Of late, I have done a moderate amount of pontificating here on The Invisible Event about topics related to fair-play detective fiction: first talking about rules, and then trying to explain how I see the idea of disclosure. Partly this was because it’s the sort of thing I’m happy to do for fun — hello, I’m a nerd — but, in truth, there was a larger intention behind it providing no-one could see any massive flaws in my thinking.
See, I’m fascinated by the idea of fair-play in detective fiction, and got to wondering if we — you, us, the readers of GAD mysteries where this concept was born and often best exemplified — couldn’t come to some sort of consensus on the books that demonstrate it best.
Forget ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Magical Snake Whistle’ (which is what that story should be called) or Agatha Christie’s Oh Dear Did I Forget to Mention a Key Thing About the Murder of Roger Ackroyd…is there a list of accepted fair-play detection novels that legitimately declare everything, and if so could they be cobbled together into some sort of list — maybe a Top Ten — as a primer for anyone who doesn’t know about it, or who wanted to see it in action?
So here’s my plan: this week, declare any fair-play mysteries you wish to be considered in the comments below — novels first, perhaps short stories will come later; next week, we have a vote on the titles selected; two weeks from today, I unveil a list of the Ten Most Fairest-Play Detective Fiction Works and then everyone tears it to shreds. How does that sound?
Shall we have some rules? Let’s have some rules.
1) You can name as many novels as you like; five seems about right to keep a sensible limit on it, but I’m not going to insist.
2) You are welcome to repeat a title already mentioned, and so heighten its kudos, or equally to rubbish one, and so lessen it. We’re here for the sharing of perspectives, after all.
3) The novels can be from any era, so long as detection is a major element of the plot and they play fair in their declaration of clues to the reader.
4) Ideally these novels will be currently easily available to buy — people have to vote on it, after all — but if there’s some obscure classic you simply have to mention then feel free.
5) Titles must also be available in English; English-language blog, y’see, and Ho-Ling is always teasing me with awesome Japanese stories that I’m going to spend the rest of my life yearning for. Well, not on my watch!
If nothing else, it may be interesting to see if there’s any disagreement over what actually constitutes a fair-play mystery.
I’ll get the ball rolling with:
The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) by Anthony Berkeley
The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932) by Ellery Queen
The Four False Weapons (1937) by John Dickson Carr
Evil Under the Sun (1941) by Agatha Christie
Death of Jezebel (1948) by Christianna Brand
Pitch in below, and here’s hoping we get enough titles to make a vote next week worthwhile…
Wow, it’s Interaction Week here, eh? Don’t forget that there’s still time to win a copy of Murder on the Way! by Theodore Roscoe, too…no catches, no complications, no entry fee: I’m a simple man and I run simple competitions. I’ll post it to you for free and everything. Yup, I’m that good. You have until midnight on Monday to enter, and all you need to do is…well, it’s very simple. Click the purple text above to find out.