Let’s imagine a detective story of the most orthodox kind, with all the trappings of the genre – a crime, a detective, a handful of suspects, clues. Only one element would be missing.
The book would end with the detective’s failure to solve the puzzle and the truth remaining out of reach. Frustrating indeed.
You may say such a book would be easy to write: You just kill someone, plant arbitrary clues and make it up as you go along without caring whether the whole thing makes sense.
That is not what I have in mind. There would be a solution and the author would play fair with the clues like they would with a conventional detective story, the difference being that they wouldn’t tell who did it in the final chapter, leaving it up to the reader to work it out on their own if they can.
I hear you say: « That has already been done. Zangwill did it first with The Big Bow Mystery » but that is not what I envision either, for such games require that the solution be disclosed at one point, so that a winner can be designated. In this case though the author’s mouth would remain shut forever. They’ll never tell, so that readers would never be sure whether their hypothesis is the right one. Call it a cold-blooded Edwin Drood stunt, or a mystery novel in the literal sense.
Of course it may have already been done somewhere – and if you know of such an instance please tell me so in the comments section – but in the event that it hasn’t, the author willing to try this device would be sure to make a massive splash.
Or a massive flop.
What do you think? Would you be willing to read such a book?