Anthony Berkeley (1893 – 1971)


anthony berkeleyBorn in 1893, Anthony Berkeley (Anthony Berkeley Cox) was a British crime writer and a leading member of the genre’s Golden Age. Educated at Sherborne School and University College London, Berkeley served in the British army during WWI before becoming a journalist. His first novel, The Layton Court Murders, was published anonymously in 1925. It introduced Roger Sheringham, the amateur detective who features in many of the author’s novels including the classic The Poisoned Chocolates Case. In 1930, Berkeley founded the legendary Detection Club in London along with Agatha Christie, Freeman Wills Crofts and other established mystery writers. It was in 1938, under the pseudonym Francis Iles (which Berkeley also used for novels) that he took up work as a book reviewer for John O’London’s Weekly and The Daily Telegraph. He later wrote for The Sunday Times in the mid 1940s, and then for The Guardian from the mid 1950s until 1970. A key figure in the development of crime fiction, he died in 1971. (Source: Amazon)

Anthony Berkeley Cox tends to be mostly remembered for the first two of his “sophisticated,” psychological “Francis Iles” novels, Malice Aforethought (1931) and Before the Fact (1932). As for the more numerous crime novels Cox wrote under the name “Anthony Berkeley,” the great standouts traditionally have been The Poisoned Chocolates Case, a stunt story much praised by Julian Symons and others, and the clever criminal and judicial extravaganza Trial and Error (1937), in my opinion Cox’s magnum opus. Little of the rest of Cox’s output gets much notice, though in my view some of it, particularly Top Storey Murder (1931), Jumping Jenny (1933) and Not to be Taken (1938), is excellent. (Curt J. Evans)

For further information read:

The Urbane Innovator: Anthony Berkeley, Aka Francis Iles by Martin Edwards 

Elusion Aforethought: The Life and Writing of Anthony Berkeley Cox (1996) by Malcolm J. Turnbull by Kate Jackson

Ranking the Work of Anthony Berkeley by Kate Jackson.

A Selected Anthony Berkeley reading list

Roger Sheringham series: The Layton Court Mystery [published anonymously] (1925); The Wychford Poisoning Case (1926); Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery aka The Mystery at Lover’s Cave (1927); The Silk Stocking Murders (1928); The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929); The Second Shot (1930); Top Storey Murder (1931); Murder in the Basement (1932); Jumping Jenny aka Dead Mrs. Stratton (1933); Panic Party aka  Mr. Pidgeon’s Island (1934); and The Avenging Chance and Other Mysteries From Roger Sheringham’s Casebook (2004).

Novels as Francis Iles: Malice Aforethought (1931); Before the Fact (1931); The Rattenbury Case (1936); and As for the Woman (1939).

Other Crime Novels: The Professor On Paws (1926); Cicely Disappears as A. Monmouth Platts (1927); Mr. Priestley’s Problem aka The Amateur Crime as A.B. Cox (1927); The Piccadilly Murder (1929); The Policeman Only Taps Once (1936); Trial and Error (1937); Not to Be Taken aka A Puzzle in Poison (1938); and Death in the House (1939). (Source: The Urbane Innovator: Anthony Berkeley, Aka Francis Iles by Martin Edwards).

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Collins Detective Novel (UK), 1929)

Once Mr Chitterwick had given his evidence, thus clarifying that the elderly lady’s death was murder and not suicide, it appeared a straightforward case. He had seen something being put into the lady’s coffee cup, after all. But then friends and relatives of the accused appeal to Mr Chitterwick, claiming him incapable of such a crime. As Mr Chitterwick investigates, doubts begin to surface, until more evidence arises to hint at a more complicated set of occurrences… (The Langtail Press).

The Piccadilly Murder has been reviewed, among others, at crossexaminingcrime, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, The View from the Blue House, and The Grandest Game in the World.

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