Tuesday ’Tec! Razor Edge by Anthony Berkeley

resorting to murderElementary, my dear Sheringham…

 

Like last week’s Capital Crimes: London Mysteries, Resorting to Murder is another anthology of crime stories edited by Martin Edwards, published as part of the British Library Crime Classics series, this time with the theme of murders committed during summer holidays. According to the introduction to this story, Anthony Berkeley was pretty well known as one of the crime writers of the Golden Age. Personally I’ve never heard of him, either under that name, which he used when writing whodunits, or as Francis Iles, the name he used for novels about the psychology of crime. Roger Sheringham, the amateur detective in this story, appeared in several other stories, though this one was never published until 1994, and even then in a strictly limited edition. So time to see if it’s a forgotten treasure or just one that should have been left on the shelf, in this week’s…

Tuesday Tec

Razor Edge by Anthony Berkeley

 

Anthony Berkeley
Anthony Berkeley

Here, ladies and gentlemen, are the facts of the case. Your mission is to see if you can find the solution…

Roger Sheringham is spending the weekend with his old friend Major Drake, who just happens to be the Chief Constable of the seaside resort of Penhampton. A man is found drowned – not an uncommon occurrence in a place where the bathing is known to be dangerous. A distraught woman turns up at the police station and tells them that her husband, Edward Hutton, had gone bathing with another man, a fellow holidaymaker, Michael Barton. She subsequently identifies the corpse as her husband. Barton hasn’t been seen since, and all Mrs Hutton can say by way of description is that he had a long moustache. The police are confident it’s a tragic double drowning accident but, as you do when you have guests staying, Major Drake invites Sheringham to accompany him to the mortuary to look at the corpse. (Beats visiting the local museum, I suppose.)

Sheringham has a casual glance or two at the corpse and pretty much solves the whole thing on the spot, though in time-honoured fashion he keeps his conclusions to himself so that the police can show off their stupidity to the full. Here are the things Sheringham notices…

Clues

The man has a recent shaving cut on his lip.
The man’s chin is stubbly as if he hadn’t shaved that morning.
The man has scratches all over his back but none on the rest of his body.

From this, Sheringham deduces it’s a case of murder. Five points and a signed picture of Sheringham to anyone who can at this point tell me whodunit and how it was done. Oh, come on! Sheringham had the answer!

Had the man not been wearing a daring backless bathing suit, the murder may have gone unnoticed...
Had the man not been wearing a daring backless bathing suit, the murder may have gone unnoticed…

No? Oh, well, let’s assume that, like the police, you need a little extra help.

New clues found out in the course of the investigation

Barton owned a blue suit but wasn’t wearing it when he went bathing that day.
The blue suit is no longer in Barton’s tent.
There was a warrant out for the arrest of Hutton for dodgy sharedealing.
Mrs Hutton was seen the next day with a man in a blue suit.

Still not solved it? I guess you’ll just have to read the story then.

Oh, how did I do? Well, I admit I’d sussed out the whodunit from roughly page 2, and I worked out the why when the new clues came along. As to the how, well, I got about two-thirds of that bit, and frankly the other third was silly…

oh we do like...

Despite the fact that I’m making fun of it, the story isn’t too bad really, but neither is it particularly good. Because I haven’t read any of the other Sheringham stories I can’t say how it compares, but I found the writing pretty good and the characterisation pretty stereotyped. Sheringham himself is not so much a Holmesian incisive reasoner as an annoyingly smug, psychic know-it-all, and that’s just as well because the intellectually challenged police desperately needed help. While I like stories that give the reader the clues needed to work out the solution, they really have to be hidden a little better than they are in this one. I’m not sure it would encourage me to seek out more of Berkeley’s stories, but it whiled away a quarter of an hour pleasantly enough.

