A crime novel by Chekhov? Professor John Sutherland positively chortles in the introduction at his readers’ likely surprise. Indeed, any novel by Chekhov is probably news for those readers, and Sutherland, who delights in literary mysteries, waves in front of our eyes the date of the only previous translation: 1962. It was the date of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, whose sensational solution this novel anticipates.
And he has a point, even if he does refer to Hercule Poirot as an ‘amateur sleuth’: The Shooting Party is awash with tricks of the detective-story trade, then (1885) in its infancy. We have ominous peeps forward — with reference to a ‘terrible disaster’ to come, a ‘presentiment of the imminent, inevitable denouement’ and so on; we get the traditional reference to the ‘stray tramp’ who must have done the murder, and those radical misjudgments of characters and situations that are obvious to the reader but not to any character in the novel.