Book review: The Poisoned Chocolates Case

“On the exposition and discussion of theories Roger kept a firmly quelling hand. The whole object of the experiment, as he pointed out more than once, was that everybody should work independently, without bias from any other brain, form his or her own theory, and set about proving it in his or her own way.”

“The Poisoned Chocolates Case”, by Anthony Berkeley

Mr and Mrs Bendix are, as all agree, a happily married couple. But disaster strikes, in the form of a box of poisoned chocolates, which causes the death of Mrs Bendix and a close call for her husband. When it emerges that the chocolates were intended for another person altogether, the less than chivalrous Sir Eustace Pennefather, Scotland Yard are at a loss to find the culprit. With the case seemingly at a standstill, Roger Sheringham and his Crime Circle – a team of amateur criminologists – step in to put their skills to the test.

This 1929 novel from famous crime fiction author Anthony Berkeley was another brilliant read from the British Library Crime Classics series. Introduced by the great Martin Edwards, novelist and crime fiction expert, the book follows an interesting structure, with each member of the Crime Circle taking it in turns (in random order, drawn by lot) to propose their solution to the crime, based on the same evidence presented to them by Chief Inspector Moresby of Scotland Yard, and any information they are able to unearth themselves. The book also includes an alternative solution from another Golden Age crime author, Christianna Brand, along with one from Martin Edwards himself.

What was particularly enjoyable about the book was how each solution, on first reading, seemed entirely plausible and could easily have been the end of any detective novel. That is, until you read the next one! It cleverly and affectionately sends up the detective fiction of the day, and I can see why it is such a classic.

Interestingly, Anthony Berkeley went on, in 1930, to found the Detection Club, so it’s interesting to imagine him testing out the idea here!

Pages: 272
Published: 1929 (republished 2016 by British Library Crime Classics)
Rating: 🐈🐈🐈🐈/5

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