I’ve chosen Edgar Wallace’s The Clue of the Twisted Candle to illustrate the letter E in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet. This is the first book by Edgar Wallace (1875 – 1932) that I have read. I downloaded it from Gutenberg. I’m not sure when it was first published – from different sources it appears to between 1916 and 1918. Edgar Wallace was a prolific writer and produced 175 novels, including The Four Just Men, screenplays, including the original draft of King Kong and many short stories.
The Clue of the Twisted Candle is not the one of the most puzzling murder mysteries I’ve read. It’s a bit rambling and disjointed. Basically it’s about John Lexman a writer of crime novels, his wife Grace, and Remington Kara a wealthy Greek/Albanian, a rich and handsome man who is also a notorious criminal. Grace fears Kara, whose marriage proposal she had rejected. T X Meredith, an Assistant Police Commissioner and friend of Lexman’s is investigating Kara, who in apparent fear of his life has made his bedroom into a virtual safe:
… its walls are burglar proof, floor and roof are reinforced concrete, there is one door which in addition to its ordinary lock is closed by a sort of steel latch which he lets fall when he retires for the night and which he opens himself personally in the morning. The window is unreachable, there are no communicating doors, and altogether the room is planned to stand a siege.
Lexman is found guilty of killing a moneylender, Vassalaro and imprisoned. He escapes from prison just after, unknown to him, he has been pardoned and T X is convinced that he and Grace have been abducted by Kara. In due course, Kara is found murdered inside this locked room and a small twisted Christmas candle is found inside in the middle of the room, along with the stub of an ordinary candle under the bed. The mystery is who murdered Kara and how did the murderer escape from the locked room? Why does Belinda Mary, Kara’s secretary disappear, and what is the explorer, George Gathercole’s role? It’s not too difficult to work out who killed Kara. Everything is explained before a gathering of international police officials at the end of the book and the ingenious method of escaping from the locked room is revealed. All in all an entertaining book, but not one to tax the ‘little grey cells’ very much.