Who solves the whodunnit? That’s the mystery the Club is getting to grips with presently.
We’ve established that a detective story consists of a logical puzzle, but a GOOD detective story has a puzzle plot AND interesting characters, setting and writing. When done right detective stories can delve into issues of the day, commenting on society and holding up a mirror to ourselves, albeit a bit bloodier than average. The Detective club aims to use the structure of a detective to explore the people and community of contemporary St Helens, the way only an insider can.
First things first, the detective. Who are some of the great investigators in literature, and can we learn from them?
It would be too difficult to create a top ten list without setting the criteria, so let’s start to limit our scope. Although we are exploring the Golden Age, there’s no need to limit ourselves to that period when researching fictional detectives. However, our group is interested in amateur detectives, either the ‘consulting’ or accidental. In Agatha Christie’s Partners In Crime, bright young things Tommy and Tuppence open a detective agency and try out different methods of detection based on other fictional detectives. They adopt the methods of the greats – from Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Thorndyke, The Old Man in the Corner and even Hercule Poirot (Christie commenting on her own creation).
Fictional detectives referenced in other fictional detective worlds is nothing new. In a 1945 essay about British crime fiction, Agatha Christie expresses her views about her peers, their fictional detectives and her own creation –
“Poirot has made quite a place for himself in the world and is regarded perhaps with more affection by outsiders than by his own creator! I would give one piece of advice to young detective writers. Be very careful what central character you create – you may have him with you for a very long time!”
After studying and trying out Sherlock’s methods during the first meeting, members of the Detective Club started thinking about our own sleuth. We decided it would be good to have an amateur who falls into solving the crime alongside the official investigation.
As one group member said “I liked the idea of it being someone on the edge of society – so how about one of the elderly people who use the library to keep warm and occupied during the day. Maybe it could be an ex-Policeman, fallen onto hard times. Some case in his past that went wrong meant his life spiralled downwards – drunk, divorced, homeless. This character would have the skills of a detective but without the restrictions. And also have the ‘anonymous’ quality allowing him to delve deep into the mystery without anyone really ‘seeing’ him. It would be easy for him to explain his presence ..”
We’ll develop this further and start seeing how they move around their environment in the second meeting where we will look at the scene of the crime.