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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?

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) proceeded to violate with some regularity.

'Father Knox's Decalogue: The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction'

The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction

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)

  1. 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.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
  8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
  9. 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.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

I bring this up for two reasons. First is that I just saw Glass Onion, a murder mystery starring Daniel Craig and everyone in Hollywood who wasn’t in a coma or in jail. Before I watched, I looked at reviews. Every reviewer seemed to think this movie was better than sex and/or ice cream, and (possibly) better than chocolate. I couldn’t wait.

And okay, let’s be honest. I would pay to see Daniel Craig brush his teeth. So I was always going to watch this movie. I just didn’t expect that I wouldn’t like it. And I especially didn’t expect that it would break so many of the rules of detective fiction. (6, 8, 9, 10, and possibly 3. Although not 5, I will grant.) And it did it by breaking the biggest rule of all: play fair with your audience.

The audience might not be as smart as the detective who can observe clues and put them together instantly, ruining the movie for the rest of the audience as Miss Marple did here in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d. Or as (hilariously) Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc does when he solves the murder mystery in thirty seconds that his tech billionaire host expected to take an entire weekend. (Funniest line in the film has that billionaire moaning that he paid Gillian Flynn to write the murder party scenario.)

BUT Glass Onion went fatally wrong for me when I realized that the detective isn’t just searching for clues which the audience can only hope to pick up at the same time. Nope, in this case the detective has an entire backstory where all the clues and blanks were already filled in. He just has to show up, moan about how stupid his host and fellow guests are, and then sit out on the deck with the random character who shows up regularly but has absolutely nothing to do with the movie in any way.

So, to sum up. Glass Onion is a movie about a tech billionaire who is terminally stupid (because everyone knows that’s how you get insanely rich), surrounded by mean people and the Mona Lisa. (Which apparently France was willing to lend the tech billionaire because they weren’t using it during the pandemic. And we can all see that ending well.)

And… did I mention this? The detective, the identical twin, and IDK possibly the Mona Lisa, ALREADY know most of the clues but we don’t get to find that out until mostly through the movie because (presumably) that would have meant a MUCH shorter movie without nearly as many cameos or snide comparisons to people who buy Twitter.

It’s true that most of the members of the Detection Club broke their own rules occasionally. Agatha Christie broke almost all of them on a regular basis. AND they didn’t have Daniel Craig. But my point is before you break rules, you have to know what they are. Glass Onion clearly doesn’t have a clue. So if you want to see a movie full of excellent actors delivering cutsie one-liners, posthumous appearances from Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim, and of course, Daniel Craig, you can suck it up and watch Glass Onion.

But if you want a tightly plotted, character-driven domestic thriller that doesn’t break a single one of The British Detection Club’s rules (not even #5), I would highly recommend instead Georgia Rose’s upcoming release, A Killer Strikes , Book #1 in her new series, A Shade Darker.

BONUS NEWS: A Killer Strikes won’t be released until 1 January 2023. But if (like me!) you just can’t wait, you can snap up your copy from the author’s website at https://payhip.com/b/dpvCl

A Killer Strikes: (A Shade Darker Book 1) by Georgia Rose

Release Date: 1 January, 2023.  Click HERE for purchase link.

The perfect family… The perfect murders…

A family massacred. A village in mourning. Can anyone sleep safely while a killer is on the loose?

Laura Percival, owner of The Stables, notices something wrong at her friend’s house when out on her morning ride. Further investigation reveals scenes she’ll never forget.

While the police are quick to accuse, Laura is less so, defending those around her as she struggles to make sense of the deaths. And all the time she wonders if she really knew her friends at all.

A chance encounter opens up a line of investigation that uncovers a secret life. One that Laura is much closer to than she ever realised.

A Killer Strikes is a gripping domestic thriller. If you like character-driven action, suspenseful storytelling and dark revelations then you’ll love this exciting novel.

My Review: 5 stars out of 5

There are a lot of things stable owner Laura Percival doesn’t fully comprehend. Cities.  Her responsibility for the death of her husband Matt, which she relives every night unless she takes her sleeping pill. Her new husband Sebastian’s London job, “Something to do with high yield investments and hedge funds. Stuff which I don’t fully understand, even though he’s explained it to me.” Why her old friends and neighbors have left their washing out on the line since Christmas, despite days of rain.

That last one, at least, she can answer because she has a key to their house. But nothing could have prepared her for the horrific scene that awaits her when she lets herself into the too-quiet house.

With an unsteady hand, I take out my phone, dial 999, and try to explain what’s happened as coherently as I can. Even as I do so, I feel myself crumble. The words said out loud, making it real. I rock in place. Ragged desperation edges my voice as I plead for help to come. I end the call as tears flood down my face and I let them fall, needing to get them out, to feel their release as I wrap my arms around my body. —Georgia Rose. A Killer Strikes (Kindle Locations 235-238). Three Shires Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Laura’s world is profoundly shaken. But that’s happened before, first when her domineering mother dies suddenly, and then when she loses her adored husband Matt. She now knows that she actually has the inner strength to build a successful life and then, when she’s swept off her feet by Sebastian, find a way to love again, and even plan for the family they both want.

So despite her horror at the seemingly senseless deaths of her friends, Laura knows it’s up to her to clear the names of the two people suspected of the murders: the young boyfriend of one of the murdered girls, and her own lifelong friend and current assistant, Henry.

Author Georgia Rose presents a letter-perfect murder mystery, playing fair with her audience as Laura takes us along for every clue and revelation. Together with Laura, we lift the lid on the picturesque village of Melton to reveal both the small town where everyone has a role and a place, and another world where people Laura has know all her life play roles she could never have imagined.

One of the most fun elements for me is that I’ve been to Melton before. At least, I’ve been a virtual visitor to the village created for one of Georgia Rose’s earlier series, The Grayson Trilogy, giving me hope that I’ll hear how my old bookfriends are doing.  But if A Killer Strikes is any indication, this new series is edgier, a faster-paced exploration of the clues that Laura soon realizes are going to point to more danger, false accusations, and ultimately, the guilt of someone she cares about.

I particularly love the way Laura’s character changes and grows. Told in the first person present tense, we hear her own disparaging opinion of the compliant girl she’d been, her guilt over her husband’s death, but most of all the matter-of-fact steel backbone of the woman she’s had to become. She accepts her new husband’s care with a kind of amazed gratitude, and wonders what it might be like to be another kind of woman— the kind who might sleep past dawn and take a leisurely shower. But the woman she’s become lives by two fundamental rules. First and foremost, you take care of the horses. Every day, from before dawn until falling into bed exhausted. Second, you take care of those you care about the same way.

It was a pure joy to read a book by a writer at the top of her game, with a sure grasp of her craft. A Killer Strikes has a fully-realized setting, and is perfectly paced to sweep us along with Laura as she determinedly protects those she cares for by solving the mystery, even when the police are sure they’ve found their killer. If you like your murder mysteries full of flawed characters who grow and develop, with a supporting cast of eccentric, often funny fellow villagers, then I completely recommend this new series.

        • Book Title: A Killer Strikes: (A Shade Darker Book 1)
        • Author: Georgia Rose
        • Genre: Domestic Thriller
        • Publisher: Three Shires Publishing (1 January 2023)
        • Length: 206 pages