RICK DUNLOP CASES, the Maclay Murder and Other Mysteries is a collection of 5 short stories, the majority of which are variations on the "locked room mystery" scenario. This is the first publication from new Australian author R.M. Davey.
The Locked Room scenario's nothing new in fiction (let alone crime fiction) going back to Alexandre Dumas and Edgar Allan Poe. In what's commonly referred to as the "Golden Age of Detective Fiction", locked room mysteries by authors such as Chesterton, Wells, Dickson Carr, Christie, Ellery Queen, Boileau, Gaston Boca and Steeman abounded. In more recent times Bill Pronzini, Edward D Hoch, Soji Shimada, Isaac Asimov, Paul Halter and many many more highly talented authors have continued to confound the reader with a variety of twists and turns on the concept of the locked room. The basic premise of the locked room is that a murder has occurred in a location that cannot be easily accessed - a body within a room which has been locked from the inside - a location where there is no sign of how the murderer arrived and left the scene. One of absolute fundamental aspects of the locked room, however, is that there is a logical (and deducible) explanation. The author has to play fair with their reader.
The twist in RICK DUNLOP CASES is that a few of the stories rely on a solution which isn't easily deduced. Some of the stories use solutions that, whilst some aspects are very easily picked, there are some aspects which are - to be frank - totally made up (unknown gadgetry for example). Some readers will undoubtedly find this is not the author playing fair (as was my own personal reaction) - other readers may enjoy these twists and turns. The other gotcha is that the references to memoirs and guidance counsellors in the blurb aren't expanded on in the book itself, which seemed a great pity - maybe it's hinting at a fuller story of Rick Dunlop in the future?
Dedicated readers of more than just a few "brand name authors" in crime fiction know there is a lot of excellent, unusual and ground-breaking crime fiction being written in Australia, and overseas, and the publicity that comes with this book probably isn't doing it any favours in terms of setting expectations. RICK DUNLOP CASES is light-hearted and quick reading, and does show some promise so perhaps this book might appeal to readers who are looking for something entertaining, but not necessarily overly complex or taxing.