Father Knox's Decalogue:
The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction
Monsignor Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957) was a British clergyman, editor, a literary critic, a humourist and a detective story writer himself who nicely laid out, with a gentle wit, the "ten rules" that guided detective fiction in its so-called Golden Age. They appeared in the preface to Best Detective Stories of 1928-29, which Knox edited. I think he was mostly joking...
||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.
||All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
||Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
||No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
||No Chinaman must figure in the story.
||No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
||The detective must not himself commit the crime.
||The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
||The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
||Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Coincidentally, in the eighties, I think it was, Josef Svoresky wrote a mystery entiled The Sins of Father Knox, which set out to deliberately break all these rules. Not that everyone hadn't been gleefully breaking them all along...
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