Tuesday 5 July 2011 16.33 BST
Luminaries including Jeffery Deaver, Kathy Reichs and Faye Kellerman have contributed to No Rest for the Dead
It's the literary world's version of consequences: from Alexander McCall Smith to Kathy Reichs, 26 bestselling crime writers have teamed up to create the multi-authored mystery No Rest for the Dead.
Published later this week, the authors – who also include Raymond Khoury, RL Stine, Faye Kellerman, Tess Gerritsen and Jeffery Deaver – have taken it in turns to write the novel's chapters, pulling together the story of Jon Nunn, a detective haunted by a case he thought he'd cracked 10 years earlier. Nunn becomes convinced that Rosemary Thomas, executed for the brutal murder of her husband, was actually innocent. When he discovers that a memorial service is being planned for Rosemary, with all the other suspects on the guest list, he realises it is the ideal opportunity to find out who really did the deed.
British crime author Peter James, chair of the UK's Crime Writers' Association, contributed a crucial chapter to the novel, in which a decade-old diary is discovered, providing vital clues. "The hard thing was not knowing what any of the characters were like – none of us saw what the others had written," said James. "I'm a very detailed plotter. A big part of my writing technique is seeding things into each chapter, and it was hard to not have that flexibility – I was writing it in a complete void. In a way it was harder than I thought, but in a way it was liberating."
Provided with just the outlines of his scene, James compared the experience to a paint-by-numbers painting, as well as to the parlour game of consequences, in which a story is created word by word by a group of people. "It's amazing though – it actually works," he said. "It shows most thriller writers think in a similar, Machiavellian way."
The novel, which is published by Simon & Schuster, is the brainchild of Andrew Gulli, editor of US crime fiction specialist Strand Magazine, who said it was the first time so many major bestselling authors have been involved in a single project. Gulli edited the book with his sister Lamia, and has also contributed several chapters to the novel. The siblings will donate all their proceeds to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society.
"The line-up of writers who have contributed to this mystery is akin to the Murderers' Row of the 1927 New York Yankees ... While they each deliver their own signature brand of storytelling to the novel, it is startling how these writers, several of whom are friends of mine, have woven a yarn that seems to be the product of one mind, one imagination (albeit schizophrenic), and one on steroids of such strength that even Major League Baseball would ban them, and that is indeed saying something," writes author David Baldacci in an introduction to the novel. "Yet I will add that if you were expecting an Agatha Christie ending where Poirot or Marple stands up, calmly lays out the case, and reveals the true murderer, you're in for a shock. The creators have, collectively, another denouement in mind. And in my humble opinion it's a twist that is so original you won't have to concern yourself with bragging on your blog about how you figured it all out long before the conclusion. Well, I guess you still can, but you'd be lying."