Friday, June 5, 2015

The Woman in Black by E.C. Bentley

After three atrociously-written books in a row, what a joy to find a novel that opened like this:

Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely? When the scheming, idomitable brain of Sigsbee Manderson was scattered by shot from an unknown hand, that world lost nothing worth a single tear.

These lines from The Woman in Black hinted of gentle wisdom, good writing and a ripping good tale. I was immediately drawn into a story that never once made me stumble (over clumsy phrasing) or murder me with boredom (uninteresting characters). Need I even mention that it was written by a Britisher and in an era when people still knew how to string their sentences together (1913)? Oh, and it's dedicated to G.K. Chesterton, which further intrigued me.

World famous financier, Sigbee Manderson, is murdered on the grounds of his palacial home and Philip Trent is called in to investigate. He gathers an astonishing number of clues, which clearly point to the murderer, but for reasons I can't divulge, he decides not to arrest him. Later he discovers that his case isn't as "open and shut" as he thought it was. There are some wonderful twists.

Like, Lord Peter Wimsy, Trent is an amateur gentleman sleuth. He is no stuff shirt, though. His ability to joke and to quote poetry (mangling it to fit the situation) made him particularly endearing.

The book is more popularly titled, Trent's Last Case. The sequel, Trent's Own Case was written 23 years later. Sadly, they are the only two novels in the series (though there were short stories) I really enjoyed this and will be looking for the second book via library loan.

Note: By the original title, this is free for Kindle. By the newer title, it's 99 cents.

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