Many people think that locked room mysteries only happen in fiction. Whether inspired by books, or their warped imaginations, there have been real killers that bring these stories to life.
- The Laundry Killer
On March 9, 1929, Isidore Fink was locked in his laundry on 5th Avenue, New York. A neighbor heard screams and the sound of blows coming from the shop, and called the police. When the authorities arrived, they were unable to enter the building and lifted a young boy through the transom. The child could not unlock the door, but observed the owner lying on the floor dead. Mr. Fink had received three shots: two to the chest, and one to the wrist. There was no weapon left at the scene, and the money in the cash register had not been touched.
Detectives speculated about the possible method the killer used to enter and leave the scene, including the fact that they might have also used the transom. This meant they would have had to be the same size as a young child. After two years, the case remained opened and was referred as an ‘insolvable mystery’ by the Commissioner of Police.
- Paris Metro First Class Murderer
On May 16, 1937, a passenger was found stabbed in an otherwise empty first class compartment, on the Paris Metro. During the 1 minute and 20 seconds it had taken the train to travel from one station to the next, Laetitia Toureaux had been killed, and the murderer had vanished. Authorities have never been able to determine who the killer was, or how they had escaped.
Solving a Locked Room Mystery
One of the most satisfying things for a reader is to solve the mystery correctly, before the author reveals the twist at the end. Writers follow certain guidelines when developing their story, which can provide clues to the killer’s identity. These include:
Working your way from the end to the beginning – Locked room mystery authors often write from ‘back to the front’ meaning that some of the most essential clues are provided at the end of the novel. If readers follow this sequence, they may be able to pick up on carefully disguised components needed to determine the who, how and why of the plot. This method can be compared to working a jigsaw puzzle out by doing the edges first, and then filling in the pieces on the inside.
Pay close attention to deception – In a locked room mystery, everybody becomes a suspect. Never forget that! Often the person who seems to be the least likely to have committed the murder, is the one who has done it.
The author provides everything that is needed to be able to solve the mystery – A good writer will never short change their reader, but will try to disguise the clues along the way. This means that the audience will always be provided with everything that is needed to get to the bottom of the mystery.