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Murder in the Basement

Page history last edited by Pietro De Palma 6 years, 10 months ago

Berkeley, Anthony -- Murder in the Basement (1932)


A rather oddly-constructed work which combines the elements of a grim police procedural with the investigative adventures of Roger Sheringham. It's a little like watching the author flip back and forth between Anthony Berkeley and Francis Iles. 


Two bright young things move into their new rented house after the death of the previous tenant, an elderly lady. Hubby investigates an ill-fitting patch of brickwork in the basement, and discovers a decayed female corpse. Scotland Yard swings into action and we spend many pages on the realistic and often fruitless tedium of genuine police work before the woman's identity is finally discovered.


By coincidence she has been on the staff at a school where Roger Sheringham has been working as a substitute teacher; and by an even greater coincidence he has written the first few chapters of a novel about the characters at the school. So by this conceit we are taken from the gritty details of a police investigation to Roger's supposed imaginings of unwitnessed scenes which we are supposed to regard as evidence. At the end of all this the victim is identified to the reader, and a fairly obvious suspect is named.


The investigation proceeds, but he proves a tough nut to crack, and the combined forces of Sheringham and Inspector Moresby are required to extract the truth. An unsatisfying and apparently random trick ending puts the lid on the whole strange mixture. An early and interesting experiment which -- for me at least -- didn't quite come off.




See also: http://deathcanread.blogspot.it/2014/11/anthony-berkeley-murder-in-basement-1932.html and http://deathcanread.blogspot.it/2014/11/anthony-berkeley-vs-patricia-mcgerr.html

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