Wednesday, the 4th of May 2022, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

For today’s pick I’m back to my endless stack of classic mysteries which seems only to grow every time I look at it (behind my back may be :D)! The book is The Three Taps: A Detective Story Without a Moral by Ronald Knox. Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1888-1957) was a Roman Catholic priest, theologian, radio broadcaster and also detective story writer. Educated at Eton and Balliol, he became a fellow and chaplain at Trinity College, but converted to Roman Catholicism in 1917 and became a priest. While he wrote and broadcast on Christianity and other subjects, he also wrote detective stories, all falling within the ‘Golden Age’ of crime fiction, and was a founding member of the detection club. Besides giving a definition of detective stories, Knox also set out 10 rules for detective fiction, which included no supernatural elements, no chinamen, and only one secret passage or room! Besides detective fiction, he was quite a prolific writer, on theology and several other subjects. Among his other writings, is also a sequel to the Barchester books, Barsetshire Pilgrimage (1935).

The Three Taps, published in 1927, was first of his detective stories to feature his detective Miles Bredon who went on to appear in four subsequent books. Miles Bredon is an investigator employed by the Indescribable Insurance Company, and his Watson in the books is his wife, Angela. In this first book, a man is found dead in a gas-lit country inn. While he police investigate, so do Miles and his wife, in the interests of the company, for the deceased was heavily insured. The victim was killed by the three gas taps in his room, and Miles hopes to prove it was suicide while the police (the inspector is a wartime colleague) are convinced it was murder. This is described in a goodreads friend’s review as a light-hearted and humorous mystery with some poking fun at the insurance business.

This one’s a relatively recent entrant on my pile, and has been there since last year for a book group read I meant to join in on, but never did get to. I still do hope to revive the discussion threads when I get to it, and I hope this will be sooner than later–the humour in the writing and the fact that it is a husband and wife team that does the detecting make me all more interested in this one.

Have you read this book or any other mysteries by Knox? Which one/s and how did you find them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Cover image and book description via Goodreads and author info from Wikipedia

Lisa’s pick this week is One by One by Ruth Ware, a suspense thriller set in a mountain chalet with eight coworkers out on a retreat, none of whom can trust each other!

10 thoughts on “Shelf Control #183: The Three Taps: A Detective Story Without a Moral by Ronald Knox

  1. I haven’t read any but have another one, The Body in the Silo, on my wishlist as part of my challenge to read all the books in Martin Edwards’s The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. I believe it’s also the same detective duo. They do sound like fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone brought up a Catholic – but one no longer – I only knew of Knox as a theologian, so to find he was a crime writer and formulator of the ten principles for crime fiction was a pleasant surprise. I look forward to your review which will hopefully persuade me to overcome any lingering prejudice!


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