Sunday, 10 March 2024

I am sad to report that John Pugmire, Publisher of Locked Room International (LRI), passed away on March 7, 2024, in New York City.

Originally from the United Kingdom, John relocated to Manhattan in the 1980s after a successful executive career at IBM. His interest in locked-room and other impossible crimes was stimulated in 1991 when he learned about Paul Halter, a rising young French writer. Being bilingual in French and English, John read and enjoyed Halter's books so much that he tried to interest publishers in translated versions. Eventually Wildside Press agreed to publish Night of the Wolf (2006), a collection of Halter's short stories, translated into English by Pugmire and noted impossible crime expert Robert Adey.

In 2010, John founded Locked Room International, dedicated to publishing translations of mystery novels featuring impossibilities. At first LRI focused on French mysteries, especially those by Halter, and were all translated by John himself. Later, LRI expanded to publishing mysteries from other languages, including Japanese, Swedish, and Chinese. In addition, LRI published an omnibus edition of Derek Smith's English locked-room mysteries, an English language anthology of locked-room mysteries, The Realm of the Impossible, edited by Pugmire and myself, and a revised edition of Adey's seminal Locked Room Murders bibliography. John's online publication "A Locked Room Library" has been a valuable guide to new readers of impossible mystery fiction, and he was an early proponent of Shin Honkaku, a literary movement in Japan that focusing on the writing of new mystery novels in the classic or Golden Age style.

John was a generous soul, a fine drinking companion, and a good friend.

John Pugmire, Publisher, Translator
Brian Skupin
Friday, 08 March 2024

The New Couple in 5B
by Lisa Unger
Park Row, March 2024, $28.99

On the heels of her novella, Christmas Presents, Lisa Unger delivers another thriller to will keep you up past your bedtime with The New Couple in 5B—a novel that has earned the praise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself: Sarah Michelle Gellar!

The novel follows a struggling New York City couple Chad and Rosie Lowan, who inherit luxury apartment at the historic Windermere in Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood. As they get settled into their new digs, Chad and Rosie are welcomed with open arms by their neighbors. Yet they soon discover a dark underbelly to their new home—many brutal crimes have happened there, which piques crime writer Rosie’s curiosity. Then there’s the ghost of a boy Rosie encounters in the basement and a seemingly ubiquitous doorman who gives off a creepy vibe. Once fellow tenants end up dead, Rosie takes it upon herself to get to the truth.

Unger has a rich imagination and command of the written word; she is able to describe every minute detail in a scene, as well as what is going on inside a character’s head, yet still keep the story moving forward. She also knows how to inject just the right amount of angst into her novels—one of her trademarks. On top of that, she knows New York City quite well and it shows.

A heady cocktail of Rosemary’s Baby, 666 Park Avenue, Only Murders in the Building (sans the comedic aspects), and Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door, Unger demonstrates what a master of suspense she is by subverting many tropes and keeping readers guessing. The twist she pulls at the end is worthy of Hitchcock himself. And then she pulls another one while you’re still processing the first! She brings it all to a satisfying conclusion that remains long after you finish.

"The New Couple in 5B" by Lisa Unger
Kurt Anthony Krug
Friday, 01 March 2024

Three-Inch Teeth
by C.J. Box  
G.P. Putnam's Sons, February 2024, $30

Wyoming-based game warden Joe Pickett has his hands full in his 24th novel, Three-Inch Teeth. Not only does he have to deal with a grizzly bear on a deadly rampage, an old enemy named Dallas Cates is out of prison and out for revenge. Cates has a list of names of the six people who helped put him away tattooed to his hand—and Pickett and Nate Romanowski are two of them. If only one member of Pickett’s supporting cast dies, that’s getting off easy.

The description of the bear attacks—especially the one that opens the book—are pretty harrowing, filling the reader with a sense of dread. As Pickett tries to figure out what is motivating the bear attacks and deal with a group of animal rights activists called the Mama Bears, Cates is recruiting a team of hardened criminals to help him with his revenge scheme, including another old enemy of Pickett’s named Axel Soledad. Cates takes advantage of the chaos and panic in the wake of the grizzly’s rampage to exact revenge, leading to quite the showdown at the end.

There is also a subplot involving Pickett’s daughter Sheridan and an enigmatic, bitter old woman named Katy Cotton. This subplot is resolved abruptly (in fact, the ending feels a bit rushed). It would’ve served Box to devote more time to it in the next Pickett novel.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, that’s a small complaint to have. Box writes with an authentic sense of place, having grown up in Wyoming, where he hiked, fished, and hunted. The cliché of writing what you know applies here. He also knows how to ratchet up the tension, writing with a sense of urgency that burns through the pages rather quickly.


Review: "Three-Inch Teeth" by C.J. Box
Kurt Anthony Krug