Algy Lawrence

Created by Derek Howe Smith


I think it’s safe to say that with a monicker like “Algy,” there’s a pretty good chance ALGY LAWRENCE is British.

And sure enough he is. He’s a young, dashing former Intelligence officer, who now consults for Scotland Yard, and bills himself as an “unofficial detective.”

What I’m not sure about is how much of a private eye he actually is. Does he actually bill them for his services? After all, he’s independently wealthy and doesn’t really need the dough. As Brian Skupin of Mystery Scene points out, Algy’s about as much of a private eye as is John Sladek’s Thackery Phin, and the tone of the two series are similar, with Algy actually far more of a consulting detective and not what is generally considered P.I. material.

“More Philip MacDonald than Ross Macdonald,” Skupid adds.

Still, whether he belongs on this site or not, let’s give the author his due. Algy’s first novel, the highly acclaimed Whistle Up the Devil, is “one of the most intelligent and crafty impossible murder novels of all time,” according to Publishers’ Weekly. It’s even been nominated to the Masterpiece category in Roland Lacourbe et al’s 1001 Chambres Closes (aka “1001 Locked Rooms” [2013]).

In it, Algy is called in to investigate the strange death of Roger, a rather wealthy but eccentric business man who had sealed himself in an allegedly haunted room as part of a ritual, one month before his marriage. The door and windows are locked from inside and the room is guarded on the outside. But at midnight, a scream is heard and when the locked door is forced open, Roger is found murdered. And then, while you’re still trying to puzzle that one out, another man is found strangled to death inside his locked jail cell.

The sequel, Come to Paddington Fair (1997), was a long time a-coming. Another impossible crime caper, with Algy trying to solve a very clever murder-in-plain-sight, a shooting during live theatrical performance on a London stage, which of course no one could have committed.

The two novels were subsequently included in The Derek Smith Omnibus, along with a third locked room novel, Model for Murder, which was originally written as an addition to the Sexton Blake canon, but was generally considered “too cerebral for the audience,” and had never been previously published.

As well as the three novels, the omnibus included an introduction by noted locked room expert Bob Adey, and a previously unpublished short story.


Derek Smith did not enjoy good health (or good luck). He led a secluded life, never marrying. He saw active duty after World War II as a radio operator in Italy and Bulgaria. After being invalided out of service, he turned to writing mysteries, but didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Yes, Whistle Up the Devil is considered a stone cold classic, a shining example of the very best from the Golden Age of mystery writing, but it was the only book of Smith’s ever published in English in his lifetime. The sequel, Come to Paddington Fair, was only published in 1997–in Japanese, its private publication funded by two Japanese superfans. In his will, Smith left the publishing rights to all his works to Doug Greene.




Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, within an assist by Brian Skupin.

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