Ask A Policeman

The success of The Floating Admiral encouraged Detection Club members to produce a follow-up, and Ask a Policeman duly appeared in 1934. The book opens with an exchange of letters between Milward Kennedy and John Rhode, in which Kennedy proposes the title Ask a Policeman and Rhode offers a plot with ‘a choice of many Policemen to interrogate as to its solution.’ He adds that ‘writing detective stories is just like any other vice. The deed is done without one’s having any clear knowledge of the temptation which led up to it.’

Rhode’s ‘Death at Hursley Lodge’ poses the problem to be solved (a map of the crime scene is also supplied) and Kennedy then invites fellow Club members to solve it – but not with their usual detective. So Dorothy L. Sayers is asked to explain how Roger Sheringham (Anthony Berkeley’s regular sleuth) would tackle the mystery and Berkeley is asked for Lord Peter Wimsey’s take on it. Helen Simpson and Gladys Mitchell also swap their usual detectives, Sir John Saumarez and Mrs Bradley. They come up with four different solutions before Kennedy (on his own admission, not playing entirely fair) comes up with ‘the Correct Answer.’