Msgr. Ronald A. Knox
Created as a set of bylaws for the famous
these "Ten Commandments" served as a codex for the Club as
well as a general code for the writing of detective fiction.
The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story,
but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow;
II. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course;
III. No more than one secret room or passage is allowable. I would add that a secret passage should not be brought in at all unless the action takes place in the kind of house where such devices might be expected;
IV. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end;
V. No Chinaman must figure into the story*;
VI. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right;
VII. The detective must not, himself, commit the crime;
VIII. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader;
IX. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but only very slightly, below that of the average reader;
X. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them
*In Msgr. Knox's time, one of the most overused plot mechanisms was the introduction of "a Chinaman" or other foreign, exotic or otherwise unusual character from "another land" as the malefactor. This comment was not intended as a "racist" one, but as a reaction to this plotting mechanism.