Q. PATRICK – Death Goes to School. Smith & Haas, hardcover, 1936.  Banner Mysteries #2, digest-sized paperback, April 1945.

   Anthony Boucher once mentioned in a letter to John Dickson Carr that it was the authors using the pseudonyms of Q. Patrick, Patrick Quentin, and Jonathan Stagge, who developed a certain gimmick in mystery writing: their books during the 193Os challenge the reader to discover not only who is the murderer but also who is the detective.

   Often, but not always, the narrator is the detective; sometimes the police detective discovers the criminal; occasionally the amateur detective actually, turns out to be the murderer. Even a relatively minor Q. Patrick work like Death Goes to School plays with the reader, and not till the end do we discover who solves the crime.

   The story takes place in an English boarding-school, two of whose students are murdered apparently because their father, an American judge, has passed sentences against some Nazis.  I describe the story as minor because the focus is not always clear and because the surprise ending can be predicted by readers who know Patrick’s tricks.

   But there is much to praise in it, especially the character of St. John Lucas, a schoolboy who (having read Chums and other sensational papers for adolescents) helps unearth evidence. But I like Patrick/Quentin/Stagge so much that even when I can see through their tricks I enjoy their work. Indeed, I am beginning to revel in predicting their gimmicks.

   In short, I recommend Death Goes to School for those who haven’t read enough Patrick to predict the solution, and for those who have reached the point that they positively enjoy outguessing the author.

– Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Volume 4, Number 4 (August 1981).