Eliminate the impossible. Then if nothing remains, some part of the "impossible" must be possible.This epigram at the beginning of Rocket to the Morgue by H.H. Holmes is an early warning that the mystery novel has strong Sherlockian overtones. Other clues are the Holmes byline and the fact that the author was also known as Anthony Boucher, a member of the Baker Street Irregulars.
Boucher is a character in his own book, and one who has a key role in the solution of a clever, engagingly written locked room mystery.
The Holmes-like epigram is attributed to Dr. Derringer, a science fiction character of Holmes-scale popularity. The son of Dr. Derringer's creator, whose life and living revolve around his father's literary estate, is a distinctly unpleasant man who gives no quarter when it comes to demanding royalty payments for use of the Dr. Derringer character.
His is Hilary Foulkes, but he strongly resembles Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's son Adrian.
When someone almost kills Foulkes in a room which no one else could have entered or exited, the only tears shed by the science fiction writers who populate the book are out of sadness at the killer's lack of success. But the body count is up to three by the final chapters.
I've known about this 1942 novel for many years but never got around to reading it until recently. I'm grateful to my friend Jeff Marks for lending me a copy - a hardback first edition, no less, not the paperback shown above.
In this second (and unfortunately final) mystery novel featuring Sister Ursula of the Order of Martha of Bethany, the amateur sleuth seems to be on stage a little more than in the first, Nine Times Nine. She's an intriguing character, and I wish Holmes/Boucher had given her many more cases.
For fans of twenty-century science fiction, there's a bonus here: A number of the characters in Rocket to the Morgue are obviously based on big names of the genre, including Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard.