A Golden Age mystery set in the Golden Age of science fiction
Legendary science fiction author Fowler Faulkes may be dead, but his creation, the iconic Dr. Derringer, lives on in popular culture. Or, at least, the character would live on if not for Faulkes’s predatory and greedy heir Hilary, who, during his time as the inflexible guardian of the estate, has created countless enemies in the relatively small community of writers of the genre. So when he is stabbed nearly to death in a room with only one door, which nobody was seen entering or exiting, Foulkes suspects a writer. Fearing that the assailant will return, he asks for police protection, and when more potentially-fatal encounters follow, it becomes clear to Detective Terry Marshall and his assistant, the inquisitive nun, Sister Ursula, that death awaits Mr. Foulkes around every corner. Now, they’ll have to work overtime to thwart the would-be murderer—a task that requires a deep dive into the strange, idiosyncratic world of science fiction in its early days.
With characters based heavily on Anthony Boucher’s friends at the Manana Literary Society, including Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Jack Parsons, Rocket to the Morgue is both a classic locked room mystery and an enduring portrait of a real-life writing community. Reprinted for the first time in over thirty years, the book is a must-read for fans of mysteries and science fiction alike.
A locked-room mystery preoccupies Boucher's brilliant clerical sleuth, Sister Ursula, in this stellar entry, first published in 1942, in the American Mystery Classics series. Lt. Terence Marshall of the LAPD asks for Ursula's advice when an unusual rosary, with seven sets of beads, is found in the pants pocket of a homeless man who was shot through the heart in a rooming house, though the killer didn't make off with the dead man's cash. The rosary and a slip of paper with the phone number to a fancy apartment hotel hidden amid the money are the only clues. When Marshall visits the building, he meets Hilary Foulkes, who insists that someone has tried to kill him several times, most recently by sending a package of poisoned chocolates. Marshall learns from a woman employed by the delivery service that accepted the package that the sender was disguised as Dr. Derringer, the Professor Challenger like hero created by Foulkes's renowned sci-fi author father. Foulkes's fears are realized when he's fatally stabbed in a locked room. Along with his usual cleverness in playing fair, Boucher offers a witty satire of SF and fantasy authors of the era.