Editor Mike Ashley has assembled more than 500 pages' worth of short mystery fiction focusing on locked room murders, impossible crimes, and even perfect murders -- ranging from one story originally published as early as 1910 to several that were previously unpublished when the book came out in 2007. Included are 30 audacious murder scenarios: A man alone in a phone booth is somehow stabbed in the back with an icepick; a man alone in a room is shot by a bullet fired over 200 years ago; a man enters a cable-car alone and is dead when it reaches the bottom; a man receives mail in response to letters apparently written by him--after his death; a lion tamer is found strangled in a locked train car; an Indian rope trick performer vanishes at the end of the trick only to be found dead in a nearby lake; three women are found murdered, their bodies seemingly untouched yet with their internal organs removed.
Sometimes the reader knows the killer, watching to see whether he can beat the investigators; sometimes the story is a whodunit, where everyone is a suspect; and sometimes the crime is such a head-scratcher that one can only turn the pages hoping to figure out what in the world happened. Along the way, the editor calls on such familiar authors as Edward D. Hoch, Bill Pronzini, and J.A. Konrath, while also digging up a healthy assortment of lost classics. (Ashley avoids any examples from John Dickson Carr and G.K. Chesterton, two masters of the form, because those authors' stories are often so readily available.)
Some of the stories are great, some are okay, and one or two make you slap your forehead in amazement. Overall, a fine collection for any fan of puzzle mysteries.