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VINE VOICEon 1 August 2011
Back in 1931 thirteen members of the newly formed Detection Club were invited to contribute one chapter each to a book to be called 'The Floating Admiral'. They were also invited to submit, in a sealed envelope, their solution to the crime. These solutions to be published at the end of the story. Before reading the book I thought that perhaps the various chapters would not hang together and that each would seem like a complete story in themselves. How wrong I was, the story hangs together beautifully and was a delight to read. Because various solutions are offered it gives the reader an opportunity to decide for themselves 'who dunnit' and why. Contributors include Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Freeman Wills Croft, and G K Chesterton to name but a few. I will not go into details of the storyline etc. because a previous reviewer has already done this. Suffice it to say this is a jolly good read and one I heartily recommend.
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Simon Brett has written the foreward for this ingenious novel, as the President of the Detection Club in 2001, when the book was re-printed. The origins of the club are as shrouded in mystery as the members own work, although it was probably founded in 1928. As Brett points out, crime fiction has changed a lot since the days of Golden Age mysteries. A lot of books written in that time were, in a way, puzzles - with clues you could (supposedly) work out, and a great sense of fun. They were an intellectual challenge, in an era that adored parlour games and crossword puzzles.

In 1931, members of the club got together to write a book. The challenge was to write a chapter and send it to the next in line, for them to carry on. The authors were not permitted to 'cheat' and had to provide a solution to the crime, sealed in an envelope - which are all revealed at the end of the book in an Appendix. The plot is fairly typical of the time period - a body found floating in a boat, a confusion of tides, missing relatives, a long ago scandal, dinner parties at the Vicarage and talkative landladies! What makes the book great fun is the impression you get as your read on that each author is attempting to make the next in lines job more difficult! Clues abound, suspects line up and the victory of justice is assured. This is a wonderful book for crime lovers, especially those who enjoy those marvellous Golden Age authors. Also, it is a chance not only to sample well known authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, but to sample the work of writers who perhaps are not so well read these days and who deserve to be.

The authors, in order are: C.K. Chesterton, Canon Victor L. Whitechurch, G.D.H and M. Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald A. Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane, and Anthony Berkeley. The solutions at the end of the novel are perhaps the most ingenious and enjoyable part of the whole book. It is a very enjoyable read and, you sense, great fun to write!
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on 28 June 2012
This cracking book is the result of a combined effort from various members of the Detection Club to create a detective story. Right from the golden age of the 1930s, we have famous names like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers alongside those who have slipped into obscurity. Each author wrote their own chapter in this book, taking the story onto the next stage, introducing clues and red herrings, with Anthony Berkeley tying it all up at the end, but with some of the authors also providing their own solutions to the mystery.

The story sees Admiral Penistone (I wonder why he was named after the South Yorkshire town...) found dead in a boat floating in a Dorset river, whilst the peculiar vicar, his niece, various neighbours and distant aquaintances all come into the frame. It's convoluted in the best way of a detective mystery.

The story generally works as a whole, though the writing styles can be markedly different form one chapter to the next. Some are briliant, some drag a little but on the whole the story cracks on.

The best chapters in my opinion belong to Canon Victor L. Whitechurch's opener and Agatha Christie's all too short offering half way through. Agatha Christie's suggested solution at the end is also the most ingenious and entertaining, it's a shame she didn't write the whole book on this basis!

Very enjoyable. The clues can be followed and pieced together in the best tradition, and there are still twists and surprises. An unusual set up, with a few shaky moments but on the whole a success.
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on 14 April 2013
A nice idea this - a group of detective writers take a chapter each to write one murder mystery. The execution is something else.

The basic problem with this is not so much the different authors or the flat characterisation. It is more that the book is boring. It takes an age to get moving, perhaps the authors of the earlier chapters were reluctant to get too involved in the plot, but this results in a lot of tedious introspection on behalf of Inspector Rudge without moving things on.

More interesting are the appendices which among other things shows each author's own solution of the mystery based on what they had read prior to doing their own chapter. I did smile at one writer's admission that they couldn't work out what was going on. Better, in the end, to look on this as an exercise rather then an entertaining read.
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on 15 August 2015
Too many fingers in the pie, make this a very disjointed and disappointing novel. Quite frankly, having so many contributors, each with a totally different writing style, just doesn't work. The actual plot is fine and Agatha Christie herself probably would have made a very good novel out of it - with Miss Marple as the investigator. Unfortunately, there were so many red herrings tossed into the mix that I really had to force myself to finish the book. I won't be reading it again and don't recommend it. Another contribution to the charity shop I'm afraid.
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on 16 January 2015
I've read Agatha Christie for years so was drawn to this book but found it a bit 'patchy'. Some of the author's chapters were engaging but others were, quite honestly, rather boring. It had the feel of a piece of homework that each of the authors had been set. Some relished the chance and had obvious talent. However, for me, it contrasted the style and ability of different writers. Perhaps some were simply not 'my cup of tea'. I didn't feel inclined to try another novel from the detective club.
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on 7 February 2012
Like many, I downloaded this book because it had a chapter in it written by Agatha Christie. As I read I found myself longing for a complete book by her as I found the differently authored chapters irritating. Although each author was published, it is easy to see why they have not stood the test of time.

In truth this book is just a curiosity, a lengthy game of literary consequences.
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on 26 April 2012
Not the best crime/detective novel of the 'Golden Age' but a curiosity and collector's piece for those keen on this genre and period. The most notable crime writers of the period collaborated in providing a chapter each - the story unfolds, and then each provides a 'solution'. Very patchy as a read, but an interesting exercise from some great authors.
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on 24 April 2016
Not a good book from the average reader's point of view. In parts formulaic, then confused by a torrent of new introductions as each writer tries to drag the thing in his or her preferred direction.

I will not be buying another one from the detection club.
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on 18 September 2015
This was a group effort by 10 or so members of the Detection Club. Agatha Christie contributed one short chapter and a rather odd proposed solution, based on the first four chapters. It is very light reading. This book is more of a novelty than a real detective story. A better complication project by the Detection Club is "Ask a Policeman", which has an interesting introduction by Christie.
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