#951: Murder in the Basement (1932) by Anthony Berkeley

Murder in the Basement

star filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
One of my very favourite detective fiction tropes is the Unidentified Corpse.  It’s at the heart of my favourite E.C.R. Lorac book, one of my favourite Freeman Wills Crofts books, and as a mainstay of the work of R. Austin Freeman is put to wonderful use both traditional and inverted. Murder in the Basement (1932) by Anthony Berkeley also invents the Whowasdunin?, giving us a cast of characters from which the corpse will be produced, and not divulging the identity of the victim until the halfway point. Thankfully, given Berkeley’s tendency to commit to a thought experiment regardless of whether the book that comes out of it is any good, he’s also written an entertaining and very witty novel along the way.

Continue reading

#897: Jumping Jenny, a.k.a. Dead Mrs. Stratton (1933) by Anthony Berkeley

star filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
Soren Kierkegaard said that life is to be lived forwards but only understood backwards, and the same is true of my reading Anthony Berkeley Cox. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read the majority of Cox’s novels, but only in revisiting them — with, admittedly, a firmer grounding in the detective genre’s Golden Age which he explored so rigorously in a staggeringly small number of books — do I appreciate what he was trying to do. Jumping Jenny, a.k.a. Dead Mrs. Stratton (1933), for example, is the inversion of every novel of detection written to that point and a vast majority of those written since, and only in seeing this did I finally understand just how damn good it is.

Continue reading

#855: The Wintringham Mystery, a.k.a. Cicely Disappears (1927) by Anthony Berkeley [a.p.a. by A. Monmouth Platts]

Wintringham Mystery

star filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filled
Even though — or perhaps, because — I’m a fan of Anthony Berkeley Cox’s work, I approach him with some trepidation. At his best you get the innovative brilliance of The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929), while among his failures is the repetitious turgidity of The Second Shot (1930) or Not to be Taken (1938).  Thankfully, The Wintringham Mystery (1927), originally serialised in the Daily Mirror in 1926 before being reworked as a novel, falls squarely in the former camp: a witty, playful, brisk Country House puzzler bafflingly out of print for nearly a century that’s so good it would justify a full reprint of the man’s work on its own.

Continue reading

In GAD We Trust – Episode 26: The Maxims of Misdirection

I’m as surprised as you to see a new episode of my In GAD We Trust podcast, especially as I said on Thursday that there was unlikely to be one this weekend — well, okay, perhaps a I’m little less surprised than you, since I (sort of) planned, recorded, and (sort of) edited this, but you get the idea. However, on Thursday everything (sort of) came together and I was able to record this almost in one take and so here we are.

Continue reading

In GAD We Trust – Episode 21: The Diversity of Approaches to Detective Fiction [w’ Martin Edwards]

The detective fiction genre is built around the essential structure of a crime, an investigation of that crime, and the revelation of the guilty party who committed the crime, and good heavens didn’t the Golden Age map out a lot of different ways to walk that path. And there are few people better placed to discuss this than President of the Detection Club and recent recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger Martin Edwards, who celebrates three decades as a published author this year.

Continue reading