Martin Edwards , in his excellent The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, devotes Chapter 15 to ‘The Justice Game’ where he examines the following books:
Trial an Error, 1937 by Anthony Berkeley (Arcturus, 2013)
Synopsis: Non-descript, upstanding Mr Todhunter is told that he has only months to live. He decides to commit a murder for the good of mankind. Finding a worthy victim proves far from easy, and there is a false start before he settles on and dispatches his target. But then the police arrest an innocent man, and the honourable Todhunter has to set about proving himself guilty of the murder. Beautifully presented with striking artwork and stylish yet easy-to-read type, avid readers of crime will love reading this gripping, well-written thriller. The appetite for traditional crime fiction has never been stronger, and Arcturus Crime Classics aim to introduce a new generation of readers to some of the great crime writing of the 20th century – especially the so-called ‘golden era’.
About the Author: Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893 – 1971) aka Francis Iles, A Monmouth Platts. 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 twenty-four novels, ten of which feature his amateur detective, Roger Sheringham.
Verdict of Twelve, 1940 by Raymond Postgate (British Library Publishing, 2017)
Synopsis: A woman is on trial for her life, accused of murder. The twelve members of the jury each carry their own secret burden of guilt and prejudice which could affect the outcome. In this extraordinary crime novel, we follow the trial through the eyes of the jurors as they hear the evidence and try to reach a unanimous verdict. Will they find the defendant guilty, or not guilty? And will the jurors’ decision be the correct one? Since its first publication in 1940, Verdict of Twelve has been widely hailed as a classic of British crime writing. This edition offers a new generation of readers the chance to find out why so many leading commentators have admired the novel for so long.
About the Author: Raymond Postgate (1896 – 1971) was born in Cambridge, the eldest son of the classical scholar Professor J.P. Postgate. He was educated at St. John’s College, Oxford. During the First World War he was a conscientious objector and was jailed for two weeks in 1916. He married Daisy Lansbury, the daughter of George Lansbury, pacifist and leader of the Labour Party. His career in journalism started in 1918 and he worked for several Left-wing periodicals. He was also Departmental Editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica for its 1929 edition.
Tragedy at Law, 1942 by Cyril Hare (Faber & Faber, 2011)
Synopsis: Tragedy at Law follows a rather self-important High Court judge, Mr Justice Barber, as he moves from town to town presiding over cases in the Southern England circuit. When an anonymous letter arrives for Barber, warning of imminent revenge, he dismisses it as the work of a harmless lunatic. But then a second letter appears, followed by a poisoned box of the judge’s favourite chocolates, and he begins to fear for his life. Enter barrister and amateur detective Francis Pettigrew, a man who was once in love with Barber’s wife and has never quite succeeded in his profession – can he find out who is threatening Barber before it is too late?
About the Author: Cyril Hare was the pseudonym of Judge Gordon Clark (1900 – 1958) . Born at Mickleham near Dorking, he was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. At the bar his practice was largely in the criminal courts. During the Second World War he was on the staff of the Director of Public Prosecutions; but later, as a County Court judge, his work concerned civil disputes only – and his sole connection with crime was through his fiction. He turned to writing detective stories at the age of thirty-six and some of his first short stories were published in Punch. Hare went on to write a series of detective novels.
Smallbone Deceased, 1950 by Michael Gilbert (British Library Publishing, 2019)
Synopsis: Horniman, Birley and Craine is a highly respected legal firm with clients drawn from the highest in the land. When a deed box in the office is opened to reveal a corpse, the threat of scandal promises to wreak havoc on the firm’s reputation—especially as the murder looks like an inside job. The partners and staff of the firm keep a watchful and suspicious eye on their colleagues, as Inspector Hazlerigg sets out to solve the mystery of who Mr. Smallbone was—and why he had to die. Written with style, pace, and wit, this is a masterpiece by one of the finest writers of traditional British crime novels since the Second World War.
About the Author: Born in Lincolnshire, Michael Francis Gilbert (1912 – 2006) was educated in Sussex before entering the University of London where he gained an LLB with honours in 1937. Gilbert was a founding member of the British Crime Writers Association, and in 1988 he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America – an achievement many thought long overdue. He won the Life Achievement Anthony Award at the 1990 Boucheron in London, and in 1980 he was knighted as a Commander in the Order of the British Empire. Gilbert made his debut in 1947 with Close Quarters, and since then has become recognized as one of our most versatile British mystery writers.
Now I’m reading Smallbone Deceased and I look forward to reading soon the other three. Stay tuned.