Sir Eustace Pennefather, a known womaniser, arrives at his club at 10:30 am to receive an complimentary box of chocolates through the post. Not being impressed by such a promotional stunt, he gives the chocolates to Graham Bendix, a man who, coincidentally, owes his wife some chocolates after losing a bet. As he shares them with his wife, he only eat a couple, as they have a distinctively unpleasant taste. She, however, eats a lot of them. He becomes sick. She becomes dead…
With the police reduced to looking for a random loony, Roger Sheringham convenes his Crime Circle – six individuals all who have an interest in crime. Each agree to investigate the crime for a week and give their solution to the rest of the Circle. Each of them has their own theory as to who the killer is. But which, if any, of them is correct?
One of the true classics of the Golden Age (so of course, this is the first time that I’ve read it), it is presented in a ground-breaking style. By concentrating almost entirely on the deductions of Sheringham and his colleagues – we get a little of Sheringham’s investigations as well – and the breaking down of each conclusion by the other members of the Circle, it’s almost as if we’re eavesdropping on a conversation between the writer of an unsatisfying mystery and a reader picking holes in it – I’m sure Rich from Past Offences could have such a conversation with Dame Agatha over The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd.
I do wonder if Berkeley was having a direct go at particular authors with each of the theories. It’s all written in an enjoyable style, so even if it is, it’s not a serious attack. I was caught out by the identity of the murderer – in fact I feel like I fell into the trap that Berkeley laid for me, given which of the sleuths plumped for the same option as me.
I’m not convinced, however, how much of a fair-play mystery it is. The solution makes sense but I’m not convinced if any reader would or could have worked it out. Not that this particularly bothered me as it was too much fun of a read.
Definitely a classic that needs to be read. Highly Recommended.