My latest entry to Patti Abbott’s series of forgotten books is a companion piece to last week’s entry, The Scoop. The very first collaborative work by members of the Detection Club was the 1930 serial Behind the Screen, written for broadcast and published initially in ‘The Listener; but not brought out in book form until more than half a century had passed.
It’s historically very interesting indeed. Having said that, regarded simply as a detective story, it's a slight piece, not in the same class as The Scoop in my opinion. The body of a very unpleasant lodger called Duddon is found behind a japanned screen in the house of the Ellis family. The story is opened by Hugh Walpole, best known for his Herries Chronicles, but also the author of several rather dark thrillers. Above the Dark Circus was much admired by Julian Symons, but my favourite is The Killer and the Slain, a stunning novel that has unaccountably been overlooked in writing about psychological suspense.
Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers continue the narrative in their contrasting styles, and the later chapters are written by Anthony Berkeley, E.C. Bentley and Ronald Knox.
Milward Kennedy set a competition for readers of ‘The Listener’, and his assessment of the entries is included in the Gollancz volume that brought this story and The Scoop together in book-form for the first time. Sadly, the original illustrations were not included, though I’ve seen some of them, and thought them rather pleasing.