P.G. Wodehouse wrote a number of stories with a crime element, and admired Agatha Christie. She liked his work, too, and it’s a pity the two of them never collaborated. Had they done so, they might have come up with a book as good as The Poisoned Chocolates Case, by Anthony Berkeley.
This whodunit is a classic of the genre, which I first read many years ago. I decided to take another look at it, and found it was at least as good as I remembered - which is saying something. It’s clever and witty and quite unique.
Its genesis was a short story called ‘The Avenging Chance’. In the novel, written in 1929, Berkeley has the six members of the Crimes Circle (based, no doubt, on the then embryonic Detection Club) come up with different solutions to the puzzle of who killed Joan Bendix. Roger Sheringham’s solution derives from the short story – but here it isn’t the right answer to the puzzle. There are, in fact, two more twists in store.
In 1979 Christianna Brand came up with yet another solution. All this makes Berkeley’s point, that the solutions to a fictional mystery are potentially endless. I love the way he keeps shifting the kaleidoscope in this story. It deserves its status as a masterpiece of the Golden Age.