My Book Notes: The Piccadilly Murder, 1929 by Anthony Berkeley

Esta entrada es bilingüe. Desplazarse hacia abajo para acceder a la versión en español

The Langtail Press Ltd, 2011. Book Format: Paperback Edition. Print Length: 220 pages. ISBN: 978-1-78002-148-5. Originally published in the UK by Collins in 1929 and in the US by Doubleday in 1930.

31uU6WcJLfL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Synopsis: 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…

My Take: To escape his aunt, Mr. Ambrose Chitterwick is in the habit of occasionally visiting the lounge of the Piccadilly Palace Hotel. When the story begins he has arrived unusually early and, not without certain difficulty, he has found an empty table from which he prepares himself to practice his favourite pastime, people-watching and speculating by their appearance alone. Thus, the author takes advantage to introduce us to Mr. Chitterwick applying his own methods. The same Mr. Chitterwick whom we have met before in The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) and who will appear again in Trial and Error (1937).

“At a glance, then, Mr. Ambrose Chitterwick is seen to be a red-faced, somewhat globular, early middle-aged gentleman of independent means, with gold-rimmed pince-nez on a very short nose, less hair than he used to have and an extremely ancient aunt at Chiswick. With the remarkable mildness which is obvious a feature of Mr. Chitterwick’s nature, it is easy to deduce that Mr. Chitterwick not only live with his aunt at Chiswick, but to most purposes for his aunt at Chiswick too. From the same clue the deduction also follows that Mr. Chitterwick’s aunt at Chiswick rules Mr. Chitterwick with a rod of strong iron, for no female could live in the same house with such mild masculinity and not do so; moreover, by the law of averages, as applied to the houses of aunts in Chiswick, it must be clear that Mr. Chitterwick’s aunt must be an old lady of quite exceptional forcefulness and will.”

At a given time, Mr. Chitterwick witnesses the death of an elderly lady, Miss Sinclair. Initially the police has doubts whether it is suicide or murder. But it happens that, shortly before, Mr. Chitterwick had seen  her chatting with a rather large man with curly red hair, who dropped something into the old lady’s cup just before leaving. Therefore, when it is determined that the elderly lady was poisoned, Mr Chitterwick does not hesitate to call his acquaintance Chief Inspector Moresby and informs him of what he had seen. Mr. Chitterwick identifies the red-haired man who turns out to be none other than Major Sinclair, Miss Sinclair’s nephew and only heir. It is also the case that he has enough grounds to kill his aunt before she disinherits him, as she had announced, if he insisted in getting married without her consent. 

It seems an open and shut case, if it weren’t because only a few pages have elapsed from a novel that exceeds the 200.

The expectations I had set on this book were too high, perhaps by the reading of some of the reviews that are attached further below. And even if I can’t say that it has disappointed me, it hasn’t really enthused me. It is an excellent novel and I have enjoyed it a lot, but not as much as I enjoyed reading Jumpy Jenny or even Trial and Error. Since it might be only a matter of taste, I would suggest to judge for yourselves.

The Piccadilly Murder has been reviewed, among others, by Jon at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Martin Edwards at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Rob Kitchin at The View from the Blue House, Kate Jackson at Cross-examining Crime, thegreencpasule at The Green Capsule, and Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World.

216

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins Detective Novel (UK), 1929)

217

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Doubleday The Crime Club (USA), 1930)

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.

Anthony Berkeley Cox 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)

Ranking the Work of Anthony Berkeley by Kate Jackson

Anthony Berkeley page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki

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

The Piccadilly Murder, de Anthony Berkeley

Sinopsis: Una vez que el Sr. Chitterwick hizo su declaración, determinando así que la muerte de la señora mayor fue un asesinato y no un suicidio, parecía un caso sencillo. Después de todo, había visto poner algo en la taza de café de la señora. Pero luego los amigos y familiares del acusado apelan al Sr. Chitterwick, alegando que es incapaz de tal crimen. A medida que el Sr. Chitterwick investiga, comienzan a surgir dudas, hasta que aparecen nuevas pruebas que sugieren un conjunto de acontecimientos más complejos…

Mi opinión: Para escapar de su tía, el Sr. Ambrose Chitterwick tiene la costumbre de visitar ocasionalmente el salón del Hotel Piccadilly Palace. Cuando empieza la historia ha llegado inusualmente temprano y, no sin cierta dificultad, ha encontrado una mesa vacía desde la que se dispone a practicar su pasatiempo favorito, observar a la gente y especular sólo con su apariencia. Así, el autor aprovecha para presentarnos al Sr. Chitterwick aplicando sus propios métodos. El mismo Sr. Chitterwick a quien hemos conocido antes en El caso de los bombones envenenados (1929) y que volverá a aparecer en Trial and Error (1937).

“De un vistazo, entonces, se ve que el Sr. Ambrose Chitterwick es un caballero con medios de subsistencia independientes, de cara enrojecida, algo redondeada, de mediana edad, con quevedos dorados en una nariz muy corta, menos cabello del que solía tener y una tía muy anciana en Chiswick. Con una suavidad destacable que es un rasgo obvio de la naturaleza del Sr. Chitterwick, es fácil deducir que el Sr. Chitterwick no solo vive con su tía en Chiswick, sino también en la mayoría de los casos para su tía en Chiswick. Del mismo indicio también se deduce que la tía del Sr. Chitterwick en Chiswick gobierna al Sr. Chitterwick con vara de hierro, porque ninguna mujer podría vivir en la misma casa con una masculinidad tan moderada y no hacerlo; además, según la ley de las estadísticas, según se aplica a las casas de las tías en Chiswick, debe quedar claro que la tía del señor Chitterwick debe ser una señora mayor con una fuerza y ​​una voluntad excepcionales.”

En un momento dado, el Sr. Chitterwick es testigo de la muerte de una señora mayor, Miss Sinclair. Inicialmente, la policía tiene dudas sobre si se trata de un suicidio o de un asesinato. Pero sucede que, poco antes, el señor Chitterwick la había visto charlando con un hombre bastante corpulento de pelo rojo rizado, que echó algo en la taza de la señora mayor justo antes de marcharse. Por ello, cuando se determina que la señora fue envenenada, el señor Chitterwick no duda en llamar a su conocido el inspector jefe Moresby y le informa de lo que había visto. El Sr. Chitterwick identifica al hombre pelirrojo que resulta ser nada menos que el mayor Sinclair, el sobrino y único heredero de Miss Sinclair. También se da el caso de que tiene motivos suficientes para matar a su tía antes de que ella lo desherede, como ella había anunciado, si él insistía en casarse sin su consentimiento.

Parece un caso abierto y cerrado, si no fuera porque apenas han transcurrido unas pocas páginas de una novela que supera las 200.

Las expectativas que había puesto en esta novela eran demasiado altas, quizás por la lectura de algunas de las reseñas que se adjuntan más arriba en inglés. Y aunque no puedo decir que me haya decepcionado, en realidad no me ha entusiasmado. Es una novela excelente y la he disfrutado mucho, pero no tanto como disfruté leyendo Jumpy Jenny o incluso Trial and Error. Como puede que solo sea una cuestión de gustos, sugiero que juzguéis por vosotros mismos.

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 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).

%d bloggers like this: