By J. Morris
Review of The Lord of Misrule, by Paul Halter
A man found murdered in a sealed room . . . another stabbed to death, surrounded by yards of unmarked snow . . . a macabre masked killer who appears out of the ether every Christmas to strike again . . . floor plans, diagrams, timetables . . . a brilliant amateur detective and his less-than-brilliant companion/narrator. . . . Welcome to the Golden Age of mystery fiction, and welcome to the first novel available in English by perhaps the last of its practitioners, Paul Halter.
The Lord of Misrule (Le roi du désordre, translated from the French by John Pugmire) is one of more than thirty books Halter has written since 1986. A popular and prize-winning author in his native France, Halter has been unable to find commercial publishers for his work in English. Now this 1994 novel is available to Anglophones through Pugmire’s tenacious personal efforts.
The story opens in late Victorian London, where we meet dilettante and detective Owen Burns, whose play, The Importance of Being Archie Bow, “made all London cry—with laughter or anger?”—several years earlier. Burns speaks in Oscar Wilde-like epigrams, and he investigates seemingly impossible crimes because they match his own aesthetic tastes for the complex and puzzling.
Burns persuades his friend and our narrator, Achilles Stock, to help him unravel an extraordinary series of crimes, apparently perpetrated by the sinister “Lord of Misrule.” This cloak