My Book Notes: Jumping Jenny, 1933 (Roger Sheringham Cases #9) by Anthony Berkeley


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The British Library, 2022. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 5669 KB. Print Length: 250 pages. ASIN: B09PVF8X5J. eISBN: 978-0-7123-6719-6. With an Introduction by Martin Edwards, 2022. Originally published in 1933 by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK and by Doubleday as Dead Mrs Stratton in the US

51CLAgstuzL._SY346_Book Description: At a costume party with the dubious theme of ‘famous murderers and their victims’, the know-it-all amateur criminologist Roger Sheringham is settled in for an evening of beer, small talk and analysing his companions. One guest in particular has caught his attention for her theatrics, and his theory that she might have several enemies among the partygoers proves true when she is found hanging from the ‘decorative’ gallows on the roof terrace.

Noticing a key detail which could implicate a friend in the crime, Sheringham decides to meddle with the scene and unwittingly casts himself into jeopardy as the uncommonly thorough police investigation circles closer and closer to the truth. Tightly paced and cleverly defying the conventions of the classic detective story, this 1933 novel remains a milestone of the inverted mystery subgenre.

My Take: Jumping Jenny is an inverted mystery set during a masquerade ball hosted by Ronald Stratton, a detective story writer. The masquerade ball has been organised under the theme “murderers and their victims” and, among the guests, we can find  the famous criminologist Roger Sheringham. The title of the book, we soon learn, is taken from Stevenson in ‘Catriona’. Cox uses a clever device to introduce the main characters involved in the plot. With so many strangers, Sheringham finds it difficult to remember their names and decides to write them down in his notebook. Thus, his list goes roughly like this: Ronald Stratton; his brother, David Stratton; Ena Stratton (Mrs David Stratton); Miss Celia Stratton, sister to Ronald and David; Margot Stratton, ex-Mrs Ronald Stratton; Dr and Mrs Chalmers; Dr and Mrs Mitchell; Mr and Mrs Williamson; Mrs Lefroy; and Colin Nicolson.

During the course of the evening, Ena Stratton puts herself in evidence before the rest of the guests with a histrionic and theatrical behaviour. She enjoys accusing everyone of making her life miserable, twists the truth and threatens to commit suicide. But later, the party ends tragically when Mrs. David Stratton is found dead, hanging from the ‘decorative’ gallows on the roof terrace, at the site of the jumping jenny.

The next sentence comes to summarise fairly well, in my view, the essence of the story. An idea that seems to me a recurring theme in Anthony Berkeley novels.

“That was the trouble with the old-fashioned detective-story,” said Roger, somewhat didactically. “One deduction only was drawn from each fact, and it was invariably the right deduction. The Great Detective of the past certainly had luck. In real life one can draw a hundred plausible deductions from one fact, and they’re all equally wrong. …”

To wrap it up, I would like to add that Anthony Berkeley offers the reader a large dose of intrigue and suspense throughout this story and even reserves some surprises for the last couple of chapters. Frankly speaking, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Jumping Jenny is one of his best crime novels, if not the best so far, even above the excellent The Case of the Poisoned Chocolates. As such, it deserves to be better known, and I strongly recommend it.

Jumping Jenny has been reviewed, among others, by Martin Edwards at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Karyn Reeves at A Penguin a Week, Les Blatt at Classic Mysteries, Steve Lewis at Mystery File, Kate Jackson at Cross-examining Crime (I) and again at Cross-examining Crime (II), Moira Redmond at Clothes in Books, thegreecapsule at The Green Capsule, fictionfan at Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews, Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, Brad at Ah Sweet Mystery!, Steve Barge at  In Search of the Classic Mystery, and Aidan Brack at Mysteries Ahoy!

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Hodder & Stoughton (UK), 1933)

208

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Doubleday The Crime Club (USA), 1933)

About the Author: Anthony Berkeley, whose real name was Anthony Berkeley Cox, was a popular British satirical journalist, crime and mystery writer, and literary critic who wrote under the pseudonyms Francis Iles, Anthony Berkeley, and A. Monmouth Platts.

