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Mystery Monday – Trent’s Own Case

Trent’s Own Case by Edmund Clerihew Bentley

 

Review by Thomas F. (hardtack)

 

Don’t you just hate those detectives who walk into a room and, after a few seconds, tell you that the murder was committed by a 5-foot-tall, left-handed, out-of-work, ironworker from Liverpool who had fish and chips for supper two hours before committing the crime? Well, you are not alone. E.C. Bentley, a popular English novelist and humorist of the early twentieth century, felt the same way.

As a protest against Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes” and the imitators who copied Doyle’s formula, Bentley invented ‘Philip Trent,’ an artist and journalist who solves cases on demand for the paper he works for, sometimes without even visiting the scene of the crime.

Unlike Holmes, Trent actually respects his Scotland Yard opposite, although there is some friendly rivalry there. Also unlike Holmes, Trent often jokes during his investigations. And sometimes the joke is on him.

Yes, Trent can tell you who last wore the victim’s shoes, whose fingerprints on the fingerbowl revealed how the killer escaped, and why the victim’s dental plate was left in the water-filled glass. But solve the crime….. Well, you need to decide, for that is the crux of the novel.

Bentley only wrote two novels about Trent. But this, the first, is considered by many to be the first ‘truly modern mystery.” My copy has an introduction by Dorothy Sayers, who praises the book. Agatha Christie called it “One of the three best detective stories ever written.” Published in 1913, Trent’s Last Case was followed by a sequel in 1936 and a series of short stories in 1938.

As I write this, there are at least three copies of Trent’s Last Case posted on PBS, so have at it.

 

 

 

 

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