Magazine article The Spectator

Plagued by Plagiarism

Magazine article The Spectator

Plagued by Plagiarism

Article excerpt

AND THEN THERE WAS NO ONE by Gilbert Adair Faber, £14.99, pp. 258, ISBN 9780571238811 £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

And Then There Was No One is a metaphysical murder mystery, a deconstructionist detective story, a postmodern puzzle -- all of which could, very, very easily, become as arch and wearisome as persistent alliteration.But Gilbert Adair -- though fantastically clever-clever, and horribly addicted not only to alliteration but also to puns and to literary in-jokes so self-referential that he is perpetually disappearing up his own recto (oh dear, his style is catching) -- has created a hugely enjoyable entertainment.

And Then There Was No One is billed as the third in Gilbert Adair's 'Evadne Mount Trilogy'. Evadne Mount was the booming and betweeded crime-writer-turneddetective who stomped onto the stage, in shoes 'so sensible you felt like consulting them on whether you should cash in your shares in Amalgamated Copper', in Adair's spoof Agatha Christie novels, The Act of Roger Murgatroyd and A Mysterious Affair of Style. Every Christie reader will spot those parodies of genuine titles; and the title of And Then There Was No One promises more of the same (And Then There Were None was the American title for Ten Little Niggers, or, in semi-sanitised later editions, Indians).

Yet the first Evadne Mount murder mystery was set in the 1930s, and the second a decade later (though, true to Christie conventions, the detective and her side-kick appeared to have aged not at all in the interim). And Then There Was No One, however, is set, as the first paragraph informs us, in 2011, when 'Gustav Slavorigin ... was murdered in the small Swiss town of Meiringen on the third day of its Sherlock Holmes festival', to which Gilbert Adair has been invited as a guest speaker. If Evadne Mount is to be drafted in to solve this case, she must be pushing 120, yet prepared only in one sense to meet her maker.

When Gilbert Adair has given his reading of a spoof Sherlock Holmes story ('The Giant Rat of Sumatra', no less, the missing tale 'for which' Holmes said in 'The Sussex Vampire', 'the world is not yet prepared'), Evadne Mount leaps up in the audience to accuse him of self-plagiarism: is she the 'real' prototype of his character, or the 'actual' character come to disconcerting life? …

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