Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction


London Feb 2013 Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the exhibition Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction at the British Library. I was glad to see at least one work represented in Spanish, Death and the Compass (originally titled: La muerte y la brújula,1942) by Jorge Luis Borges. You can read my previous post HERE. Although my previous link seems to be broken, you can read it, translated into English, HERE in pdf.

See other references to this exhibition at Past Offences, Mrs. Peabody Investigates, Do You Write Under Your Own Name? and Shots Crime & Thriller Ezine.

At the start of the exhibition we see Ronald Knox’s famous Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction:

I. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow;
II. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course;
III. No more than one secret room or passage is allowable. I would add that a secret passage should not be brought in at all unless the action takes place in the kind of house where such devices might be expected;
IV. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end;
V. No Chinaman must figure into the story;
VI. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right;
VII. The detective must not, himself, commit the crime;
VIII. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader;
IX. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind;  his intelligence must be slightly, but only very slightly, below that of the average reader;
X. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

4 thoughts on “Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction”

  1. Thanks very much for the mention! Aren’t those rules adorable? If I’d been a crime writer at the time, I would immediately have been determined to break them, preferably all in one go. Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd breaks two 🙂

  2. Jose Ignacio: Of the rules I think authors should always follow Rule 10. I dislike twins or doubles magically appearing in mysteries.

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