This year I’m reading my way through the mystery section, A-Z. Read along, won’t you?
I’ve just had the best time reading E.C. Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case, a beguiling whodunit that prefigured crime’s Golden Age. It is 1913, and detectives are very much dominated by Sherlock Holmes and his countless imitators, such long forgotten ratiocinators as Sexton Blake, Duckworth Drewe, Romney Pringle and Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, aka the Thinking Machine.
Philip Trent is introduced to us as yet another instance of the World’s Greatest Detective, celebrated for his keen artist’s eye for clues, embarking on his umpteenth adventure to discover how American magnate Sigsby Manderson, a thoroughly dislikeable millionaire with many potential assassins, wound up shot through the eye, dressed to the nines but for the omission of his false teeth. Trent’s reputation is prodigious; the police know him and are resigned to doggedly digging for clues while he runs mental rings around them. Even the sexy French chambermaid recognizes him at a distance. A journalist, amateur sleuth and gentleman of independent means, Trent is perhaps remarkable for his urbane wit (and for noticing the French chambermaid right back), but otherwise seems to be one more latter day Holmes off the rack.
But the plot grows curiouser and curiouser, and predictable stratagems collapse under their own ponderous weight, while – can it be? Is our famous sleuth becoming infatuated with the prime suspect? Could such a brilliant mind be subjugated to the errant demands of a wayward heart? Could it possibly be that the world’s greatest sleuth is… human? Oh yes indeed. And just possibly fallible Continue reading “Crime: The Singular Pleasures of E.C. Bentley”