Born in Watford, Hertfordshire on 5 July 1893, he was the son of Alfred Edward Cox, a doctor who invented a kind of X-ray machine that allowed shrapnel to be detected in wounded patients, and Sybil Cox (née Iles), who claimed descent from the 17th-century Earl of Monmouth and a smuggler named Francis Iles. The family inheritance included two estates in Watford: Monmouth House and The Platts. Cox was educated at Sherborne School and University College, Oxford. With the outbreak of the First World War, he enlisted, attained the rank of lieutenant in the 7th Northumberland Regiment and was gassed in France. Invalided out of the army, his health was seriously affected for the rest of his life. Details about his professional life in the years immediately after the war are somewhat sketchy. As time went by he devoted himself more and more to writing.

Cox married twice, the first with Margaret Farrar when he was on leave in London in December 1917. Although their marriage did not last long, they did not divorced until 1931 and Margaret Cox remarried. Apparently their breakup was amicable. The second in 1932 with Helen Peters (née MacGregor), the ex-wife of his literary agent, A. D. Peters. He has no children from either of his two marriages, although Helen brought her two children by Peters with her. His second marriage broke up in the late 1940s, and their parting again appears to have been reasonably amicable.

Cox’s professional writing career began around 1922, writing satirical stories for Punch and other popular publications. His first detective novel, The Layton Court Mystery, was published anonymously in 1925. In a period of fifteen years, between 1925 and 1939, Cox published twenty-four books, including fourteen classic full-length detective stories and two sublime phycological thrillers.

In 1930, Berkeley founded the legendary Detection Club in London together with leading practitioners of the genre, such as Gilbert K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, R. Austin Freeman, Baroness Orczy and Dorothy L. Sayers. In fact, the Crimes Circle in The Poisoned Chocolates Case can rightly be considered a predecessor of the Detection Club in fiction.

After 1939, Cox decided to stop writing fiction for reasons that are still subject to speculation. For the next thirty years his literary output was limited to book reviews for the Sunday Times and the Manchester Guardian. Considered a key figure in the development of crime fiction, Anthony Berkeley Cox died at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, on 9 March 1971. On his death certificate his name was mistakenly recorded as Anthony Beverley Cox.

Crime Fiction Stories Bibliography:

Roger Sheringham series: The Layton Court Mystery published as by “?” (Herbert Jenkins, 1925; Doubleday, 1929); The Wychford Poisoning Case: An Essay in Criminology published as by the author of The Layton Court Mystery (Collins, 1926; Doubleday, 1930); Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery (Collins, 1927; reprinted by Collins as The Vane Mystery; US title: The Mystery at Lovers’ Cave, Simons & Schuster, 1927); The Silk Stocking Murders (Collins, 1928; Doubleday, 1928); The Poisoned Chocolates Case (Collins, 1929; Doubleday, 1929); The Second Shot (Hodder & Stoughton, 1930; Doubleday, 1931); Top Storey Murder (Hodder, 1931; US title: Top Story Murder, Doubleday, 1931); Murder in the Basement (Hodder, 1932; Doubleday, 1932); Jumping Jenny (Hodder, 1933; US title: Dead Mrs. Stratton, Doubleday, 1933); Panic Party (Hodder, 1934; US title: Mr. Pidgeon’s Island, Doubleday, 1934); and The Avenging Chance and Other Mysteries from Roger Sheringham’s Casebook (Crippen & Landru, 2004); 2nd edition with an additional story (Crippen & Landru, 2015).

Other Crime Novels: Cicely Disappears published as by A. Monmouth Platts (John Long, 1927, a shorter version appeared as a serial, The Wintringham Mystery, as by A.B. Cox, in The Daily Mirror); Mr Priestley’s Problem published as by A.B. Cox (Collins, 1927; US title: The Amateur Crime (Doubleday, 1928), The Piccadilly Murder (Collins, 1929; Doubleday, 1930); Trial and Error (Hodder, 1937; Doubleday, 1937); Not to Be Taken (Hodder, 1938; US title: A Puzzle in Poison (Doubleday, 1938); and Death in the House (Hodder, 1939; Doubleday, 1939).

