Notes On: The Poisoned Chocolates Case, 1929 (Roger Sheringham Cases # 5), by Anthony Berkeley (Revised as of November, 6 2022)

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British Library Publishing, 2016. Format: Kindle edition. File Size: 2627 KB. Print Length: 247 pages. ASIN: B01KIHJMAS. eISBN: 978-0-7123-6424-9. Introduction and new Epilogue by Martin Edwards, 2016. Originally published in 1929 by W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. in the UK and by Doubleday The Crime Club in the US the same year. This new edition includes an alternative ending by the Golden Age writer Christianna Brand, as well as a brand new solution devised specially for the British Library by the crime novelist and Golden Age expert Martin Edwards.

51ePsaKHWRL._SY346_Blurb: Graham and Joan Bendix have apparently succeeded in making that eighth wonder of the modern world, a happy marriage. And into the middle of it there drops, like a clap of thunder, a box of chocolates. Joan Bendix is killed by a poisoned box of liqueur chocolates that cannot have been intended for her to eat. The police investigation rapidly reaches a dead end. Chief Inspector Moresby calls on Roger Sheringham and his Crimes Circle – six amateur but intrepid detectives – to consider the case. The evidence is laid before the Circle and the members take it in turn to offer a solution. Each is more convincing than the last, slowly filling in the pieces of the puzzle, until the dazzling conclusion.

My Notes: Anticipating the presentation of Who Editorial at Tipos Infames bookshop  in Madrid, I’ve reread Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. We can find the origin of this novel in a short story written also by Anthony Berkeley, “The Avenging Chance”, published in Pearson’s Magazine, September 1929. In the story, Sheringham solves Joan Beresford’s murder mystery and then Berkeley expands it on into the full-length novel The Chocolates Poisoned Case (Collins, June 1929) in which he discards the solution at which Sheringham arrived at in the story. Paradoxically, the novel was published before the short story came to light. The novel revolves around Roger Sheringham, the most fallible of the great detectives of the time, who first appeared in The Leyton Court Mystery published anonymously in 1925 and who will reappear in a total of ten novels and several short stories by Anthony Berkeley. The character is considered to have been inspired by E. C. Bentley’s Philip Trent. When the action begins Roger Sheringham had founded the Crime Circle, a select group of amateur criminologists made up of six members.

“It was the intention of the club to acquire eventually thirteen members, but so far only six had succeeded in passing their tests, and these were all present on the evening when this chronicle opens. There was a famous lawyer, a scarcely less famous woman dramatist, a brilliant novelist who ought to have been more famous than she was, the most intelligent (if not the most amiable) of living detective-story writers, Roger Sheringham himself and Mr. Ambrose Chitterwick, who was not famous at all, a mild little man of no particular appearance who had been even more surprised at being admitted to this company of personages than they had been at finding him amongst them.”

The Crimes Circle can be rightly considered a fictional predecessor to the Detection Club, formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Arthur Morrison, Hugh Walpole, John Rhode, Jessie Rickard, Baroness Emma Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, GDH Cole, Margaret Cole, EC Bentley, Henry Wade, and HC Bailey. A Club in which Anthony Berkeley was instrumental in setting it up and of which G. K. Chesterton was its first president.

The plot begins when Sir Eustace Pennefather, a notorious womanizer, receives a box of chocolates at his London club. He disapproves of modern marketing techniques and is about to throw them out when Graham Bendix, another club member he barely knows, needs one. Bendix had lost a bet with his wife and that would save him the hassle of having to buy one. Sir Eustace gives him the box, Bendix accepts it, takes it home and gives it to his wife. Both taste them after lunch. His wife eats seven, he only two. A few hours later, Joan Bendix dies of nitrobenzene poisoning. Bendix, though seriously ill, manages to recover. It becomes clear that the intended victim was Sir Eustace rather than the innocent Joan Bendix. Scotland Yard proves unable to solve the mystery, and Inspector Moresby accepts a rather unusual suggestion made by Roger Sheringham. He would never have encouraged it but, although somewhat reluctantly, lets Sheringham try it since he didn’t find anything wrong with it. The odd suggestion is that each member of the Crime Circle picks up the investigation of the case where the authorities left off. Each and every member, working independently, will have a week to formulate their own theories and carry out the investigations they deem necessary. After this time they will meet again for six consecutive nights and each member will read their papers presenting their own conclusions in the order that will be drawn by lot. Each solution will be believable, but the problem is that each one points to a different killer and the reader will remain baffled until the last page. To reinforce this idea of an indefinite number of possible solutions both Christianna Brand in 1979 and Martin Edwards in 2016 have provided us with alternative endings.

