The Viaduct Murder by Ronald Knox

The-Viaduct-Murder-by-Ronald-KnoxWhat would you expect to find on a golf course during a round of golf? A lost ball or two perhaps. But when Messers Maryatt (a vicar), Carmichael (a don), Reeves (a retired spy) and Gordon (an actual golfer) stumble across a body, apparently fallen from a train crossing a nearby viaduct, an opportunity presents itself. With the police convinced it is an accident, the four friends decide to play sleuth to track down a murderer.

Each of the men tackles a different thread, each advancing the case a little further forward (or in some cases, a little further backward). But will the sleuths be able to channel the spirit of the great Sherlock Holmes and catch the murderer?

Those nice folks at The Murder Room asked if I’d like to take a look at any of their books and I thought I’d try this one from Ronald Knox, he of the Ten Rules of the Golden Age. This is his first book, the only one not to feature his series sleuth Miles Bredon and was in fact written four years before his Decalogue was published.

It’s an interesting book and no mistake. It takes a while to get used to Knox’s writing style. It’s very verbose and full of strange (and dated) turns of phrase. But like most atypical writing styles, you stop noticing it after a while. It’s quite funny in places, taking a pop at Sherlock Holmes amongst others. And then you start noticing the plot.

Which is certainly different than what I expected. It’s basically does something that no other Golden Age novel that I’ve read does but I’m not going to say why. I think it’s rather clever, but I can see others thinking the opposite. Obviously, I’m not going into details…

And you could make a case that he breaks one of his own rules – the one about the detective(s) discovering something by accident. But I think that’s the most minor one, so I’ll let him off.

So, an interesting novel, although I can see some people not getting on with Knox’s writing style. Well Worth A Look.


  1. By the way, I was under the impression that the gentleman responsible for the ten rules was named Ronald Knox.


  2. I would say the Marx Brothers are quite well-known here, although not to the modern generation (and what is known to them aside from the X-box – I can say that, I’m 26!). There’s Groucho – the fast-talking, wise-cracking one, walking up and down with his hands behind his back, stomping on a cigar – Chico, piano-playing gambler and Harpo, the silent, harp-playing one.

    Although I’ve always preferred Laurel and Hardy myself. If there’s one act of that period who didn’t really make it here, it was the Three Stooges.


    • You’ve summed up exactly what I knew about them but that’s precisely all that I know. I don’t think the content of any of their films, of which I do know some titles, is well known at all.


  3. I have read the book.
    The writing style is atrocious. Very verbose, as you have mentioned. I simply skipped many paragraphs without any loss of understanding.
    The plot is however good and interesting. Often humorous. However, it can’t be treated as a fair play mystery.
    “It’s basically does something that no other Golden Age novel that I’ve read does but I’m not going to say why.”
    Are you referring to the identity of the murderer ? If so, then it is not unique for me. I know two other books where the same trick is used.
    Or are you referring to who actually solves the case ?


  4. I’ve read The Footsteps at the Lock and (most recently) Double Cross Purposes. Knox is a bit verbose, but I do like his style once I settle into it. And I enjoy the characters of Miles Bredon and his wife.

    This one sounds like great fun as well.


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