“The Missing Necklace” by Jacques Futrelle (pp. 15-31) introduces his hero, one Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S., M.D., M.D.S., a college professor residing in Boston, Massachusetts, at the turn of the century. Having fine-tuned the art of detection to a near mathematical science, Van Dusen had been nicknamed “The Thinking Machine” by his buddy, the champion chess player, Tschaikowsky. Not so ironically, since Futrelle had been a writer for the Boston American, Van Dusen’s confidant and sidekick, Hutchinson Hatch, is also a reporter for the same paper. But the irony intensifies in the real life peripeteia of Futrelle’s life. In the story of “The Missing Necklace,” Scotland Yard and an oceanliner named the Romanic are featured. Four years after this story was written, Futrelle met personal disaster after his visit to Scotland Yard when he headed for home on board the Titanic.
“The Greek” by W. Somerset Maugham (pp. 67-100), features Ashenden, a World War I agent for British Intelligence, perhaps an imitation of Maugham, himself, as he served in the Intelligence Service for Great Britain (undercover “posing” as writer no less) at the outbreak of the the war. Conversely, life imitated art when Ashendan’s adventures (fictitious, even if based on Maugham’s actual experiences) became required reading for British Intelligence recruits for many years.
“At the Stroke of Twelve”* by Agatha Christie—the author who changed the face of the whodunit in 1926 with “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”—(pp. 103-117), once again features Hercule Poirot diligently dedicating gray matter to grim malefactors. Threats abound to kidnap Little Johnny Waverley, heir apparent to the Waverly fortune, until the dastardly deed is done—and in a sealed room!
“The Footprint in the Sky” by Carter Dixon—or John Dickson Carr, his real name, under which he writes as well (pp. 331-348)—expands upon the sealed-room device in putting forth a murder mystery. Highly improbable circumstances, nonetheless leading to crime, replace the sealed room and impossible cases are cracked through analysis and deduction.