Friday, May 26, 2017

Is 2 Minutes enough to Solve a Crime?

     Donald J. Sobol. Two-Minute Mysteries (1967) Scholastic books for many years offrered books to schoolchidren, with a cut of sales going to the school's extra-curricular programs. One the most popular categories among middle school students was puzzle books. This is an example; there were many versions on it, including 5-Minute Mysteries.
     This one pffers 79 puzzles, all fairly placing the clues, but too many relying on non-general knowledge, with at least one error: the author claims that a right-handed man “invariably” puts his trousers on left leg first. Well, I don’t. Some illustrate how culture and general knowledge change over time: a puzzle asserting that a Professor of English wouldn’t make certain errors no longer flies. Besides, is mistakes usage for grammar.
     A few puzzles are ambiguous, with an alternative solution possible. However, the vast majority demonstrate that a small mistake is enough to convict a crook.
     There are of course recurring characters, the hero is Dr Hanedjian, his friend Inspector Winters, Nick the nose whose attempts at earning a few extra dollars by supplying information to the police always fail, and so on. I read the book in two sittings, having been interrupted after reading the first dozen or so. **½

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