The 10 Commandments for Detective Novelists

I was reading a few days ago about something called The Detection Club, which was a group of English detective novelists that came together in the late 1920s. Dorothy L Sayers and G.K. Chesterton, among others, were members and membership was by invitation only.

Another of the members was a writer called Ronald Knox, and he came up with the 10 Commandments for Detective Novelists, which are sure to strike a chord with anyone who writes or reads crime fiction. I’m fairly certain that every single one of the Commandments has been broken, and they have been revised a couple of times since Mr Knox came up with the original set, but they’re still worth a read and will hopefully raise a smile. Bear in mind they’re from 1929 so the content somewhat reflects the time…

• 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 supernatural 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.

You can read more about Ronald Knox and the Detection Club here.

What do you reckon to Knox’s 10 Commandments?

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