Short Stories 366:248 — “And Then There Were Paradoxes,” by Cathy Wiley

coverCrime Travel, an anthology of short crime fiction with the admixture of time travel, really delivers in this, the penultimate story of the book. Here we meet Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Ashcroft and his partner as they walk into what might be the detective’s last crime before he retires. He hopes it’s an easy one, and says so aloud, which of course activates that curse in all detective fiction where it’s totally not. Faced with a literal locked-door mystery, the two detectives find a man who was sealed in a room, has been shot, doesn’t appear to have done so via suicide, and apparently believed he could invent time travel. There’s even a prototype on the floor.

When the partner jokes it’d be handy if the device was voice-activated, because they could time-travel back to ask Agatha Christie herself how this happened (they’re close by to where she lived) and then states the time and date he imagines would be best—they learn the hard way that, yes, the scientist did indeed create the device to be voice activated, and they’re now in the past. Faced with the reality of where and when they are, the two can’t help themselves. They go find Agatha Christie, and ask for help.

The advice Christie offers, and the path the officers take to get there, is a clever play on the locked room set-up, and more, I have to applaud Wiley for both Ashcroft and Christie, both of whom play off each other in a fashion that felt so smooth and real. I had more than one chuckle reading this, especially when the detectives slip up and call her “Dame” Christie long before she actually earns the title, and her reaction to the foreknowledge. All in all, this story was borderline cute, despite the murder mystery, and I really enjoyed it.

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