Novels as Francis Iles: Malice Aforethought: The Story of a Commonplace Crime (Gollancz, 1931; Harper, 1931); Before the Fact: A Murder Story for Ladies (Gollancz, 1932; Doubleday, 1932); and As for the Woman: A Love Story (Jarrolds, 1939; Doubleday, 1939)

Collaborative works with members of the Detection Club: The Floating Admiral (Hodder, 1931; Doubleday, 1932); Ask a Policemen (Barker, 1933; Morrow, 1933); Six Against the Yard (Selwyn & Blount, 1936; US title: Six Against Scotland Yard, Doubleday, 1936); and The Scoop and Behind the Screen (both collaborative detective serials written by members of the Detection Club which were broadcast weekly by their authors on the BBC National Programme in 1930 and 1931 with the scripts then being published in The Listener within a week after broadcast. The two serials were first published in book form in the UK by Victor Gollancz Ltd in 1983 and in the US by Harper & Row in 1984)

Further reading: Elusion Aforethought: The Life and Writing of Anthony Berkeley Cox by Malcolm J. Turnbull (Bowling Green State University Press, 1996); The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (Harper Collins, 2015)

A more detailed bibliography of Anthony Berkeley Cox can be found here.

The British Library publicity page

Ranking the Work of Anthony Berkeley by Kate Jackson

Baile de máscaras, de Anthony Berkeley (Versal, 1988)

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Descripción del libro: En una fiesta de disfraces con el cuestionable tema de “famosos asesinos y sus víctimas”, el sabelotodo criminólogo aficionado Roger Sheringham se prepara para una velada de cerveza y conversaciones triviales, analizando a sus compañeros. Una invitada en particular ha llamado su atención por su teatralidad, y su teoría de que podría tener varios enemigos entre los asistentes a la fiesta resulta cierta cuando la encuentran muerta colgada de la horca ‘decorativa’ en la terraza de la azotea.

Al darse cuenta de un detalle clave que podría implicar a un amigo suyo en el crimen, Sheringham decide inmiscuirse en el escenario y, sin saberlo, se pone en peligro a medida que la minuciosa investigación policial se aproxima cada vez más a la verdad. Esta novela de 1933, de ritmo firme y que desafía inteligentemente las convenciones de la clásica historia de detectives, sigue siendo un hito en el subgénero de novela policiaca invertida.

Mi opinión: Baile de máscaras (Jumping Jenny en el original) es un misterio invertido ambientado durante un baile de máscaras organizado por Ronald Stratton, un escritor de historias de detectives. El baile de máscaras se celebra bajo el lema “asesinos y sus víctimas” y, entre los invitados, podemos encontrar al famoso criminólogo Roger Sheringham. El título del libro, pronto nos enteramos, está tomado de Stevenson en ‘Catriona’. Cox se vale de un recurso inteligente para presentar a los personajes principales involucrados en la trama. Con tantos extraños, a Sheringham le resulta difícil recordar sus nombres y decide anotarlos en su cuaderno. Por tanto, su lista queda más o menos así: Ronald Stratton; su hermano, David Stratton; Ena Stratton (Sra. David Stratton); Miss Celia Stratton, hermana de Ronald y David; Margot Stratton, ex-Sra. Ronald Stratton; Dr. y Sra. Chalmers; Dr. y Sra. Mitchell; Sr. y Sra. Williamson; Sra. Lefroy; y Colin Nicolson.

