There are lots of mysteries that revolve around tracking down serial killers, although such people are thankfully rare in real life. There is also a sub genre of mysteries devoted to “impossible crimes”, such as a killing in a locked room, something else that is uncommon. Probably the best known serial killer story is The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, while The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr is probably the best known locked room mystery. The only instance I know where the two genres have been combined is a movie, Law Abiding Citizen. Although gripping and clever, I thought the crimes and the methods they were carried out were extremely far-fetched in LAC.
With my newest Max Hurlock mystery, I wanted to do a story based on the mysterious death of Florida real estate developer D.P. Davis in 1926 during the great Florida real estate boom. Since he went overboard from an ocean liner at a time when many buyers of Florida land were unhappy about losing money, I entertained the possibility that he was murdered by a disgruntled property buyer. From there it was a short jump to a serial killer who was taking revenge on all Florida real estate developers one by one, and was doing it in a series of sensational “impossible” crimes for maximum publicity. Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, the father of Naval aviation, was living in Miami Springs at the time and developing property himself, so he contacts Max Hurlock to investigate, and off we go.
One of the murders takes place in a small locked office with the victim armed and shooting at the killer, another victim dies alone in a boat on a lake, another is shot in an elevator between floors, another is discovered up in a tree, and another is shot in a private art gallery whose only door is locked and under constant observation by dozens of people. The crimes, while impossible at first glance, all have plausible explanations. I’m sure there are other mysteries featuring serial killers committing impossible crimes, but Death in Unlikely Places was a challenge and was a lot of fun to write. The book should be available on Amazon in a few days, but meanwhile, here is a video trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg_AopiWuVw
I am grateful to the folks at the St Augustine Historical Society, who first told me about the mysterious death of D.P. Davis.