Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to discuss Postern of Fate (1973), the final novel written by Agatha Christie, and will be doing so in full, spoiler-rich detail. Read no further unless you’re willing to be spoiled on this, probably the most-disregarded book in Dame Agatha’s oeuvre.
We are here today to discuss The Moving Toyshop (1946) — Edmund Crispin’s third novel to feature his Oxford University don detective Gervase Fen — in full, spoiler-rich style…proceed no further if you wish read this book without knowing, y’know, everything that happens.
The English language is a funny thing. Take for instance Chris McGeorge’s debut novel Guess Who (2018) which, revolving as it did around a group of people solving a mystery while locked in a room, was marketed as a ‘locked room mystery’ when that is a phrase which has already had another meaning for well over a century.
Genre is essentially the formalisation of deja vu. Those of us who return to — or avoid — particular genres do so because of the essential ingredients that recur there, whether through implicit rules or otherwise.
The appeal of detective fiction and impossible crime novels for me is their potential for elegance, for taking something that seems utterly baffling and rendering it clear through intelligent deployment of a few key ideas. This achieved peak density during the Golden Age, which is why that era earned that sobriquet, and it feels like it’s been downhill ever since.