In short, The Poisoned Chocolates Case not only marked a milestone in the history of crime fiction, but it is still a brilliant novel that is worth reading. As pointed out in some reviews, the art of detection is not an exact science and it allows us different possible solutions, if we think about it carefully. The two additional endings are a good proof of that. It is also extremely interesting to see how the way in which the facts are presented can condition the conclusions that can be reached. An excellent novel, very entertaining, which I highly recommend.

The Poisoned Chocolates Case is included in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 books by Martin Edwards (British Library Publishing, 2018).

The Poisoned Chocolates Case has been reviewed, among others, by Jon at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Karyn Reeves at A Penguin a week, Noah Stewart at Noah’s Archives, dfordoom at Vintage Pop Fictions, Moira Redmond at Clothes in Books, Steve Barge at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Martin Edwards at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Kate Jackson at Cross-Examining Crime, Marcia Muller at Mystery File, Jim Noy at The Invisible Event, Dan at The Reader is Warned, thegreencapsule at The Green Capsule and Xavier Lechard  At the Villa Rose.

218

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

219

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC.Doubleday The Crime Club, US, 1929)

About the author: Anthony Berkeley Cox born in 1893, was an English journalist and novelist who wrote under the pen names of Anthony Berkeley, Francis Iles, A. B. Cox and  A. Monmouth Platts. He was a founding member of the Detection Club and one of the greatest innovators of detective fiction. He wrote at a time when the main form of crime story was that of a puzzle, with an emphasis on plot rather than character. He was also one of the first to foresee the development of the ‘psychological’ crime novel and to successfully carry out its predictions. In Malice Aforethought (1931), written as Frances Iles, there is no problem in the conventional sense as the assassin’s intended plans are declared at the start of the action. The interest lies in whether these plans will be carried out successfully and in the interaction between the characters in the book. Two more novels written under the pseudonym Francis Iles were Before the Fact (1932), where again there is no puzzle of the classical type, and As for the Woman (1939), which was to be the first part of a planned trilogy that he never ended. Other novels written as Anthony Berkeley include The Wychford Poisoning Case, 1926; Cicely Disappears aka The Wintringham Mystery written as by A. Monmouth Platts (1927); The Silk Stocking Murders, 1928; The Piccadilly Murder, 1929; The Second Shot, 1930; Murder in the Basement, 1932; Jumping Jenny, aka Dead Mrs. Stratton, 1933; Panic Party aka Mr Pidgeon’s Island, 1934, Trial and Error, 1937; Not to be Taken aka A Puzzle in Poison, 1938; Death in the House, 1939; and, probably the best known of all, The Poisoned Chocolates Case, 1929. Altogether, he wrote twenty-four novels, ten of which featuring the amateur detective, Roger Sheringham. After publishing his last novel, Berkeley  lived thirty-two more years and 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.

British Library Publishing publicity page

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

El caso de los bombones envenenados, de Anthony Berkeley

El-caso-de-los-bombones-envenenados-1000-600x901 (2)Propaganda publicitaria: Todo comenzó el día en que sir Eustace Pennefather, un conocido mujeriego, recibe una caja de bombones en su club de Londres. Poco aficionado al chocolate, se la entrega por casualidad a un conocido del club, cuya mujer es una apasionada de estos dulces. La pobre señora muere al poco tiempo, víctima de una intoxicación por nitrobenceno. El asesinato tiene desconcertado a todo Scotland Yard. El presidente del Círculo del Crimen, un excéntrico club compuesto por seis aficionados a la criminología, propone a sus miembros el reto de esbozar cada uno de ellos una teoría que esclarezca el crimen. Los resultados de sus investigaciones serán expuestos por turnos en las ponencias más sorprendentes que el lector pueda imaginar. El final no dejará a nadie indiferente.