Durante el transcurso de la velada, Ena Stratton se pone en evidencia ante el resto de invitados con un comportamiento histriónico y teatral. Disfruta acusando a todo el mundo de hacerle la vida imposible, tergiversa la verdad y amenaza con suicidarse. Pero más tarde, la fiesta termina trágicamente cuando la Sra. David Stratton es encontrada muerta, colgada de la horca ‘decorativa’ en la terraza de la azotea, en el lugar de jumping jenny.

La siguiente frase viene a resumir bastante bien, a mi modo de ver, la esencia de la historia. Una idea que me parece un tema recurrente en las novelas de Anthony Berkeley.

—Ése era el problema de las novelas policiacas a la vieja usanza— dijo Roger, un tanto didácticamente. — Solo se saca una deducción de cada hecho, y ésta es invariablemente la deducción correcta. El Gran Detective del pasado ciertamente tenía suerte. En la vida real, uno puede sacar cientos de deducciones convincentes de un hecho, y todas ellas son igualmente erróneas. …—.

Para terminar, me gustaría añadir que Anthony Berkeley ofrece al lector una gran dosis de intriga y suspense a lo largo de esta historia e incluso reserva algunas sorpresas para los últimos capítulos. Hablando con franqueza, no creo que sea una exageración decir que Jumping Jenny sea una de sus mejores novelas policiacas, si no la mejor hasta el momento, incluso por encima de la excelente El caso de los bombones envenenados. Como tal, merece ser más conocida, y la recomiendo encarecidamente.

Sobre el autor: Anthony Berkeley, cuyo verdadero nombre era Anthony Berkeley Cox, fue un popular periodista satírico, escritor de novelas de detectives y de misterio, y crítico literario británico que escribió bajo los seudónimos de Francis Iles, Anthony Berkeley y A. Monmouth Platts.

Nacido en Watford, Hertfordshire el 5 de julio de 1893, era hijo de Alfred Edward Cox, un médico que inventó una especie de máquina de rayos X que permitía detectar metralla en pacientes heridos, y de Sybil Cox (de soltera Iles) quien afirmaba descender del Earl of Monmouth del siglo XVII y de un contrabandista llamado Francis Iles. La herencia familiar incluía dos propiedades en Watford: Monmouth House y The Platts. Cox se educó en el Sherborne School y en el University College, de Oxford. Con el estallido de la Primera Guerra Mundial, se alistó, alcanzó el rango de teniente en el 7º Regimiento de Northumberland, y fue gaseado en Francia. Dado de baja del ejército por invalidez, su salud se vio gravemente afectada por el resto de su vida. Los detalles sobre su vida profesional en los años inmediatamente posteriores a la guerra son algo vagos. Con el paso del tiempo se dedicó cada vez más a escribir.

Cox se casó dos veces, la primera con Margaret Farrar cuando estaba de permiso en Londres en diciembre de 1917. Aunque su matrimonio no duró mucho, no se divorciaron hasta 1931 y Margaret Cox se volvió a casar. Al parecer, su ruptura fue amistosa. La segunda en 1932 con Helen Peters (de soltera MacGregor), exmujer de su agente literario, A. D. Peters. No tuvo hijos de ninguno de sus dos matrimonios, aunque Helen aportó a su matrimonio a sus hijos con Peters. Su segundo matrimonio se rompió a fines de la década de 1940 y su separación nuevamente parece haber sido razonablemente amistosa.

La carrera como autor profesional de Cox comenzó alrededor de 1922, escribiendo historias satíricas para Punch y otras publicaciones populares. Su primera novela policiaca, The Layton Court Mystery, se publicó de forma anónima en 1925. En un período de quince años, entre 1925 y 1939, Cox publicó veinticuatro libros, incluidas catorce historias policiacas clásicas y dos sublimes thrillers psicológicos.

En 1930, Berkeley fundó el legendario Detention Club en Londres junto con destacados especialistas del género, como Gilbert K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, R. Austin Freeman, Baroness Orczy y Dorothy L. Sayers. De hecho, el Círculo del Cirmen en The Poisoned Chocolates Case puede considerarse con razón un predecesor del Detention Club en la ficción.

