The Billiard-Room Mystery (Brian Flynn)

Popular cricketer Gerry Prescott lies throttled on the green baize billiard table at Considine Manor, and Lady Considine’s pearls have been half-inched. Fortunately, one of the guests, a certain Anthony Bathurst, is a student of the immortal Sherlock Holmes.

Flynn’s début novel is terribly Boys’ Own: lots of manly public school chaps talking about sport, often in slang. The tone is bright and breezy (“How jolly all this murdering is!” as Barzun and Taylor once quipped); and in the 1920s manner, there are far more physical clues than character ones: footprints, bedsheets, etc.

The solution is the same as a certain Agatha Christie novel, but not (as some would have it) plagiarised; both authors, Steve Barge points out, had the same idea independently. From the start, Flynn seems to have liked writing orthodox detective stories that then neatly whisk the rug out from under the reader.