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Anthony Berkeley (1893–1971)

Author of The Poisoned Chocolates Case

41+ Works 2,398 Members 100 Reviews 5 Favorited

About the Author

A journalist as well as a novelist, Anthony Berkeley was a founding member of the Detection Club and one of crime fiction's greatest innovators. He was one of the first to predict the development of the 'psychological' crime novel and he sometimes wrote under the pseudonym of Francis Iles. He wrote show more twenty-four novels, ten of which feature his amateur detective, Roger Sheringham show less

Series

Works by Anthony Berkeley

The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) 567 copies
Malice Aforethought (1931) 393 copies
Before the Fact (1931) 250 copies
Trial and Error (1937) 179 copies
Jumping Jenny (1933) 141 copies
The Piccadilly Murder (1929) 103 copies
The Silk Stocking Murders (1928) 102 copies
The Layton Court Mystery (1925) 100 copies
The Wintringham Mystery (1927) 100 copies
Murder in the Basement (1932) 98 copies
The Wychford Poisoning Case (1926) 45 copies
The Second Shot (1930) 44 copies
Not To Be Taken (1937) 44 copies

Associated Works

The Floating Admiral (1931) — Contributor — 796 copies
The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories (1990) — Contributor — 400 copies
The Scoop & Behind the Screen (1930) — Contributor — 211 copies
Ask a Policeman (1933) — Contributor — 192 copies
Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (2016) — Contributor — 165 copies
Six Against the Yard (1936) — Contributor — 157 copies
Capital Crimes: London Mysteries (2015) — Contributor — 153 copies
Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries (2015) — Contributor — 147 copies
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories (2015) — Contributor — 137 copies
Bodies from the Library (2018) — Contributor — 118 copies
Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes (2016) — Contributor — 103 copies
Tales of Detection (1940) — Contributor — 56 copies
The Anatomy of Murder (1936) — Contributor — 55 copies
Three famous murder novels (1941) — Contributor — 43 copies
65 Great Murder Mysteries (1983) — Contributor; Contributor — 41 copies
Bodies from the Library 3 (2020) — Contributor — 41 copies
Murder in Midwinter (2020) — Contributor — 34 copies
The Vintage Book of Classic Crime (1993) — Contributor — 33 copies
Murder Short & Sweet (2008) — Contributor; Contributor — 28 copies
Murder Takes a Holiday (2020) — Contributor — 28 copies
The Great Book of Thrillers (1935) — Contributor — 27 copies
The Boys' Second Book of Great Detective Stories (1940) — Contributor — 24 copies
Detective Mysteries Short Stories (Gothic Fantasy) (2019) — Contributor — 22 copies
The Pocket Book of Great Detectives (1941) — Contributor — 22 copies
Great Tales of Detection (1936) — Contributor — 21 copies
Murder by the Seaside (2022) — Contributor — 21 copies
A Century of Detective Stories (1935) — Contributor — 20 copies
The World's Best One Hundred Detective Stories, Volume 2 (1929) — Contributor — 17 copies
Fifty Masterpieces of Mystery (1937) — Contributor — 13 copies
The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 2004 - The Last 'Queer Stories from Truth' (2004) — Contributor; Contributor, some editions — 8 copies
13 Ways to Kill a Man (1966) — Contributor — 7 copies
The Black Cabinet (1989) — Contributor — 7 copies
Classic stories of crime and detection (1976) — Contributor — 4 copies
Best Detective Stories, Second Series — Contributor — 4 copies
Piirakkasota : Valikoima huumoria — Contributor — 3 copies
Best Stories of the Underworld (1942) — Contributor — 3 copies
Great Stories of Detection (1960) — Contributor — 2 copies
Antoloxia Do Relato Policial (aula Das Letras) (2013) — Author, some editions — 1 copy
Missing From Their Homes — Contributor — 1 copy

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Reviews

Anthony Berkeley originally published this as a serialised story titled Cicely Disappears in the Daily Mail, under his pseudonym, A Monmouth Platts. It remained out of print for years, until it was reissued in 2021 by the Collins Crime Club. A classic, country house mystery, that typifies the Golden Age of Crime Writing in English, it nonetheless raises some uncomfortable questions for the reader about class and wealth, antisemitism, and other forms of implicit prejudices.

