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Rules of Fair Play

Rules of Fair Play

In 1930, during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, a number of famous British writers (Christie, Sayers, Chesterton, and Orczy to name a few) formed the Detection Club. During one of their dinners they wrote the rules of fair play. These rules were meant to allow the reader a fair chance of figuring out who committed the crime before the end of the story. While the rules have relaxed a bit over the years they are still relevant in mystery writing today.

1. The criminal must be mentioned early on in the story.

2. Supernatural solutions are ruled out.

3. Only one secret room or passage is allowed per story.

4. No undiscovered poisons or devise needing a long scientific explanation are permitted.

5. The detective must never be helped by lucky accidents, intuitions or coincidences.

6. The detective must not himself commit the crime.

7. The detective must state every clue they discovers.

8. The thoughts of the “Watson” must not be concealed from the reader, and he needs to be slightly less intelligent than the reader.

9. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

The oath taken by all members of the Detection Club, which is still administered today, also states a few taboos -

“Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God? “