El caso de los bombones envenenados, publicada en 1929 por Anthony Berkeley, es una obra de ingeniería y de inteligencia, una auténtica exhibición de habilidad para construir rompecabezas y para conducir al lector por donde menos se lo espera. Supone toda una reflexión acerca del género detectivesco y, al mismo tiempo, una apasionante aventura intelectual en busca de la verdad. ¿O quizá solo se trata de una broma?

Al texto original se han añadido, a modo de apéndices, dos capítulos más salidos de las plumas de dos grandes maestros del policial: nada menos que Christianna Brand y Martin Edwards. Ambos recogieron el testigo de Berkeley y fabularon sendas hipótesis alternativas a las propuestas por el autor original. ¿Con cuál de todas se quedará el lector?

Esta edición incluye, además, un estudio introductorio a cargo de José Ignacio Escribano y Noemí Calabuig. Un clásico indiscutible de la novela policiaca que todo aficionado al género debe atesorar en sus estanterías.

Mis Apuntes: Anticipándome a la presentación de Who Editorial en la librería Tipos Infames de Madrid, he releído El caso de los chocolates envenenados de Anthony Berkeley. Podemos encontrar el origen de esta novela en un relato escrito también por Anthony Berkeley, “The Avenging Chance”, publicado en Pearson’s Magazine, septiembre de 1929. En el relato, Sheringham resuelve el misterio del asesinato de Joan Beresford y luego Berkeley lo amplía en el novela The Chocolates Poisoned Case (Collins, junio de 1929) en la que descarta la solución a la que llegó Sheringham en la historia. Paradójicamente, la novela se publicó antes de que saliera a la luz el relato. La novela gira en torno a Roger Sheringham, el más falible de los grandes detectives de la época, que apareció por primera vez en The Leyton Court Mystery publicado de forma anónima en 1925 y que reaparecerá en un total de diez novelas y varios cuentos de Anthony Berkeley. Se considera que el personaje se inspiró en Philip Trent de E. C. Bentley. Cuando comienza la acción, Roger Sheringham había fundado el Crime Circle, un grupo selecto de criminólogos aficionados formado por seis miembros.

“La intención del club era llegar a tener trece miembros, pero hasta el momentosolo seis habían logrado pasar las pruebas. Todos ellos estaban presentes en la tarde en que comienza esta crónica. Contaban con un famoso abogado, una dramaturga apenas menos famosa, una brillante novelista que debería haber sido más famosa de lo que era, el más inteligente (si no el más amable) de los escritores de novelas policiacas vivos, el propio Roger Sheringham y el Sr. Ambrose Chitterwick, que no era famoso en absoluto. Se trataba de un hombrecillo apacible y de apariencia nada particular que se había sorprendido al ser admitido en este selecto club tanto o más que los msmos miembros al encontrarlo entre ellos.” (traducción de Tino Navarro Villanueva).

El Cículo del Crimen puede considerarse con razón un predecesor en la ficción del Detection Club, formado en 1930 por un grupo de escritores de misterio británicos, incluidos Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Arthur Morrison, Hugh Walpole, John Rhode, Jessie Rickard, la baronesa Emma Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, GDH Cole, Margaret Cole, EC Bentley, Henry Wade y HC Bailey. Un Club en el que Anthony Berkeley jugó un papel decisivo en su creación y del que G. K. Chesterton fue su primer presidente.

