I was delighted to receive recently a copy of the brand-new reprint by HarperCollins of a classic detective story which I have mentioned before on this blog – The Floating Admiral. It is one of the round-robin mysteries put together by members of the Detection Club and is by common consent the best.
An obvious selling point of the book is that the contributors included such stellar names as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, while G.K. Chesterton – the first president of the detection club – contributed an introduction. The ingenious Anthony Berkeley undertook the toughest task – that of writing the final chapter which pulls all the threads together – with considerable aplomb.
The other contributors included names which are now largely forgotten today, although I have mentioned quite a few of them in this blog – an example is Canon Victor Whitechurch. The excellent Henry Wade and the reliable if plodding John Rhode also feature. And in this edition the scene is set by the detection club's current president, Simon Brett.
I do find round-robin mysteries intriguing, even if some of them are not entirely successful. The Floating Admiral is more than a historical curiosity; on the whole, it is pretty good example of 1930s detective fiction. A while ago, I myself contributed a chapter to a round-robin mystery organised by a literary Festival. As yet, unfortunately, it hasn't seen the light of day, but I must say that I'm looking forward to finding out what happened to resolve the conundrum that I helped to create!