 

* * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 🙂

43 thoughts on “Tuesday ’Tec! Razor Edge by Anthony Berkeley

  1. This is such a witty review, FictionFan!! 😆 In all seriousness, I do like Berekely’s writing style. And those are very intriguing clues. Interesting how so many of those early GA detectives like to keep their cards close to the chest…

    • Haha! Thanks, Margot! I liked his writing too and it was definitely ‘of its time’ in the portrayal of the amateur ‘tec being so much smarter than the poor dull policemen. I love these anthologies – they give a nice introduction to such a variety of authors and styles…

  2. Haha! This sounds like quite good fun, if not quite the devilish brain-teaser I usually expect from a detective novel. I am intrigued by the clues – I am guessing this – Hutton killed Barton but shaved off his moustache so his wife could pretend that the body was actually Hutton and he could thereby escape arrest for his dodgy dealings. He also nicked the chap’s blue suit, as some sort of a disguise or because he only had his swimming trunks with him. Or maybe it was a nice suit, who knows. As ever, your review is probably more entertaining than the actual tale! Although this one does appeal to me as a nice, gentle read to be enjoyed in the garden over a cup of tea.

    • Wooo! You’re good! You’re very, very good, in fact! Now, just explain to me why he had the scratches on his back and I’m ready to give you the title of SuperSleuth…

      These anthologies are great – you get a variety of authors, most of whom I’ve not heard of, so that even if a particular story is only average the collection as a whole is still fun.

      • Yay! I was pondering the scratches, but I probably don’t have enough information. I am thinking either the body was dragged from somewhere else (after he was dead) or it occured during the drowning process. I suppose I will have to be content with AverageSleuth, as opposed to a super one! But I am chuffed with that.
        It looks like a really fun collection of stories, I’ve made a note as this really is my kind of thing.

        • Well, you’re so close, and that was the bit I thought was silly and reduced a Little Grey Cell for, ‘cos Sheringham just seemed to jump to the right answer psychically. Do you know how the Brides in the Bath were drowned? That was the method he employed… Maybe at the time it was so well known that it’d have been more likely to occur to readers, but I felt it was impossible for us to guess really. I’m most impressed – should anyone ever steal my sausages, I shall bring the case to you… (*muses* of course, you might be a suspect…)

          • Gosh, I am impressed with myself. I am not familiar with the Brides in the Bath, but I shall look it up out of interest. It seems that twenty-odd years of reading Agatha Christie and the like has sharpened my little grey cells! Or it could be the seven years as a police officer… But feel free to bring me any random cases! In the case of sausage theft, I am most likely to be the prime suspect, sadly, and even if I wasn’t, your sausages might not return to you in one piece. Any non-food related mysteries I can definitely be trusted with, though!

            • It must be the reading – the police never, ever, ever see the clues, no matter how obvious! Thank goodness for the posh amateurs – that’s what modern policing lacks – people with uppity accents telling them how to do their job. *thinks of the government suddenly* 😉 I may have to turn over to you the baffling case of The Mystery of the Mysterious TBR – who breaks into my computer and adds books when I’m not looking?!?

            • Haha! Yes, I forget how utterly ridiculous the police are at solving these things. I shall practice my uppity accent and embark on a whole new career of pointing out their failings. That will be warmly received, no doubt! Failing that, I will claim to be a descendent of Poirot and find myself a nice Captain Hastings to boss around.
              Aha, a mystery worthy of my efforts – at last! I shall begin questioning authors desperate to feature on your fine blog – preferably in a remote country estate populated by people from the 1930s…

            • Of course, you’ll be competing with Tommy and Tuppence to see who can solve the crimes first. But they’re both looking pretty laid-back about the whole thing at the moment, I must say.

              I’m thinking of installing security lighting and an intruder alarm around my laptop – and perhaps an electrified fence…

  3. *laughing lots* Stellar review, FEF! Have a bear claw.

    You had the answer from page 2?! That’s just cause your a genius at these things. Is bathing another way to say they went swimming? How odd, you know.

    He should really get another swimsuit. Just looks like he forgot to take off his suspenders. And that cartoons is disturbing, but I do like the castles. (AB looks like Hitler!)