La trama comienza cuando Sir Eustace Pennefather, un notorio mujeriego, recibe una caja de bombones en su club londinense. Desaprueba las técnicas modernas de marketing y está a punto de desecharlas cuando Graham Bendix, otro miembro del club al que apenas conoce, necesita una. Bendix había perdido una apuesta con su mujer y eso le ahorraría la molestia de tener que comprar una. Sir Eustace le da la caja, Bendix la acepta, se la lleva a casa y se la da a su mujer. Ambos los degustan después del almuerzo. Su mujer come siete, él sólo dos. Unas horas más tarde, Joan Bendix muere por envenenamiento con nitrobenceno. Bendix, aunque gravemente enfermo, logra recuperarse. Queda claro que la víctima prevista era Sir Eustace en lugar de la inocente Joan Bendix. Scotland Yard no puede resolver el misterio y el inspector Moresby acepta una sugerencia bastante inusual hecha por Roger Sheringham. Él nunca lo habría alentado pero, aunque algo a regañadientes, deja que Sheringham lo intente ya que no encontró nada malo en ello. La extraña sugerencia es que cada miembro del Crime Circle retome la investigación del caso donde lo dejaron las autoridades. Todos y cada uno de los miembros, trabajando de forma independiente, dispondrán de una semana para formular sus propias teorías y realizar las investigaciones que estimen necesarias. Pasado este tiempo se volverán a reunir durante seis noches consecutivas y cada miembro leerá sus ponencias presentando sus propias conclusiones en el orden que se sacará por sorteo. Cada solución será creíble, pero el problema es que cada una apunta a un asesino diferente y el lector se quedará desconcertado hasta la última página. Para reforzar esta idea de un número indefinido de posibles soluciones tanto Christianna Brand en 1979 como Martin Edwards en 2016 nos han proporcionado finales alternativos.

En definitiva, El caso de los bombones envenenados no solo marcó un hito en la historia de la novela policíaca, sino que sigue siendo una novela brillante que merece la pena leer. Como se apunta en algunas reseñas, el arte de detectivesco no es una ciencia exacta y nos permite diferentes soluciones posibles, si lo pensamos bien. Los dos finales adicionales son buena prueba de ello. También es sumamente interesante ver cómo la forma en que se presentan los hechos puede condicionar las conclusiones a las que se puede llegar. Una excelente novela, muy entretenida, que recomiendo encarecidamente.

El caso de los bombones envenenados está incluída en The Story of Classic Crime in 100 books de Martin Edwards (British Library Publishing, 2018).

Otras reseñas de El caso de los bombones envenenados: Juan Mari Barasorda en Calibre 38 y Noemí Calabuig en Whodunit.

Acerca del autor: Anthony Berkeley Cox, nacido en 1893, fue un periodista y novelista inglés que escribió bajo los seudónimos de Anthony Berkeley, Francis Iles, A. B. Cox y A. Monmouth Platts. Fue miembro fundador del Detection Club y uno de los mayores innovadores de la novela policíaca. Escribió en un momento en que la forma principal de la novela policiaca era la de un enigma, con énfasis en la trama más que en los personajes. También fue uno de los primeros en prever el desarrollo de la novela policíaca ‘psicológica’ y en llevar a cabo con éxito sus predicciones. En Malice Aforethought (1931), escrito como Frances Iles, no hay ningún problema en el sentido convencional, ya que los planes del asesino se declaran desde el comienzo de la acción. El interés radica en si estos planes se llevarán a cabo con éxito y en la interacción entre los personajes del libro. Dos novelas más escritas bajo el seudónimo de Francis Iles fueron Before the Fact (1932), donde nuevamente no hay un rompecabezas del tipo clásico, y As for the Woman (1939), que iba a ser la primera parte de una trilogía planeada que él nunca terminó. Otras novelas escritas como Anthony Berkeley incluyen The Wychford Poisoning Case, 1926; Cicely Disappears, también conocida como The Wintringham Mystery, escrito como A. Monmouth Platts (1927); The Silk Stocking Murders, 1928 (titulo en español: El crimen de las medias de seda); The Piccadilly Murder, 1929; The Second Shot, 1930; Murder in the Basement, 1932 (tílulo en español: Asesinato en el sótano); Jumping Jenny también conocida como Dead Mrs. Stratton, 1933 (titulo en español: Baile de máscaras); Panic Party también conocida como Mr Pidgeon’s Island, 1934, Trial and Error, 1937; Not to be Taken también conocida como A Puzzle in Poison, 1938; Death in the House, 1939; y, probablemente, la más conocida de todas, The Poisoned Chocolates Case, 1929 (Título en español: El caso de los bombones envenenados). En total, escribió veinticuatro novelas, diez de las cuales protagonizadas por el detective aficionado Roger Sheringham. Después de publicar su última novela, Berkeley vivió treinta y dos años más y comenzó a trabajar como crítico de libros para John O’London’s Weekly y The Daily Telegraph. Más tarde escribió para The Sunday Times a mediados de la década de 1940, y luego para The Guardian desde mediados de la década de 1950 hasta 1970. Figura clave en el desarrollo de la novela policíaca, murió en 1971.

