Tuesday, 6 December 2016

My First Essay is in and I’ve been Gorging Myself..

On The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley. What it has impressed on me (and I had only vaguely thought this before) is that poisoned chocolates are a great device in fiction but actually an incredibly stupid way to try to poison someone. What’s the first thing most people do when they receive chocolates? Pass them around or pass them on. You’d be bound to kill the wrong person.

Or has the wrong person been killed?  At first it looks like it. Eustace Pennefather, to whom the chocolates were originally sent, is the sort of charming specimen who not only seduces but talks about his conquests (the cad!), while the woman whose husband passed on the chocolates, seems to have led a blameless life.

In the absence of a clear lead the police have decided it’s the work of a criminal lunatic, and so Roger Sheringham’s small, exclusive, club of authors and playwrights (and a lawyer) decide to inaugurate their society by investigating the case, each on his or her own lines, and presenting their solutions at the weekly meetings, one after another.

There’s great fun and interest in how those solutions stack up, each following logically on the one before, and how the personalities interact, and in being convinced that surely here is the solution, at last, only to have the case demolished again. It also has, or had, a very satisfying ending. 

My copy though has two more. Epilogues written first by Christianna Brand in the 70s and then also by Martin Edwards now – each with yet another solution. This could be annoying, but manages not to be because the format of the book lends itself so well to this sort of thing. 

In fact I don’t see why it shouldn’t extend itself further still, given enough talented authors to pick over the mystery and pull fresh plums out, and on and into infinity.   

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