The Detective Fiction of Anthony Berkeley

“We congratulate Mr. Berkeley on one of the cleverest and most provoking detective stories that we have read for a very long time.”

Times Literary Supplement, 29th June 1933

“…yet another detective story that only the author of Jumping Jenny could have written.  There never was another writer of detective stories who managed to make his red herrings smell so good.”

– William Blunt, Observer, 2nd April 1939

It is good to see that the works of Anthony Berkeley have been rediscovered in the last few years.  We have had Malcolm Turnbull’s excellent study of the author, Elusion Aforethought; the complete reprinting of the
Berkeley novels by the House of Stratus (with the exception of The Wychford Poisoning Case – let us be thankful for small mercies!); and, earlier this year, Tony Medawar’s excellent Avenging Chance (Crippen & Landru), collecting Berkeley’s scattered short stories.  Berkeley was one of the finest writers of detective novels: his plots are always ingeniously plotted and solved (although not always by his novelist detective Roger Sheringham, easily the most likeable and enthusiastic amateur of them all), with twists in the final chapter which Christie would envy, and his characters, depicted with the sort of malicious irony that would be so common in the 1970s, are given believable motives and psychological complexity – no wonder, then, that Berkeley’s three novels written as Francis Iles should be cited as the first and most influential psychological novels. <><>

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These pages copyright Nicholas Lester Fuller, 2000--2010. Created 3rd December 2004.