So…in between plumbing disasters, nonstop visitors, and occasional beach interludes, Barb has been doing a lot of reading lately. Consequently, Barb’s been doing very little reviewing lately. So she has a pile of great books in the thriller/mystery genres, a guilty hangdog look (if you’ll pardon the expression) because she’s so far behind on reviews, and a tendency to hide out on the porch with visitors instead of doing her real jobs—taking me to the beach and writing book reviews. Rather than ask their authors to wait any longer (or delay any further beach time), I’ve decided she needs to do short batch reviews of several books at once.
Please see her next blog post for details. Meanwhile, here’s a quick intro to the way she approaches detectives, mysteries, and thrillers. Warning: it’s not pretty.
–Barb’s Dog Peri
Barb says murder imitates art:
She keeps blathering on about the ten rules of detective fiction.
Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God? —Oath of the British Detection Club, 1930
Seriously? Jiggery-pokery? Is that even a thing?
Apparently, in 1930, a group of British mystery writers formed a club and elected G.K. Chesterton as their first president. Members—who included Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts, Arthur Morrison, John Rhode, Jessie Rickard, Baroness Emma Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, G. D. H. Cole, Margaret Cole, E. C. Bentley, Henry Wade, and H. C. Bailey—took the above oath, which most (if not all) of them proceeded to violate with some regularity.
The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction
Their aims were further codified by Ronald Knox, a clergyman who produced ‘Father Knox’s Decalogue: The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction’ (Preface, Best Detective Stories of 1928-29, edited by Knox)
- The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
- All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
- Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
- No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
- No Chinaman must figure in the story.
- No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
- The detective must not himself commit the crime.
- The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
- The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
- Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Why Barb hates reviewing murder mysteries…
And that brings me to why Barb says reviewing mystery stories
is a challenge. is a problem. sucks. Spoilers.
So here’s the plan. I’ll do my best to get Barb to review several books and not end up in the special level of hell. You’ll do your best to ignore the bits we can’t say, won’t say, or accidentally say. Deal? See you tomorrow!