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Death from a Top Hat (The Great Merlini #1)

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  72 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
A clever magician tries to solve the case of a locked-room murder that only a talented escape artist could have committed.
 Freelance scribe Ross Harte is working on an essay about the sad state of the modern mystery novel when a scream comes from the hallway: “There is death in that room!” Harte finds a trio of conjurers trying to get into the apartment of his neighbor, t
ebook, 282 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Open Road Integrated Media (first published 1938)
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Lisa Kucharski
May 28, 2017 Lisa Kucharski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Consider this a lucky find in a used store. Also the fact that I found the first book in the series. The story is told through Harte, a reporter/journalist. He starts by writing an article bemoaning the mystery genre having gone through all its variations and stating so many of the great authors of the time. When he hears a commotion in the hallway - three people are trying to get in to see a man across the hall after they enter- the man is found dead in very peculiar circumstances.

The twist in
Pietro De Palma
May 15, 2013 Pietro De Palma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion the best Locked Room ever.
However, it is a mystery smashes brains, without the extraordinary atmosphere that could create Carr. So I think that at the end "The Hollow Man" by Carr and this novel could be considered at par.
The novel contains the second Locked Room Lecture (enunciated by the "Great Merlini") in the history of the genre, after the one in "The Hollow Man" by Carr, ruled instead by Dr. Fell
May 19, 2017 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caution: This book contains on average 2.3 clues per page. Maybe I exaggerate a little but not much. The plot was so intricate that I had to go back and reread parts of it several times. The interaction between the Inspector and the magicians became more and more humorous as the story developed and additional magician characters were introduced.

Trivia: This locked room mystery is the inspiration for the 1939 Robert Young movie Miracles For Sale. The book, as usual, is better than the movie.
Jun 17, 2017 Chant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another old favorite re-discovered!
Jaq Greenspon
As someone involved in both the world of magic and the world of literature, I’m surprised it took me this long to come around to Clayton Rawson’s “Merlini” books. These are widely considered classics of the “locked room” mystery genre and it’s with very good cause.

The book follows Ross Harte, a reporter and sometimes mystery writer who gets dragged into a locked room case happening in his apartment building. Harte is known to Police Inspector Gavigan and when things look a bit confusing fairly
Irfan Nurhadi
The story (and narrative) focus on Harte's observation of the events. It makes the story somewhat linear. I very much prefer the third person POV, or maybe a POV that was not always include a police detective in it. What i mean is, the narrative style used in this book was focused on the investigation and not on the suspects' or rather the victim's life. Rather than build the story from the victim's perspective (and the suspects') that leads to murder of the victim, murder was introduced very ea ...more
Otto Penzler
May 16, 2012 Otto Penzler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rawson's first book in one of the great “Golden Age” mystery series is mystifying and intriguing , introducing the Great Merlini, a detective and magician protagonist. Death from a Top Hat is the story of a murdered magician -- a case that can only be solved by a fellow magician.
Clayton Rawson’s work is truly original. A magician himself, Rawson’s work is colored with illusory detail that draws attention to very dark corners of the imagination. One of the four founding members of the Mystery Wr
Feb 15, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a body is found in a locked room, Inspector Gavigan is puzzled. But when he realizes that all the suspects are magicians, he consults with the Great Merlini, a magician and owner of a magic shop, who knows how trickery really works. Then a second body is found, this one in an even more impossible situation. Merlini is fairly sure who the murderer is, but there's no evidence--until someone tries to catch a bullet in his teeth. This is a wonderful introduction to the books about Merlini (unfo ...more
Magicians, ingeniously locked room puzzles to solve... I love these Golden Age locked room mysteries. This is my first Clayton Rawson, that I picked up because I read that if I loved John Dickson Carr that I'd love this book, and I did. It's hard to find Rawson's books, as they're out of print, but happily I just found a set on eBay :)
Mar 22, 2015 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Golden age locked room mystery by an author you might have missed. He only wrote four novels featuring amateur sleuth and professional magician the Great Merlini, set in the same New York that houses Philo Vance and Nero Wolfe. I always appreciate it when characters don't exist in a vacuum, when they're aware of the same cultural references as the reader.
Feb 07, 2013 Littlelixie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So complicated. Never trusting anyone again.
Harlan R Glover
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Aka Stuart Towne.

Clayton Rawson (1906 - 1971) was an American mystery writer, editor, and amateur magician. His four novels frequently invoke his great knowledge of stage magic and feature as their fictional detective The Great Merlini, a professional magician who runs a shop selling magic supplies. He also wrote four short stories in 1940 about a stage magician named Don Diavolo, who appears as a
More about Clayton Rawson...

Other Books in the Series

The Great Merlini (5 books)
  • The Footprints on the Ceiling (The Great Merlini #2)
  • The Headless Lady (The Great Merlini #3)
  • No Coffin for the Corpse (The Great Merlini #4)
  • The Great Merlini: The Complete Stories of the Magician Detective

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