got around to it. I'll do so at the first possible moment. Thanks for the link!

  3. Was Rawson's "From Another World" the story about the so-called spiritualist and a room sealed with tape on the inside? It's been decades since I read that one.