Tag: Anthony Berkeley

Review – Murder in the Basement

Posted June 3, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Murder in the Basement

Murder in the Basement

by Anthony Berkeley

Genres: Crime, Mystery
Pages: 224
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: four-stars

When two newlyweds discover that a corpse has been buried in the basement of their new home, a gruelling case begins to trace the identity of the victim. With all avenues of investigation approaching exhaustion, a tenuous piece of evidence offers a chance for Chief Inspector Moresby and leads him to the amateur sleuth Roger Sheringham, who has recently been providing cover work in a school south of London.

Desperate for evidence of any kind on the basement case, Moresby begins to sift through the manuscript of a satirical novel Sheringham has been writing about his colleagues at the school, convinced that amongst the colourful cast of teachers hides the victim – and perhaps their murderer.

A novel pairing dark humour and intelligent detection work, this 1932 ‘whowasdunin?’ mystery is an example of a celebrated Golden Age author’s most inventive work.

Anthony Berkeley was a clever writer, and never one to rest on his laurels. I’m not a fan of his detectives, nor particularly the way he wrote female characters, but Murder in the Basement was structured really interestingly, and it’s not the first book by him that played around with structure which I’ve read. In this case, the middle section of the book is a fictionalisation of the chief suspects, written by Roger Sheringham before the crime was committed, and which allows us to begin to guess at the motives — and identity — of both murderer and victim.

I found it a little frustrating to go so long without being able to guess even who the victim was, and I’m not certain that part was really fair-play. But perhaps it’d have made it too obvious too soon to reveal it earlier…

Anyway, the story itself is fascinating, and Berkeley’s playing around with the rules of the genre as well, so it’s not the cosy and neatly contained package that some classic mysteries are. I definitely admired it, even as I wished he could just once like a woman and portray one positively!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Wychford Poisoning Case

Posted July 24, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Wychford Poisoning Case by Anthony BerkeleyThe Wychford Poisoning Case, Anthony Berkeley

Well, that was an unexpected displeasure.

I remember quite enjoying one of Berkeley’s other books, but in this one he got the weirdest bee in his bonnet about a particular young female character needing to be spanked, because she tried to act cool and sophisticated in front of a somewhat-famous author. I’m talking a girl old enough to be socialising with grown women and giving them an introduction, so probably an adult or almost an adult… and Berkeley has her older, married male cousin give her a spanking once, and empower his author-friend to give her a second spanking as well.

I was mildly interested in the mystery, and there’s some witty chat between various characters that sometimes reminded me a bit of Lord Peter, but it just isn’t worth the sheer weirdness of the male characters continually being ready to spank a female character. It’s just… weird. So yeah, DNF.

Rating: 1/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted July 1, 2021 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Anyyyy day now I’ll get round to scheduling more of my backlogged reviews, but for now, here’s the WWW Wednesday post!

What are you currently reading?​

Cover of After the Dragons by Cynthia ZhangAbout eight books at once, last I checked! So I’ll just pick a couple to talk about: first on my mind is After the Dragons, by Cynthia Zhang. It involves dragons, biology, and a prickly love interest with whom things will (presumably) get figured out. I hadn’t realised it was queer, actually, somehow — or hadn’t remembered it, anyway. I am promised there will be cuddles soon, and I wonder quite how they’re going to get there.

I’m also reading Ancestors: The Prehistory of Britain in Seven Burials, which would be more accurately but less catchily titled “Ancestors: The Prehistory of Britain, with seven key burials discussed to varying degrees, and mostly lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of description of non-British archaeology”. Which is cool, but I actually wanted a closer focus on particular burials — that’s what I was interested in.

Finally, I’m now reading Anthony Berkeley’s The Wychford Poisoning Case, which is fun: the detective character is very glib and smooth-talking, in a way familiar to those who love Lord Peter. Mind you, Lord Peter never tried to turn his grown-up female cousin over his knee to spank her, so there are definitely bits that ring very oddly to a contemporary reader.

Cover of What it Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Lesley Nneka ArimahWhat have you recently finished reading?​

I am really bad at keeping track of that recently, so the thing that mostly jumps to mind is that I finished Seashaken Houses, by Tom Nancollas. He made the cardinal sin (to me) of getting something wrong about Arthurian myth — the very briefest of references, but infuriating. That said, it definitely scratched the curious itch I had when looking at it on the shelf, so it worked out.

Oh, and I finished What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, which has a lot of clever stories in it, and which I’m still mulling over.

Cover of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall KimmererWhat will you be reading next?

No idea at all. Chances are high that I’ll be picking up Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, since it’s a book club read for this month. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is also coming up soon, so that might be a choice. But really, who knows?

What are you folks reading?

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