"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 place reliance on nor making use of Devine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo-Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, coincidence or the Act of God?"- The oath of the Detection Club
The Detection Club was founded in 1928 by Anthony Berkeley in London, therefore it's often referred to as the London Detection Club, which began to officially function in 1930 with G.K. Chesterton serving as its first honorary president – occupying that seat until passing away in 1936.
A number of round-robin novels and volumes of shorter fiction has appeared under the byline of "The Detection Club," such as the amazingly consistent The Floating Admiral (1931), but their first collaboration didn't appear in book form until half a century later. The Scoop & Behind the Screen (1983) were originally broadcast as weekly serials on the BBC in the early 1930s and the scripts of the plays were published a week later in a radio magazine, The Listener.
The Scoop (1931) was penned by an impressive collection of names, Agatha Christie, E.C. Bentley, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts and Clemence Dane, whom all contributed two or more chapters to the story.
First of all, the contributions by Berkeley and Sayers were the highlights of this volume, which was a showcase of their writing abilities. In the opening chapter, Sayers sketches a great picture of the impatient hum at a news paper office, the Morning Star, waiting for a last-minute break in connection with a big story – foreshadowing the hustle and bustle of the advertising agency in Murder Must Advertise (1933).
Morning Star expects front-page, breaking news in the "Lonely Bungalow Mystery," which is what the papers have dubbed the question riddled stabbing-death of Geraldine Tracey. The police failed to find the murder weapon at the scene of the crime, but one of their reporters, a Mr. Johnson, called the office to report that he found the knife. Johnson was supposed to return, by the next train, but never made it back. His body is eventually discovered in a telephone boot at Victoria Station. And, of course, the murder weapon has, once again, vanished!
One of their most experienced star-reporters, Denis Oliver, is put on the story and does a considerable amount of snooping into Tracey's missing husband, the possibility of double-identities, tracing a pair of jade-headed objects from Bond Street to Broad Street and testing the soundness of a couple of alibis – which often seem to directly lead back to the offices of the Morning Star.
These old-school, journalistic endeavors are occasionally interrupted with chapters from Croft, which gave Scotland Yard's take on the ongoing proceedings, but it was Christie who left a very discernible mark on the plot – with the "Eternal Triangle" being the most obvious one.
So, all in all, The Scoop was a good, enjoyable mystery that remained consistent in spite of the number of writers involved.
Behind the Screen (1930) aired a year before The Scoop and the writers of this piece were: Agatha Christie, Hugh Walpole, E.C. Bentley, Anthony Berkeley and Ronald Knox. The story is also listed in Robert Adey's Locked Room Murders and Other Impossible Crimes (1991), but, in reality, it's the literary embodiment of a drawing room-style mystery.
The story focuses on the Ellis-family and Wilfred Hope, engaged to Amy Ellis, who's worried about the negative, unhealthy atmosphere their paying guest, Paul Dudden, has on the family. And on Amy. One evening, in the drawing room of the Ellises, Hope discovers Dudden's bleeding body behind a large, old-fashioned Japanese screen. The problem is that everyone in the drawing room could be accounted for, but forensic evidence about the nature of the stab wounds and witness testimonies give more wriggle room – which is why I place this closer to a drawing room mystery (e.g. Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table, 1936) than a proper impossible crime.
I quite enjoyed the bits and pieces of building up, and tearing down, theories and the possibility of playing a game with two suspects (who gave the fatal jab?), but Knox took the amateurish part of the final chapter somewhat literarily. A shoehorn was whipped out to make everything fit and the rules of fair play weren't entirely observed, which made for an underwhelming ending.
The only interesting part (for me) to arise from Behind the Screen was that the plot contained germs of ideas that obviously manifested, fully developed, a couple of years down the line in one of the most famous Hercule Poirot novel from the series.
The Scoop & Behind the Screen is that proverbial mixed bag of tricks, but the first story is too good for a curiosity to be ignored by connoisseurs of Golden Age mysteries and definitely of interest to the rabid Agatha Christie fan.