Who Editorial página publicitaria

Nueva edición en español de El caso de los bombones envenenados (1929) por Anthony Berkeley

Who editorial, 2022. Formato: Tapa blanda. Extensión: 286 páginas. Título original: The Poisoned Chocolates Case, W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1929. Traducción: Tino Navarro Villaueva. ISBN: 978-84-125026-3-3.

El-caso-de-los-bombones-envenenados-1000-600x901Todo comenzó el día en que sir Eustace Pennefather, un conocido mujeriego, recibe una caja de bombones en su club de Londres. Poco aficionado al chocolate, se la entrega por casualidad a un conocido del club, cuya mujer es una apasionada de estos dulces. La pobre señora muere al poco tiempo, víctima de una intoxicación por nitrobenceno.

El asesinato tiene desconcertado a todo Scotland Yard.

El presidente del Círculo del Crimen, un excéntrico club compuesto por seis aficionados a la criminología, propone a sus miembros el reto de esbozar cada uno de ellos una teoría que esclarezca el crimen. Los resultados de sus investigaciones serán expuestos por turnos en las ponencias más sorprendentes que el lector pueda imaginar. El final no dejará a nadie indiferente.

El caso de los bombones envenenados, publicada en 1929 por Anthony Berkeley, es una obra de ingeniería y de inteligencia, una auténtica exhibición de habilidad para construir rompecabezas y para conducir al lector por donde menos se lo espera. Supone toda una reflexión acerca del género detectivesco y, al mismo tiempo, una apasionante aventura intelectual en busca de la verdad. ¿O quizá solo se trata de una broma?

Al texto original se han añadido, a modo de apéndices, dos capítulos más salidos de las plumas de dos grandes maestros del policial: nada menos que Christianna Brand y Martin Edwards. Ambos recogieron el testigo de Berkeley y fabularon sendas hipótesis alternativas a las propuestas por el autor original. ¿Con cuál de todas se quedará el lector?

Esta edición incluye, además, un estudio introductorio a cargo de José Ignacio Escribano y Noemí Calabuig.

Un clásico indiscutible de la novela policiaca que todo aficionado al género debe atesorar en sus estanterías.

«En el panteón de la novela policíaca, no hay nada que se le parezca». Martin Edwards

«Uno de los relatos más asombrosos de la historia de la ficción detectivesca». Julian Symons, Historia del relato policial (Fuente: whoeditorail)

Muy agradecido a Who editorial por su amable invitación para que escribiera una introduccón a esta nueva edición de El caso de los bombones envenenados de Anthony Berkeley, que viene acompañada de dos soluciones adicionales propuestas por dos escritores del género, hasta ahora inéditas en España, la primera de Christianna Brand y la segunda de Martin Edwards.

La reseña de El caso de los bombones envenenados por Noemí Calabuig está disponible aquí.

Mi reseña está disponible aquí.

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.

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(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).

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

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

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!

50698

(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)

35039162._SY475_

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.

My Book Notes: The Wintringham Mystery: Cicely Disappears, 1927 by Anthony Berkeley

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Collins Crime Club, 2021. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1184 KB. Print Length: 238 pages. ASIN: B08SLHM2Y2. eISBN: 9780008470111.

