The Hangman's Handyman Author:Hake Talbot "Inside a candle-lit room, the leaping flames of the great fireplace danced grotesquely on the walls. A man swaggered over to their warmth; he stood there and laughed. It was an ugly sound in the gracious room. — "You actually believe that fantastic story." he said. "You really believe you can kill me with a curse. Well, why don't you try? It's a... more » good night for ghosts and old wives' tales. Go on, I'll risk it."
His brother rose and joined him at the fire. He was pale with anger but he spoke quietly. "You're a fool," he said, "but you asked for it. very well." He paused briefly, then his voice echoed in the silent room. "Od rot you," he said. "Od rot you."
The swaggerer smiled; the grimace stayed fixed on his face. Then he fell heavily to the floor. When they picked him up, he was dead.
* * *
That was the incredible situation Rogan Kincaid found when he arrived at The Kraken. His host was dead, killed by a curse that was literally fulfilling its threat. Kincaid heard about a table set for thirteen, although only eight had arrived. He read the Tale of Od in the old manuscript burned in the fireplace. He listened to the oter guests as they fearfully tried to dismiss the evidence of their eyes; "Apoplexy," they said, and "heart failure," and "a mysterious poison."
But the incredible fact remained. A man had stood alone in the center of a room, with seven pairs of eyes fixed upon him, and he had been murdered by a curse.
"The Hangman's Handyman" offers the reader a truly impossible crime and a completely satisfactory and rational solution -- rare phenomena both. It is a murder story that challenges the most astute reader, and introduces a new writer who proves himself a master of illusion."« less
In this precurser to "Rim of the Pit," Talbot came up with a twist to the impossible murder scenario, and used a setting familiar in the genre: an isolated island. But when the police arrive the day after the murder, the victim's corpse is in an advanced state of decay -- after all the curse was "Od ROT you."
A great example of the Golden Age impossible murder genre. What a shame Talbot didn't keep writing Rogan Kincaid mysteries.