The House that Kills was the first detective novel published by Noel Vindry, a major French writer of the Golden Age who was unknown to almost all English-speaking fans until recently, simply because nobody translated his work. Now, John Pugmire of Locked Room International, has repaired the omission,and published a nice paperback edition with an intro and appendices.
As John says in the intro, at one time Vindry (1896-1954) had a reputation to match those of two Belgians, Georges Simenon, and Stanislas-Andre Steeman (whom I've discussed previously on this blog). I was fascinated to learn that Boileau-Narcejac were huge fans of Vndry, speaking of his "unequalled virtuosity". Narcejac even went so far as to suggest that Vindry surpassed Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr. I have to say that - on the evidence of Vindry's debut - this seems over the top, but Narcejac studied the genre in depth, and his opinions on it certainly command respect. So I look forward to reading Vindry's later work.
Vindry trained as an examining magistrate,and put his professional know-how to work by giving the same occupation to his Great Detective, Monsieur Allou. Vindry's focus was on puzzle rather than character,and Allou is not drawn in great depth (but then, you might say the same of Hercule Poirot). His speciality is solving impossible crimes, and here he is confronted by a bunch of them.
This is a clever book, if dry in style when compared to John Dickson Carr's atmospheric writing. Vindry was certainly ingenious, and Locked Room International have done a great job in making his debut available at long last. They also publish Paul Halter, a present day exponent of the impossible crime story who has attracted many admirers. Halter's work is also worth seeking out, and if you liked miraculous murders, I think you'll enjoy The House that Kills. Will you be able to solve the various puzzles before Allou? They aren't easy to crack believe me.. .