This story was originally serialized by the Daily Mirror in March-April 1926 as The Wintringham Mystery by A. B. Cox, with a first prize of £250 –equivalent to £15,000 today, offered to any reader who could correctly deduced how, why and by whose agency, the victim (Stella, later Cicely) disappeared. Nobody did – even Agatha Christie entered and couldn’t solve it. It was revised and published in book form by John Long Ltd in 1927 (with a few name changes) as Cicely Disappears by A. Monmouth Platts. In 2021, HarperCollins reissued this book as part of their Collins Crime Club series under the original title, but keeping the revised 1927 text with an insightful introduction by critic, editor and genre historian, Tony Medawar.

9780008470104Book Description: Stephen Munro, a demobbed army officer, reconciles himself to taking a job as a footman to make ends meet. Employed at Wintringham Hall, the delightful but decaying Sussex country residence of the elderly Lady Susan Carey, his first task entails welcoming her eccentric guests to a weekend house-party, at which her bombastic nephew – who recognises Stephen from his former life – decides that an after-dinner séance would be more entertaining than bridge. Then Cicely disappears! With Lady Susan reluctant to call the police about what is presumably a childish prank, Stephen and the plucky Pauline Mainwaring take it upon themselves to investigate. But then a suspicious death turns the game into an altogether more serious affair… This classic winter mystery incorporates all the trappings of the Golden Age – a rambling country house, a séance, a murder, a room locked on the inside, with servants, suspects and alibis, a romance – and an ingenious puzzle.

My Take: In simple terms, the plot revolves around the disappearance of a young woman, called Cicely Vernon, during an after-dinner séance at Wintringham Hall, Lady Susan Carey’s country house in Sussex. Or maybe it would be better to call it Witches’ Sabbath. The disappearance  takes place in front of the group of people gathered there to spend the weekend. In addition to Lady Susan herself, there are Millicent Carey, Lady Susan’s niece and heiress; her nephew Freddie Venables, son of Lady Susan’s only sister; an old friend of hers, a certain Colonel Uffculme; Miss Rivers, Lady Susan’s hired escort; Cicely Vernon, the daughter of an old friend of Lady Susan, of lineage as old as hers, but as poor as she herself is rich; Pauline Mainwaring and her fiancé Sir Julius Hammerstein, a well-known stockbroker and one of the richest men in London; Henry Kentisbeare, a useless young man who lives off the resources of his friends; John Starcross, a man who rose to fame a few month ago on his return from a long and perilous expedition through Central and South America, and now no self-respecting country house party is complete without him; Miss Baby Cullompton, a young woman with a childlike expression; Miss Annette Agnew a young distant cousin of Millicent and Lady Susan; and Stephen Munro, an old pal of Freddie Venables.

The Witches’ Sabbath is Freddy’s idea and he plays the role of ringmaster while Cicely volunteers to disappear. There’s a map attached at Pretty Sinister Book’s review, showing everyone’s position before the lights are put out. When the room is in darkness, a low, shuddering moan is heard, preceded by a loud rap. Suddenly, something seems to have gone wrong. There is a power failure, and the beams of the torches show the empty chair where Cicely was sitting. Cicely has vanished without a trace. Lady Susan considers that they have been the victims of a prank, pranks that Cicely is quite fond of, and she is reluctant to call the police. However, Stephen Munro, an impoverished gentleman who has had to give up his bid to marry Miss Pauline Mainwaring, join forces with his old flame on their quest to find out what has happened.

The Wintringham Mystery is a light and entertaining read. The plot, for today’s taste, may be somewhat weak or childish if you like, though I found it fairly enjoyable and amusing. It was nice to spend some time with this book. It contains most of  the ingredients one expects on a classic Golden Age detective story, and it’s been a good thing to have recovered an almost forgotten book by Anthony Berkeley. A nice puzzle with an unexpected denouement.

