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Six Against the Yard (1936)

by Detection Club

Other authors: Margery Allingham (Contributor), Anthony Berkeley (Contributor), Agatha Christie (Essay), Ex-Superintendant Cornish (Afterword), G. W. Cornish (Contributor)4 more, Freeman Wills Crofts (Contributor), Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (Contributor), Dorothy L. Sayers (Contributor), Russell Thorndike (Contributor)

Series: The Detection Club (5)

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1113178,368 (3.53)11
A unique anthology for crime aficionados - six 'perfect murder' stories written by the most accomplished crime writers of the 1930s, designed to fox real-life Scotland Yard Superintendent Cornish, who comments on whether or not these crimes could have genuinely been solved. Is the 'perfect murder' possible? Can that crime be committed with such consummate care, with such exacting skill, that it is unsolvable - even to the most astute investigator? In this unique collection, legendary crime writers Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts, Ronald Knox, Dorothy L. Sayers and Russell Thorndike each attempt to create the unsolvable murder, which Superintendent Cornish of the CID then attempts to unravel... This clever literary battle of wits from the archives of the Detection Club follows The Floating Admiral and Ask a Policeman back into print after more than 75 years, and shows some of the experts from the Golden Age of detective fiction at their most ingenious.… (more)
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When I found that this book was recently re-released I had to read it. It is a compilation of six short stories written by six Golden Age Mystery writers as they each try to craft a perfect murder. Each story is analyzed by Ex-Supt. Cornish. He points out where the murderer in the story may have left clues and how they could be uncovered by a proper investigation. The book was fun and to my mind all the murders outlined were ingenious. The six mystery writers that submitted stories are Margery Allingham, Father Ronald Knox, Anthony Berkeley, Russell Thorndyke, Dorothy L. Sayers and Freeman Wills Crofts. To top off this A-list of mystery authors, we have Dame Agatha Christie and her submission that tackles a real-life mystery of three deaths that occurred in 1929. I'm sure that any Golden Age aficionados will recognize these names from the Detection Club. I am so glad that these little gems have been resurrected. I enjoyed reading them. ( )
1 vote Romonko | Jul 28, 2019 |
Before beginning, it's worth noting that "The Detection Club" isn't merely a publisher's invention. It was an actual organization formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers, including such big names as G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Baroness Emma Orczy. Indeed, it was these eminent personages who determined the "rules" of detective fiction, rules that writers have (more or less) followed ever since, such as "you have to provide sufficient clues in the text for the reader to be able to guess the perpetrator" and "the perpetrator can't be a new character introduced at the end."

I figured that any collection of stories by such an eminent group of writers ought to be good. Well ... maybe, maybe not! If anything, these stories serve as a reminder of just how much tastes have changed since the 1930s, when character development regularly took a back seat to dry, complicated, puzzle-like plots.

The conceit of this collection of stories is that each writer has been asked to submit a "perfect murders," which is then scrutinized by a C.I.D. Superintendent who passes judgment on whether the murder would, in fact, have been likely to have escaped detection.

"It Didn't Work Out," Margary Allingham's contribution, relates the story of how an obnoxious, boastful old showman is extinguished by his own vanity. Is it murder if you merely taunt someone into doing something stupidly dangerous? I rather liked this tale, perhaps because it's more about personalities than puzzles.

Not so much Father Ronald Knox's "The Fallen Idol," in which a fictional dictator meets his doom in the equivalent of a locked room - an apartment under constant guard. One would need a minute-by-minute timeline to actually puzzle the thing out, plus the main clue relies on a word association experiment, which feels a lot like cheating. Definitely my least favorite of the lot.

"The Policeman Only Taps Once," by Anthony Berkeley, tells the story of a con man who ends up conned into marriage; so outmatched, indeed, is our protagonist by his cannier spouse, she even manages to trick him into murdering himself. It's rather fun watching these two reprehensible souls endeavoring to outwit each other, though I'm still trying to process the fact that - apparently - it used to be a common thing for women to dip their hair in petrol as a beauty treatment. Seriously?

In Russell Thorndike's "Strange Death of Major Scallion," an odious, blackmailing British officer is extinguished by the man he is blackmailing. The elaborateness of the plot is a little hard to swallow, but "death by ant" is definitely a novel approach to murder!

Dorothy's Sayers contribution to the collection, "Blood Sacrifice," was my favorite, and definitely the most psychologically authentic of the lot. Indeed, it's hard to say for certain whether a murder actually occurs, though there is certainly murderous intent. For this reason, I'd easily nominate this as the most "perfect" murder of the lot.

Regrettably, the collection ends on a weak note with Freeman Wills Croft's "The Parcel," in which yet another odious blackmailer meets his doom, this time through the agency of an explosive parcel. Forget any pretense of character development: this one is as dry as a Popular Mechanics article, and relies on no one being able to connect the murder and victim. Anyone who hangs out with the likes of Christie, Allingham and Sayers ought to be able to do better!
  Dorritt | Sep 3, 2017 |
Each story is followed by an afterword in which Ex-Supt. Cornish of the CID explains how in his view the police might have solved the case. Allingham's (about a musicahall singer ruined by her love for a worthless man) is tragic; Knox's (about the killing of a Latin American dictator in a quasi-locked room) is more cheerful and reminds me of GKC, which means i'ts better than usual for Knox. Anthony Berkeley's is told in a Damon Runyon style by an American crook who marries an Englisdh lady for her money,. ( )
  antiquary | Feb 10, 2011 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Club, Detectionprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allingham, MargeryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berkeley, AnthonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Christie, AgathaEssaysecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cornish, Ex-SuperintendantAfterwordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cornish, G. W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crofts, Freeman WillsContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knox, Ronald ArbuthnottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sayers, Dorothy L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thorndike, RussellContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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U.S. title is Six Against Scotland Yard.
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