Book Review: A Firehose of Falsehood
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Book Review: Rim of the Pit

I don’t read many novels, but when I do it’s most often a noir-ish mystery story. I was attracted to this book in particular because its author is a conjuror who has written a classic textbook that I really admire.

gordon meyer holding book cover

The story is a bonafide classic “locked room” mystery, which adds an extra element of intrigue, and as it says in the book’s introduction, makes the story more of a “howdunit” instead of a “whodunit.”

The story, having been published in 1944, definitely has some dated references, such as a describing someone as resembling “an island of William Bendix entirely surrounded by Robert Taylor.” I’ll refrain from quoting the references which are decidedly not politically correct in today’s world. But in my opinion, these cultural artifacts don’t distract from the story, but instead cement it into a specific historical and cultural period. This is important, as the story takes place in real-time and modern readers must remember that certain technologies and practices are simply not available to the characters.

The book’s prose is wonderful and, if you’re so inclined, offers many rabbit holes to explore. Here are just a few of the new words, or delightful turns of phrase, that I enjoyed:

  • According to the O.E.D.,gibber, as a noun, does not predate (1604) gibberish, the adjective. (1557). Surprising!
  • “Her face still showed traces of a beauty which must have been flamboyant in her youth, but she had fought age with the wrong weapons.”
  • An impassioned speech aimed at skeptics — “Some men steal. Doesn't show everybody's a thief. Doesn't even show the thieves dishonesty all the time. Come right down to it, the fact that some mediums cheat is positive proof of another world. Before a medium can fake a phenomenon, that phenomenon must have happened. Can't imitate anything that doesn't exist.”
  • “Snatching at a straw and swallowing a camel.”
  • Dottle is the remaining plug of unburnt tobacco and ashes left in the bottom of a tobacco pipe when it has been smoked.
  • “Every trade marks a man. Mine is science. If that means anything at all it means becoming the slave of logic. An honest scientist spends his days fighting the will to believe, until at last he ceases to have any control over his own opinions. He follows logic as inevitably and as helplessly as water runs downhill. He can no longer believe anything because it is pleasant, or because everyone else does. Neither can he refuse to believe anything because it contravenes the theories on which he has based his entire life.”

Did I solve the mystery before the book revealed its secrets? I did not. But honestly, I didn’t even try. I never do. (I love the feeling of not knowing.) But if you’re the type that wants to outsmart the author, I assure you it’s possible with a careful reading and clever thinking.

Rim of the Pit is part of the American Mystery Classics collection, and I bought my copy at Mysterious Bookshop in NYC. However, you can obtain it from the Amazon or wherever fine books are sold. I predict that you’ll enjoy it.


Craig Conley

Great review -- thanks for the tip! Locked-room mysteries are such a fun genre!

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