Después de 1939, Cox decidió dejar de escribir ficción por razones que aún son objeto de especulación. Durante los siguientes treinta años, su producción literaria se limitó a reseñas de libros para el Sunday Times y el Manchester Guardian. Considerado una figura clave en el desarrollo de la novela policíaca, Anthony Berkeley Cox murió en el St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, el 9 de marzo de 1971. En su certificado de defunción, su nombre se registró por error como Anthony Beverley Cox.

Bibliografía de sus historias policiacas:

Serie de Roger Sheringham: The Layton Court Mystery [El Misterio de Layton Court] published as by “?” (Herbert Jenkins, 1925; Doubleday, 1929); The Wychford Poisoning Case: An Essay in Criminology published as by the author of The Layton Court Mystery (Collins, 1926; Doubleday, 1930); Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery (Collins, 1927; reprinted by Collins as The Vane Mystery; US title: The Mystery at Lovers’ Cave, Simons & Schuster, 1927); The Silk Stocking Murders [El crimen de las medias de seda] (Collins, 1928; Doubleday, 1928); The Poisoned Chocolates Case [El caso de los bombones envenenados ](Collins, 1929; Doubleday, 1929); The Second Shot (Hodder & Stoughton, 1930; Doubleday, 1931); Top Storey Murder (Hodder, 1931; US title: Top Story Murder, Doubleday, 1931); Murder in the Basement [Asesinato en el sótano] (Hodder, 1932; Doubleday, 1932); Jumping Jenny [Baile de máscaras] (Hodder, 1933; US title: Dead Mrs. Stratton, Doubleday, 1933); Panic Party (Hodder, 1934; US title: Mr. Pidgeon’s Island, Doubleday, 1934); and The Avenging Chance and Other Mysteries from Roger Sheringham’s Casebook (Crippen & Landru, 2004); 2nd edition with an additional story (Crippen & Landru, 2015).

Otras novelas policiacas: Cicely Disappears published as by A. Monmouth Platts (John Long, 1927, a shorter version appeared as a serial, The Wintringham Mystery, as by A.B. Cox, in The Daily Mirror); Mr Priestley’s Problem published as by A.B. Cox (Collins, 1927; US title: The Amateur Crime (Doubleday, 1928); The Piccadilly Murder (Collins, 1929; Doubleday, 1930); Trial and Error [El dueño de la muerte] (Hodder, 1937; Doubleday, 1937); Not to Be Taken (Hodder, 1938; US title: A Puzzle in Poison (Doubleday, 1938); and Death in the House (Hodder, 1939; Doubleday, 1939).

Como Francis Iles: Malice Aforethought: The Story of a Commonplace Crime [Premeditación] (Gollancz, 1931; Harper, 1931); Before the Fact: A Murder Story for Ladies [Complicidad] (Gollancz, 1932; Doubleday, 1932); and As for the Woman: A Love Story [Las redes del amor] (Jarrolds, 1939; Doubleday, 1939)

Trabajos en colaboración con otros miembros del Detection Club: The Floating Admiral (Hodder, 1931; Doubleday, 1932); Ask a Policemen (Barker, 1933; Morrow, 1933); Six Against the Yard (Selwyn & Blount, 1936; US title: Six Against Scotland Yard, Doubleday, 1936); and The Scoop and Behind the Screen (both collaborative detective serials written by members of the Detection Club which were broadcast weekly by their authors on the BBC National Programme in 1930 and 1931 with the scripts then being published in The Listener within a week after broadcast. The two serials were first published in book form in the UK by Victor Gollancz Ltd in 1983 and in the US by Harper & Row in 1984)

Otras lecturas: Elusion Aforethought: The Life and Writing of Anthony Berkeley Cox by Malcolm J. Turnbull (Bowling Green State University Press, 1996); The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (Harper Collins, 2015).

Una bibliografía más detallada de la obra de Anthony Berkeley Cox, con las traducciones de su obra, se puede encontrar aquí.

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