Solving Mysteries by Candlelight in the Library

Last night we were eagerly looking forward to viewing an episode of The Darling Buds of May which we had rented through Netflix.  This was a wonderful British television series (1991-1993) based on the novels of British writer H. E. Bates.  Set during the 1950’s in post-war England, it is the story of the Larkins, an eccentric family leading an idyllic life in the English countryside.  A very young Catherine Zeta-Jones stars in one of her very early roles as the beautiful daughter Mariette, and David Jason stars as Pop Larkin, the fun-loving, tax- dodging, life-affirming father of the clan.

Just as we were getting comfy on the couch, the electricity suddenly went out in our neck of the woods…and a call to the power company revealed that it was probably going to be several hours before the problem was repaired.  So we tossed another log on the fire, set a bunch of candles ablaze and moved on to “Plan B.”

I remembered that earlier this year we picked up a book published by Crime Club/Doubleday Doran in 1930 called The 3rd Baffle Book.  It is a book full of short mysteries illustrated with diagrams and sketches; you, the Reader, are given the task of interpreting the clues and solving the crimes.  Flip the book over, and the rear of the book contains the resolution of the crime for each story.

The 3rd Baffle Book

By candlelight and with the help of my small battery-powered book light, I read the first of these stories aloud as we sat by the fireside.  What fun!  Soon we were hooked.  We spent the rest of the evening as sleuths.  The mysteries are really quite good, and enough clues are given to make solving the crimes possible, yet they are challenging enough to keep it interesting.

A clue from "Mr. Brown's Perfect Crime"

Most of the cases are founded on actual occurrences which have baffled police throughout the world at different times and places.  (Instructions on “How to give a Baffle Party” are at the front of the book, in case you want to share the fun.)

A clue from the case of "The Stolen Endymion"

The first of these books, The Baffle Book of Crimes to Solve, was published in 1929 and was quickly followed by The Second Baffle Book (also published in 1929).  Our copy states in the introduction that the first two books went into many editions, and have been translated into German, Spanish, Hungarian, Swedish, and other foreign languages.  All of these books were authored by Lassiter Wren and Randle McKay.

Clue from "The Wilverton Murders"

Amusing reading to “tickle the little grey cells.”  When the power goes out – or not!


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