Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ask a Policeman, 14 Oct 2013
This review is from: Ask a Policeman (Hardcover)
Self-satisfied and unashamedly self-serving, Lord Comstock was a newspaper tycoon with enemies pretty much everywhere. He had no scruples when it came to the material published in his newspapers and was always on the look-out for the next person or institution to attack [some things never change, eh?]. There was no great surprise therefore that someone would want to do him in but, when Lord Comstock was found dead in the study of his country retreat, his murder proved a particularly complex matter for the authorities.

Having arrived a week earlier than expected at Hursley Lodge and having that very morning given instructions to his secretary that he wasn't to be disturbed, Lord Comstock's final few hours were in fact intruded upon by numerous visitors. No less than three VIPs - an Archbishop, the government Chief Whip and the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard - arrived and angrily demanded to speak to Lord Comstock. Any one of them could have murdered him, although their high social status and the potential for national embarrassment make the investigation a delicate business. Wanting the matter brought to a satisfactory conclusion as quietly as possible, the Home Secretary asks four famous detectives - Mrs Adela Bradley, Sir John Saumarez, Lord Peter Wimsey and Mr Roger Sheringham to investigate the murder, the only stipulation being that none of them can seek aid from the police.

First things first, despite her name being featured prominently on the cover, Agatha Christie did not write any or all of Ask a Policeman. She did however provide an interesting preface to the story that discusses her fellow mystery authors. Ask a Policeman is actually a collaborative effort on the part of several members of the Detection Club and, while a member of the club, the doyenne of detective novels did not join in this with this particular project [she did contribute to the Detection Club's The Floating Admiral which was republished by HarperCollins last year].

Having established that, it must be said that Ask a Policeman was written in quite an ingenious way. Milward Kennedy came up with the title for the book and then John Rhodes plotted the murder and introduced the suspects. Four potential solutions to the crime were then provided by four other members of the Detection Club with an additional twist in the process being that each of the four had to swap their signature detectives. So Gladys Mitchell walked Sir John Saumarez through the case while Helen Simpson took charge of Mrs Bradley and Dorothy L. Sayers wrote for Roger Sheringham while Anthony Berkeley had Lord Peter Wimsey as his detective.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its unusual premise, Ask a Policeman is neither particularly ingenious nor particularly entertaining. The murder of Lord Comstock was plausible and the suspects provided were fitting, but John Rhodes' beginning to the book was too drawn out and dry. It's really quite difficult to make coldblooded murder seem dull. The second section of the book, when the four detectives are let loose to conduct their overlapping investigations, is better. All four authors make good use of their borrowed detectives and recognise their respective clichés without giving in to parody. Picking a favourite detective is hard and perhaps unfair since all but Lord Peter Wimsey seem to have fallen out of reading favour now [although Mrs Bradley repeats are still being shown occasionally on the cable channels]. A final solution to Lord
Comstock's murder is provided in the final section of the book but it's debatable just how satisfactory it is.

Ultimately, Ask a Policeman is perhaps a book best enjoyed by detective fiction completists. Those who are familiar with the work of all of the participating authors will be best able to appreciate their various interpretations of the crime and also how they handle each other's most famous detectives. The actual setting and solving of the crime is not amazing and so may be a disappointment to more casual crime readers seeking an entertaining mystery yarn.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in

Review Details


3.6 out of 5 stars (10 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
Add to basket Add to wishlist

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,449