Basil Davenport’s Invisible Men (Part Three)
Slesar and LeBlanc
By Jeff Baker
Continuing my review of the stories in the 1960 anthology “Invisible Men,” edited by Basil Davenport. As promised last time; two tales of mystery.
“The Invisible Prisoner” by Maurice LeBlanc. This review is going to skirt very close to spoilers. A mysterious burglar breaks into a house and steals money. The burglar ducks out of the house into a walled area of the city pursued by the owners of the money and several locals. There is no way for the man to escape “Unless old Nick carries him over the walls.” A mysterious stranger arrives in town and is able to deduce where the burglar has hidden himself. Fans of Maurice LeBlanc will have no trouble identifying the stranger before the reveal at the end of the story. The story, of course, is a mystery with invisibility used as a metaphor, as it involves a clever “impossible crime,” in this case the disappearance of the burglar. In the book’s introduction the story is described as involving “extremely clever robbers and cleverer detectives.” But that’s not even the whole story!
I confess I had never read one of LeBlanc’s stories before, and found this one highly enjoyable. It is also the only story in the book I had not read back in the 1970s and holds up well for a mystery originally published around the turn of the last century.
Like LeBlanc, Henry Slesar has rock-solid credentials as a mystery writer, and his “The Invisible Man Murder Case” does not disappoint. In it, a formula for invisibility is used by a clever killer. Not quite a “fair play” detective story, but almost. Likewise a lot of fun. Slesar’s television credits include Alfred Hitchcock Presents and hundreds of soap opera scripts.
Next time, we close out this review as two masters of horror pull back the curtain onto invisible worlds.