The Wintringham Mystery has been reviewed, among others, by Martin Edwards at ’Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Kate Jackson at Cross-examining Crime, Leah at Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews, TomCat at Beneath the Stains of Time, J F Norris at Pretty Sinister Books, and Jim Noy at The Invisible Event.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets, LLC. John Long, Ltd. (UK), 1927)

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. Sybil (née Iles), his mother, 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, was gassed in France, and was 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. They divorced in 1931 and Margaret Cox remarried. Apparently their breakup was amicable. The second in 1932 with Helen Peters (née MacGregor), ex-wife of his literary agent, A. D. Peters. No children were born from either of the Cox unions, 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. Between 1925 and 1939, he published 14 crime novels under the pseudonym Anthony Berkeley, of which 10 featured the amateur sleuth Roger Sheringham. In the fifth The Poisoned Chocolates Case, a second amateur detective, Ambrose Chitterwick, is also involved, who will feature in two more of his novels. He also published under his real name, A. B. Cox, Mr Priestley’s Problem and The Wintringham Mystery. The latter was written to be serialized in the Daily Mirror. A revised version appeared as Cicely Disappears in 1927, under the pseudonym of A. Monmouth Platts. It is widely accepted that Cox’s greatest achievements as a novelist were the first two of the three “inverted novels” he published under the name of Francis Iles. Both Malice Aforethought and Before the Fact are considered masterpieces and had a decisive influence on the realism of post-war crime fiction in Britain. Before the Fact served as the basis for the 1941 film Suspicion directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine. 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 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.

Harper Collins UK publicity page

Harper Collins US publicity page

Soundcloud

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

The Detection Club and the Mid-Century Fight Over “Fair Play” in Crime Fiction by Curtis Evans 

The Wintringham Mystery: Cicely Disappears, de Anthony Berkeley

Esta historia fue originalmente publicada por entregas por el Daily Mirror en marzo-abril de 1926 como The Wintringham Mystery por AB Cox, con un primer premio de £250, equivalente a £15.000 hoy, ofrecido a cualquier lector que pudiera deducir correctamente cómo, por qué y por medio de quién, la víctima (Stella, más tarde Cicely) desapareció. Nadie lo consiguió, incluso Agatha Christie participó en la competición y no pudo resolverlo. El texto fe revisado y publicado en forma de libro por John Long Ltd en 1927 (con algunos nombres alterados) como Cicely Disappears por A. Monmouth Platts. En el 2021, HarperCollins reeditó este libro como parte de su serie Collins Crime Club con el título original, pero manteniendo el texto revisado de 1927 con una detallada introducción del crítico, editor e historiador del género, Tony Medawar.

Descripción del libro: Stephen Munro, un oficial del ejército desmovilizado, tiene que aceptar un trabajo como lacayo para llegar a fin de mes. Empleado en Wintringham Hall, la encantadora pero decadente residencia de campo de la anciana Lady Susan Carey en Sussex, su primera tarea consiste en dar la bienvenida a sus excéntricos invitados a una fiesta familiar de fin de semana, en la que su grandilocuente sobrino, que reconoce a Stephen de su vida anterior, decide que una sesión de espiritismo después de la cena sería más entretenida que el bridge. ¡Entonces Cicely desaparece! Con Lady Susan reacia a llamar a la policía por lo que presumiblemente es una broma infantil, Stephen y la valiente Pauline Mainwaring se encargan de investigar. Pero luego, una muerte sospechosa convierte el juego en un asunto mucho más serio… Este clásico misterio invernal incorpora todos los elementos de la Edad de Oro: una casa de campo laberíntica, una sesión de espiritismo, un asesinato, una habitación cerrada por dentro, con sirvientes, sospechosos y coartadas, un romance y un ingenioso rompecabezas.

Mi opinión: En términos simples, la trama gira en torno a la desaparición de una mujer joven, llamada Cicely Vernon, durante una sesión de espiritismo después de la cena en Wintringham Hall, la casa de campo de Lady Susan Carey en Sussex. O tal vez sería mejor llamarlo Sábado de Brujas. La desaparición se produce frente al grupo de personas allí reunidas para pasar el fin de semana. Además de la propia Lady Susan, están Millicent Carey, la sobrina y heredera de Lady Susan; su sobrino Freddie Venables, hijo de la única hermana de Lady Susan; un viejo amigo suyo, un tal coronel Uffculme; Miss Rivers, la acompañante contratada de Lady Susan; Cicely Vernon, la hija de una vieja amiga de Lady Susan, de linaje tan antiguo como el suyo, pero tan pobre como rica es ella; Pauline Mainwaring y su prometido Sir Julius Hammerstein, un conocido agente de bolsa y uno de los hombres más ricos de Londres; Henry Kentisbeare, un joven inútil que vive de los recursos de sus amigos; John Starcross, un hombre que saltó a la fama hace unos meses a su regreso de una larga y peligrosa expedición por América Central y del Sur, y ahora ninguna fiesta en una casa de campo que se precie está completa sin él; Miss Baby Cullompton, una joven de expresión infantil; la señorita Annette Agnew, una joven prima lejana de Millicent y Lady Susan; y Stephen Munro, un viejo amigo de Freddie Venables.