    • Ooh, thanks! Lovely! Where’s my cappuccino?

      Honestly, there was only really one suspect so it wasn’t too brilliant a piece of deduction. Holmes and even Olmes would have got it quicker! D’you know, I wondered while I was typing if Americans used ‘bathing’ for ‘swimming’. It’s kind of old-fashioned here too, but we used to talk about going to the baths rather than going to the swimming pool.

      I like the old-fashioned swimsuits – I think we should go back to them! Haha! Most of the seaside postcard cartoons were far too naughty to be included – a fine old British tradition… (*laughs lots* Yeah, like Hitler after he’d eaten way too many bear claws…)

      • Right here… See? I’ve memorized it all. Aren’t I spicy?

        *laughing* Olmes! But he was brilliant–not as brilliant as you, but brilliant. You know, I’ll try it out with someone. “Hey, dude, you wanna got to the baths?” The look on their face would be incredible. But, really, I bet it’s all the Romans fault. What with their baths/swimming pools and all.

        Those things? I wouldn’t wear that if you paid me! Well…maybe I would. But still. That…looks tight! *laughs* (*laughing more* Someone should have overdosed him on bear claws, you know, you know.)

        • You are as spicy as a double-dose of melange water fresh from the Little Makers!

          He was! He’d have had the whole thing wrapped in two pages and one evil chuckle! *laughs* Don’t do it! I fear for you! Yes, I bet you’re right – like the Roman baths in… er… Bath, that the Austen characters go to…

          I wouldn’t pay you to wear it! I promise! I might pay you not to… (*laughs too* We should send massive supplies to all the dictators and bring about world peace!)

          • Melange?! *gags* Poor Chani…

            Quite right! Yes, I’ve decided not to the sudden. The Austen characters go to a Roman bath? *laughing* That’d be something worth reading.

            *laughs* You hate it, too! Quite good, then. (And then you can become the dictator!)

            • *laughs but tries to hide it* Yes, poor Chani!

              Yes, as you will discover when you read Northanger Abbey…

              (*starry-eyed* And then all the bear claws would be mine…!!!)

            • Humph-noodles to you, O lover of her murderer!

              You mean they’re actually sightseeing? *laughing lots*

              (Yes, most of them. I do like them too, you know, you know.)

            • *chuckles* You’re never going to forgive me for that, are you?

              They go to Bath mainly to dance and catch husbands…

              (*laughs lots* Was I being a little selfish? OK, you can have… a few.)

            • It may take a million years…

              *shakes head* Poor guys! The Austen women are coming. That’s enough to clear a city, I should imagine.

              (Just a little, I’d say. How about 3?)

  4. I read quite a few of the Sherringham stories when I was in my “Golden Age” period, but I always thought he was an insufferable know-it- all , and a snob too, which made it worse.

    • Yes, somehow Holmes could be insufferable but still likeable, while Sheringham was just insufferable… The collection looks like fun, though – a few different ones than just the ‘usual suspects’…

    • Haha! Yes, I fear when there’s only one suspect, even I find it not too difficult to pick the villain! I bet that bathing suit was just so cool at the time… 😉

  5. I love this review and the fact that the means of murder was linked to the way George Smith disposed of his victims only increases my enjoyment – I didn’t guess that bit from the clues! It does seem like an excellent anthology to sample a range of sleuths. 🙂

    • Thank you! Yes, the method was a neat touch even if we didn’t really get the chance to work it out for ourselves. I think I’m going to enjoy both these anthologies – this one and the London-based one – when I get round to reading them properly…

    • Thanks, Fleur! Short stories are always tricky in crime writing – there’s not enough space to have lots of suspects and red herrings so they tend to be a bit simplistic, I find. I’ll keep an eye open for one of his novels.

    • I love the cover of this one. Even though I mostly read on the Kindle now, I still love covers – and I’ve picked many a book purely on that basis myself… 🙂

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