Monday, 12 June 2023

Murdle Volume 1 by G.T. Karber

Murdle: Volume 1: 100 Elementary to Impossible Mysteries to Solve Using Logic, Skill, and the Power of Deduction
by G.T. Karber
St. Martin's Griffin, June 2023, $16 paperback

Murdle is the online daily mystery game site of G.T. Karber, who invites online players to use a grid-based worksheet and deductive reasoning to figure out the identity of a murderer, what weapon was used, and where the dire event happened.

I've tried playing Murdle online, but I much prefer working out the puzzles with paper and pencil. For one thing, background details aren't hidden in windows or menus that need to be opened. They're right there for easy reference. So I'm happy to see that St. Martin's is issuing Murdle: Volume 1, the first of three planned Murdle puzzle collections. Volume 2 is due out in September 2023, Volume 3 in March 2024.

Murdle directionsPuzzles get harder as they go along. In the easy section, each Murdle has three suspects, three weapons, and three possible crime scenes. The rules say that a suspect can have only one weapon and can be in only place. Ergo, once you've deduced which weapon a suspect has and where they have been, no other suspect can claim that weapon or be in that place. The identity of the murderer (hopefully) becomes clear. As the puzzles get harder, the number of each variable is increased to four, and you are also asked to guess the motive for the murder.

Clues are included with each puzzle, and further hints are in an appendix towards the back of the book. Players ignore these hints at their peril! There are also occasional snags, like statements that the killer is lying, and secret messages written in code.

G.T. Karber states that he made a few other online games before finding his "one true calling." He has clearly found that with Murdle. I look forward to having his puzzle book on hand for when I am in the mood for a killer puzzle.

Verna Suit is a longtime contributor to Mystery Scene and our resident puzzle master. You can find many of her Mystery Scene crosswords in our print back issues.

Review: "Murdle: Volume 1: 100 Elementary to Impossible Mysteries to Solve Using Logic, Skill, and the Power of Deduction" by G.T. Karber
Verna Suit
Friday, 09 June 2023

Corman-Poe by Chris Alexander

Corman/Poe: Interviews and Essays Exploring the Making of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Films, 1960–1964
by Chris Alexander
Headpress, June 2023, $27.95

To fans of classic indie films, Roger Corman is a legend—his prodigious output enlivening movie-going for generations. Known for drive-in fare, and working with barely-there budgets, the pioneering producer-director helped launch the careers of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and Ron Howard, as well as Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Fonda.

Teenagers, especially, flocked to his biker flicks (i.e. The Wild Angels, 1966), acid-drenched groove-fests (The Trip, 1967), sci-fi mind-bogglers (The Last Woman on Earth, 1960—with the tagline “They fought for the Ultimate Prize!”), bad girl doozies (in 1960’s Sorority Girl the improbably named Sabra is “smart, pretty and all bad!”), rock ‘n’ roll bashes (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, 1979, starring the Ramones). All this and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).

Corman/Poe: Interviews and Essays Exploring the Making of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Films, 1960–1964 celebrates Corman’s popular cycle of eight films based on the darkly imaginative writer’s most famous works, with astute analysis by author Chris Alexander.

Corman’s ties to Poe began with a school assignment to read "The Fall of the House of Usher." Years later, after making contemporary horror films, he decided to try classic material. That leap began with House of Usher. Drawn to “the mystique of the story,” Corman was also enticed by economics; Poe’s works were in the public domain. Shot over 15 days for about $300,000, with a tour de force performance by Vincent Price, the film proved a commercial success. The macabre die was cast.

In chapters devoted to each of the Corman-Poe films, Alexander, a filmmaker and former editor in chief of Fangoria magazine, sets up the storyline, then enlists Corman himself in a Q&A. Their exchanges provide subtext, and more, to what’s on the screen. Lushly illustrated with photos, posters, memos and the like, the chapters end with the author’s observations. (He calls Usher “a bubbly cauldron of repression, psychological and sexual abuse, mental illness, death, and the crude banalities of human evil.”) There are also lots of lively anecdotes, including:

  • When Corman lunched with actress Jane Asher, during the making of The Masque of the Red Death (1964), she introduced him to her boyfriend, Paul. When asked by Corman what he did, Paul replied that he was in a band. Corman didn’t press further, or he’d have learned that Paul was in a band with three other lads—his last name being McCartney.
  • Filming of "The Black Cat"—one-third of the anthology, Tales of Terror (1962)—led to an audition call for felines. The chosen cat belonged to a trainer, but as it sometimes declined to follow direction there were also “backup” kitties.
  • The feathered star of The Raven (1963) proved problematic. As Corman puts it, “that damned bird caused me no end of trouble.”

Want to know more? There are particulars about how Corman amassed his savvy crew of regulars (including High Noon cameraman Floyd Crosby), location details (that’s the Palos Verdes coastline in House of Usher), musings about the casts, scrutiny of the screen liberties taken with Poe’s writings, and more.

There have been several previous works about Corman, the Poe films, and their legendary players. This entry should nonetheless please both ardent fans as well as genre newbies, with its compilation of production facts, perceptive scrutiny and gorgeous production design.

Southern California native Pat H. Broeske is a longtime reviewer for Mystery Scene. As a mystery devotee, and a former film industry journalist, she often writes about the intersection of Hollywood & crime, including film noir.   

Review: "Corman/Poe" by Chris Alexander
Pat H. Broeske
Thursday, 08 June 2023

2023 Thriller Awards

The International Thriller Writers (ITW) announced the winners for the 2023 Thriller Awards at ThrillerFest XVIII on Saturday, June 3, 2023 at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City. Mystery Scene extends congratulations to all the award winners and their fellow nominees.

A full list of all 2023 nominees can be found here.

Best Hardcover Novel

Sundial, by Catriona Ward (Macmillan)

Best Audiobook

Things We Do in the Dark, by Jennifer Hillier, narrated by Carla Vega (Macmillan Audio)

Best First Novel

The Resemblance, by Lauren Nossett (Flatiron Books)

Best Paperback Original Novel

The Housemaid, by Freida McFadden (Grand Central)

Best Short Story

"Stockholm," by Catherine Steadman (Amazon Original Stories)

Best Young Adult Novel

Daughter, by Kate McLaughlin (Wednesday Books)

Best Ebook Original Novel

The Couple at Causeway Cottage, by Diane Jeffrey (HarperCollins)

ThrillerMaster Lifetime Achievement Award 

Charlaine Harris and Walter Mosley

Silver Bullet Award

Michael Connelly

Thriller Legend Award

Minotaur Books

2023 ITW Thriller Award Winners Announced
Mystery Scene