The ‘impossible crime’ story is capable of infinite variations, and although some people think it’s a played-out sub-genre, confined to traditional Golden Age mysteries by the likes of John Dickson Carr, I disagree. The continuing popularity of ‘Jonathan Creek’ shows the potential for intelligently written impossible crime stories on television, while successful novelists as diverse as Stieg Larsson, Christopher Fowler and Jim Kelly have nodded in the direction of the impossible crime in recent times.
In the 90s, I watched quite a few episodes of ‘The X Files’, and I’ve just seen, for the first time, the third episode in series one, which is a very effective version of the impossible crime story. ‘Squeeze’ concerns a number of murders in Baltimore, where the victims were savagely murdered in rooms without an apparently viable means of entry – and their livers were ripped out. When Fox Mulder and Dana Scully come on to the scene, it emerges that the murders have eerie parallels with similar crimes that have occurred at 30-year intervals. But surely the invisible culprit cannot be over one hundred years old?
The solution to the mystery involves paranormal devices that would not be acceptable in a conventional Golden Age whodunit. But in the context of a sci-fi series, the plot is perfectly acceptable, and I enjoyed ‘Squeeze’. It was evidently a great success when first screened, as the initial ‘Monster of the Week’ episode in the long-running series.
‘Squeeze’ features a memorable character called Eugene Victor Tooms (needless to say, with a monicker like that, he is unlikely to be one of the good guys.) – so memorable that he returned for a future episode in the series. ‘Squeeze’ was entertaining enough to remind me why ‘The X Files’ enjoyed such excellent ratings, especially for the early series. I haven’t seen the film based on the series, and believe it met with a mixed reaction, but I’m tempted to give it a try.