El sábado de brujas es idea de Freddy y él desempeña el papel de maestro de ceremonias, mientras que Cicely se ofrece como voluntaria para desaparecer. Hay un mapa adjunto en la reseña de Pretty Sinister Book, que muestra la posición de todos antes de que se apaguen las luces. Cuando la habitación está a oscuras, se escucha un gemido bajo y estremecedor, precedido de un fuerte golpe. De repente, algo parece haber salido mal. Hay un corte de electricidas y las luces de las linternas muestran la silla vacía donde estaba sentada Cicely. Cicely ha desaparecido sin dejar rastro. Lady Susan considera que han sido víctimas de una broma, bromas que a Cicely le gustan mucho y se resiste a llamar a la policía. Sin embargo, Stephen Munro, un caballero empobrecido que ha tenido que renunciar a su intento de casarse con la señorita Pauline Mainwaring, une fuerzas con su antiguo amor en su búsqueda por averiguar qué sucedió.

The Wintringham Mystery es una lectura ligera y entretenida. La trama, para el gusto de hoy, puede resultar algo floja o infantil si se quiere, aunque me pareció bastante amena y divertida. Fue agradable pasar un tiempo con este libro. Contiene la mayoría de los ingredientes que uno espera de una clásica historia de detectives de la Edad de Oro, y ha sido bueno haber recuperado un libro casi olvidado de Anthony Berkeley. Un buen enigma con un desenlace inesperado.

Sobre el autor: Anthony Berkeley, cuyo verdadero nombre era Anthony Berkeley Cox, fue un popular periodista satírico, escritor de crímenes y 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. Sybil (de soltera Iles), su madre, 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, Oxford. Con el estallido de la Primera Guerra Mundial, se alistó, alcanzó el rango de teniente en el 7º Regimiento de Northumberland, fue gaseado en Francia y fue dado de baja del ejército por invalidez. Su salud quedó gravemente deteriorada 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. Se divorciaron en 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 nacieron hijos de ninguna de las uniones de Cox, aunque Helen aportó con ella a sus dos hijos de Peters. Su segundo matrimonio se rompió a fines de la década de 1940 y su separación nuevamente parece haber sido razonablemente amistosa. La carrera de escritor 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. Entre 1925 y 1939, publicó 14 novelas policiacas bajo el seudónimo de Anthony Berkeley, de las cuales 10 presentaban al detective aficionado Roger Sheringham. En la quinta, The Poisoned Chocolates Case, también interviene un segundo detective aficionado, Ambrose Chitterwick, que aparecerá en dos novelas más. También publicó con su nombre real, A. B. Cox, Mr Priestley’s Problem y The Wintringham Mystery. Este último fue escrito para ser publicado por entregas en el Daily Mirror. Una versión revisada apareció como Cicely Disappears en 1927, bajo el seudónimo de A. Monmouth Platts. Es ampliamente aceptado que los mayores logros de Cox como novelista fueron las dos primeras de las tres “novelas invertidas” que publicó bajo el nombre de Francis Iles. Tanto Malice Aforethought como Before the Fact se consideran obras maestras y tuvieron una influencia decisiva en el realismo de la novela policiaca de posguerra en Gran Bretaña. Before the Fact sirvió de base para la película Suspicion de 1941 dirigida por Alfred Hitchcock y protagonizada por Cary Grant y Joan Fontaine. En 1930, Berkeley fundó el legendario Detention Club en Londres junto con destacados profesionales 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 novelas 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 se puede encontrar aquí.

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