If you’ve been paying attention, especially to my comments left both here and elsewhere, you’ll be aware that my typing is rather famously variable. 90% of the time I’m good, but that other 10% — man, some errors there are. Writing something recently, I made reference to the novel Five Little Pugs by Agatha Christie and then — catching myself in time to correct it — I had a thought…
Because, well, how many books can be altered quite significantly by the innocent replacement of just a single letter in their title? Turns out, quite a few. So, drawing exclusively from the well of GAD, here are 20 novels and their suggested plots should a simple substitution be made in the appropriate place…
Traitor’s Parse (1940) by Margery Allingham — A pre-Cold War thriller in which a Communist sleeper agent is captured, and must endure the communications intercepted on the way to his superiors being pored over and mocked for their grammatical failings.
The Incredible Grime (1931) by Lois Austen-Leigh — As the end of univerity approaches, a group of students in a house-share realise that a cleaning agency may need to be brought in if there’s any hope of getting their deposit back.
The Poisoned Chocolates Cafe (1929) by Anthony Berkeley — In which the spate of local murders is cleared up rather quickly.
The Footprints of Satay (1950) by Norman Berrow — A non-fiction work examining the spread of this popular dish from its origins in Southeast Asia out across the world.
Thou Smell of Death (1936) by Nicholas Blake — A young couple learn the perils of buying a house cheap after the elderly previous owner expired of a heart attack in the kitchen and lay undiscovered for two weeks.
Tog of Doubt (1952) by Christianna Brand — A middle-class couple question the quality of the duvet they bought at an upmarket department store.
It Talks by Night (1930) by John Dickson Carr — A man discovers why the parrot he has purchased was so cheap.
The Mystery of the Glue Train (1928) by Agatha Christie — In which a young horse learns the shocking connection between the vanishing of its stablemates and the weekly, adhesive-name locomotive of the title.
The Groote Bark Murder (1923) by Freeman Wills Crofts — The novelisation of Guardians of the Galazy Vol. 3, in which everyone’s favourite talking tree must determine the cause of his severe psoriasis.
The Conjure-Man Diet (1932) by Rudolph Fisher — “Do you want to train your body and brain to maximise its psychic potential? Follow my three-week plan for guaranteed results.”
Death in the Storks (1935) by Georgette Heyer — The Health Secretary resorts to desperate excuses to explain the repeated vanishings of newborns from maternity wards the country over.
The Devil and the Cud (1938) by E.C.R. Lorac — Gastro-intestinal allegory; Lucifer’s appetite is spoiled by his repeatedly regurgitating old food only to swallow it again; probably some sort of analogy for human suffering or something.
Alias Basil Wilting (1951) by Helen McCloy — A woman lavishes horticultural attention on the eponymous herb, unaware that it draws sustenance from her unhappy domestic situation and so struggles to thrive on account of all the negative attitudes of the people who surround her. Nominated for the Booker Prize.
The Meze (1932) by Philip Macdonald — A genre-challenging novel in which the contents of a Turkish buffet are to be determined purely through a record of the conversation of the people eating it.
A LAN Lay Dead (1934) by Ngaio Marsh — Futuristic nightmare SF wherein the protagonists’ router says the wifi is functioning but their iPad won’t connect and they must use mobile data to do their weekly grocery shop.
The Red Horse Mystery (1922) by A.A. Milne — Supernatural Western epic; denizens of a small frontier town see the eponymous equine mirage, which comes to represent their collective guilty secrets as their misdeeds begin to seep out into the open…
Ten Days’ Ponder (1948) by Ellery Queen — In which Ellery sits inside for a week-and-a-half and mulls idly over a few things to no particular end.
The Nike Tailors (1934) by Dorothy L. Sayers — Chronicling the ultimately thwarted efforts of the sportswear brand’s attempts to enter high society with their own line of fine clothing.
Tim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot — A retelling of Stig of the Dump for adults.
The Gloating Admiral (1931) by The Detection Club — Fifteen GAD authors take it in turns to create the most obnoxious murder victim ever over the course of a whole novel; he is killed in the final chapter and everyone is too happy for it to warrant investigation.