The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thought The Detection Club was the best thing ever when I first heard of it--a club of Golden Age mystery authors that included Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers? with GK Chesterton himself as the president? but I had never heard of The Floating Admiral, which was a simply terrific idea: a detective novel written round-robin style by the entire Club, each member in turn being required to provide the next chapter of the story along with a sealed solution explaining the solution to the whole mystery. As an entertainment for the Club itself, it must have been pretty terrific. As a curiosity of detective fiction for the Golden-Age detective fan, it's also a great read.
The plot is pretty similar to every other detective story, with the exception that the last chapter goes on and on (and on) as the last poor author attempts to tie up all the loose ends. The subtle shifts in tone, characterisation, and so on, are all fun to watch as each new author steps in to continue the story. GK Chesterton himself contributed a Prologue to introduce the whole story, which is as brilliant and dreamlike as everything GKC wrote. Of the major contributors, Dorothy Sayers stood out as the best author. Ronald Knox, writer of the famous 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction, is an author I wasn't familiar with, whose chapter also seemed one of the better contributions. This book has whetted my interest, and I think I'll be looking up some more of his work in the future.
The solution of the mystery provided in the final chapter was pretty ingenious, though extremely complicated (as necessary considering the crazy clues). It was followed by the solutions which the authors were each required to provide, and I'm sorry now that I didn't read each author's solution immediately after his or her respective chapter, since they might have been more meaningful that way.
All in all, this was a fun read which introduced me to some new authors and stands for the future as a delightful record of one of the great literary clubs of the twentieth century.
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