Friday, 16 September 2011

Forgotten Book - Trial and Error

Another Anthony Berkeley for today's Forgotten Book! And this one is an absolute classic - Trial and Error, first published in 1937, and reissued by Penguin a decade later with an introduction in which Berkeley defends his plot twist which depends upon a private prosecution for murder.

This is, from the opening scene to the twist in the final sentence, a joy to read. It blends humour and mystery with a deep cynicism about justice, politicians, and newspapers. Could have been written yesterday, then!

The set-up is brilliant. Mr Todhunter is terminally ill, so he decides to do the world a kindness by murdering someone who is truly appalling. He carries out his plan, only to find that an innocent person is charged and convicted. When Todhunter confesses, nobody believes him. So he has to prove his guilt - but it turns out to be very tricky to do so. he turns to Ambrose Chitterwick, one of Berkeley's series sleuths, for help.

Berkeley was here at the very top of his form, producing plot twist after plot twist with seemingly effortless skill. Yet within a couple of years, he had given up novel writng for good. He was a real loss to the genre. Some may argue that he was a writer of his time,but I think there's something very contemporary about his best work, which makes it timeless. In my opinion, he wrote four outstanding books, plus some other good ones. This is one of the top four, no question.


Tony Renner said...

Discovered a copy of this in my basement a few weeks back. Don't remember buying it but I'm guessing I was drawn to it by the cover.

Glad I found it, at any rate, because it was most entertaining.

I'm on the lookout for more Anthony Berkeley!

Elizabeth Frengel said...

On your recommendation, Miss Lemon must give Anthony Berkeley a try. She very much enjoyed The Coffin Trail.

Graham Lawler said...

Is it available on the second hand market?

Martin Edwards said...

Tony, glad you liked it.
Miss Lemon, I am most delighted!
Graham, yes, and also print on demand via Langtail. Not a hard book to find, happily.

J said...

By a happy coincidence, I found a copy for myself today!

J said...

By a happy coincidence, I spotted a paperback copy today--remembering this discussion, I grabbed it!