In The Wintringham Mystery, we begin with our protagonist, Stephen Munro, who, having returned from military service, squanders his fortune and consequently finds himself impoverished. The opening scene consists of Munro relating to Bridger, his valet (and former orderly, in the military) that he has to let him go as he can no longer afford to pay his salary. Instead, Munro has - horror of horrors - found himself a job, as a footman, in the house of Lady Susan Carey, an elderly, wealthy woman with a country estate. In a deeply uncomfortable scene that was clearly written to be funny, Munro repeatedly mocks Bridger for failing to react with adequate shock and astonishment to this fall in his employer's status; today, we know that Bridger's lack of response may not only be due to the emotional deficits that Munro attributes to him, but also to the fact that he is currently employed by Munro, and bound by conventions of class that will become more apparent as we go on. If I'm to be uncharitable, I could also say that Bridger isn't particularly shocked by the concept of working for a living, more generally. In a touching display of devotion (or lack of self esteem), Bridger refuses to take Munro's recommendation letter and find himself another valet position, and instead accompanies him to Lady Susan's house, where he takes, I imagine, a substantial paycut, to work as under-gardener.

At Lady Susan's, Munro has difficulty adjusting to being a footman, after having been a gentleman of leisure. The hours are long; the butler, Mr. Martin, does not take a shine to him, and Lady Susan informs him that his name is now William ("We always call the footman 'William'). Lady Susan's upcoming weekend party entails a lot of work, and Munro is clearly unaccustomed to work. When the butler, Martin, lists out his duties, Munro marvels, "It seems to me that the footman's life is not an idle one." Oh, I wanted to smack him! His life is further complicated by the arrival of two people he knew from his former life: Freddie Venables, Lady Susan's nephew and Munro's former classmate from school, and Pauline Mainwaring, his former fiance. In response to Munro's fall from status, they respond differently. Freddie continues to awkwardly treat Munro as an old friend even as Munro serves him drinks, attempts to valet him and carries his luggage; Freddie keeps getting in his way, treating Munro like an old friend (who happens to be cleaning silverware, I don't know) and drawing Lady Susan's ire. Pauline Mainwaring cuts him dead. It turns out she is engaged again, this time to a wealthy financier, who is naturally, Sir Julius Hammerstein, and in accordance with Golden Age Mystery writers' tendencies towards anti-semitism, described unkindly and with reference to all the usual stereotypes. At the garden party are a cast of characters with all sorts of motives and intentions. It doesn't take long before Freddie Venables blurts out to the others that Munro is one of them, albeit in footman's livery, having fallen on hard times. The result is an awkward, un-party like situation: Pauline unbends and chats with him normally, the others refuse to be valeted by one of their own class, unpacking their own clothes, and Munro speaks with as he would normally, even though he's dressed in a footman's livery.

The plot get started with two key developments. The first, is that Cicely, Lady Susan's beloved niece, vanishes. At the start of the book she is evidently distraught and upset about something undisclosed. She initially skips the party to go sailing with friends, but then changes her mind and returns. During an attempted seance (rich people goofing around), the lights are turned off, and when they come back on, she's disappeared. Meanwhile, the butler, increasingly resentful at the way Munro is treated with casual friendliness by the guests, unlike all the other servants, complains to Lady Susan about him. So does Sir Julius Hammerstein, who doesn't like his fiance, Pauline and her ex-fiance, Munro resuming a friendship. Lady Susan decides to solve both problems with one stone: she fires Munro as a footman and rehires him as a detective. Munro moves out of servants quarters into a bedroom in the same house and proceeds to spend the rest of the book ineptly investigating Cicely's disappearance, and trying to decide how he can have his Pauline back, when he's unable to support her in the lifestyle within which she (and he) were raised.

The resolution of the mystery is sufficiently twisty: when first published, the Mail offered prizes for anyone who could solve it before the last chapter was out, and among the unsuccessful applicants was Agatha Christie. While entertaining enough, it is difficult for the modern reader to get around the deep-rooted classism, resting on an implicit, unstated assumption about the intellectual and moral superiority of the rich (in case you were wondering, yes [spoilers for the ending a servant committed the various crimes in the book ]. When Pauline tells Munro that she won't mind being a poor man's wife, and cooking and cleaning, he disputes it, telling her that her enthusiasm will eventually wear off, and she'll grow to resent him and the domestic labor. I'd imagine the very stoic Bridger might have had something to say about that, atleast internally, but instead, he is her "servant for life," because she once greeted him politely and shook his hand. To sum up, the mystery is a nice puzzle, the rest of the book is just out of sync with today's times.
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rv1988 | 2 other reviews | Feb 16, 2024 |
 
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Overgaard | 4 other reviews | Feb 6, 2024 |
wish I'd had this in book form rather than Libby - so much easier to read - but either way the last page was the funniest of any book I've read in years
 
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Overgaard | 8 other reviews | Feb 4, 2024 |
Audiobook

5-star narration from Mike Grady. I'll be looking for more of his narrations.

I found the story itself a bit confusing as I kept losing track of the characters when they switched between surname and forename. This was possibly because I was listening in 'episodes' as I was out walking. I did feel that it was quite drawn out with each character in turn being highlighted as 'the villain' and then dismissed. I don't know whether I will listen to this again.
 
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Kindleifier | 2 other reviews | Nov 19, 2023 |

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