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E.C. Bentley Locked Room Titles


Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875 – 1956) was a popular English novelist and humorist of the early twentieth century, and the inventor of the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics. One of the best known is this (1905):

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

Bentley was born in London and educated at St Paul’s School and Merton College, Oxford. His father, John Edmund Bentley, was professionally a civil servant but was also a rugby union international having played in the first ever international match for England against Scotland in 1871. Bentley worked as a journalist on several newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph. He also worked for the imperialist weekly called The Outlook during the editorship of James Louis Garvin. His first published collection of poetry, titled Biography for Beginners (1905), popularized the clerihew form; it was followed by two other collections, More Biography (1929) and Baseless Biography (1939). His detective novel, Trent’s Last Case (1913), was much praised, numbering Dorothy L. Sayers among its admirers, and with its labyrinthine and mystifying plotting can be seen as the first truly modern mystery. It was adapted as a film in 1920, 1929, and 1952. The success of the work inspired him, after 23 years, to write a sequel, Trent’s Own Case (1936). There was also a book of Trent short stories, Trent Intervenes. Several of his books were reprinted in the early 2000s by House of Stratus.

From 1936 until 1949 Bentley was president of the Detection Club. He contributed to two crime stories for the club’s radio serials broadcast in 1930 and 1931, which were published in 1983 as The Scoop and Behind The Screen. In 1950 he contributed the introduction to a Constable & Co omnibus edition of Damon Runyon’s “stories of the bandits of Broadway”, which was republished by Penguin Books in 1990 as ‘On Broadway’.

He died in 1956 in London at the age of 80. His son Nicolas Bentley was a famous illustrator.

G. K. Chesterton dedicated his popular detective novel on anarchist terrorism, ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’, to Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a schoolfriend.

Edited from Wikipedia

While none of Bentley’s novels are locked room plots, four of the short stories in ‘Trent Intervenes’ are usually considered part of the genre.

E. C Bentley Gadetection


E. C. Bentley Locked Room Short Stories


trent intervenesThe Ordinary Hairpins (1931)
Detective: Philip Trent

Collection: Trent Intervenes; The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries

 

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Note: From our review: Blogging The Black Lizard: Part 4/8

‘The Ordinary Hairpins’, by E.C. Bentley (1875-1936), is a Philip Trent story by one of the most important authors in the development of modern mystery fiction. Trent is painting a portrait of Lord Aviemore, when the subject turns to Aviemore’s late sister-in-law, the Norwegian singer, Lillimore Wergeland. Six years earlier, after her husband and child were killed in an earthquake in Sicily, she had apparently taken her life by jumping into the sea during an overnight passage aboard a ship. Trent’s interest is aroused by this discussion, and he begins to investigate this very cold case, which ends up turning on a seemingly unimportant item of evidence – four ordinary black hair pins! Not a true locked room story, or even a very impossible mystery, instead it is another of those stories that deal with things that suddenly disappear without a trace. An excellent piece of fiction by one of the great masters, and a great mystery read, but not at all sure that it really belongs in a locked room anthology.

Trent Intervenes includes:

The Genuine Tabard
The Sweet Shot
The Clever Cockatoo
The Vanishing Lawyer
The Inoffensive Captain
The Fool-Proof Lift
The Old-Fashioned Apache
The Bad Dog
The Public Benefactor
The Little Mystery
The Unknown Peer
The Ordinary Hairpins


trent intervenesThe Sweet Shot (1938) 
Detective: Philip Trent

Collection: Trent Intervenes; 101 years of Entertainment (1941) by Ellery Queen

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It looks like lightning, but…

Philip Trent is investigating the odd death of Arthur Freer on the golf links. Freer was an unpopular member of the club, who always played a solitary nine holes before breakfast, even in the worst weather. Then one morning he was found dead on the second fairway, just where he needed his ‘brassie’ to make a sweet shot on to the green. The body is badly singed and the internal damage is quite severe! It looks like a direct lightning hit; the only problems is, there was no lightning that morning! A really good impossible puzzle plot, one of Trent’s best!


trent intervenesThe Unknown Peer 
Detective: Philip Trent

Collection: Trent Intervenes

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Looking for Mr. Coxe

Philip Trent is investigating the mysterious disappearance of a reclusive peer, Lord Southrop, AKA: L.G. Coxe, the name he used during his sketching trips to avoid publicity. It soon becomes quite clear that something is very wrong! Southport was a wine connoisseur, but who ever was driving his  car across the country bought a bad vintage of claret to go with his fish! Another great puzzle plot with excellent clues!


trent intervenesThe Vanishing Lawyer 
Detective: Philip Trent

Collection: Trent Intervenes

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Where is John Carlton Gayles?

A very well  respected lawyer, John Charlton Gayles, has suddenly disappeared from his London home without a trace, and so has “an enormous amount of property” belonging to his clients!  Trent is on the case, trying to find out exactly what occurred, but it proves to be a long prepared, and very well planned vanishing act. This wily lawyer, who no one ever suspected, has covered his trail with considerable care – but his fondness for tulips might yet prove to be his downfall! A fourth great Trent story, but, again, not really an impossible crime case! Like ‘The Ordinary Hairpins’ it falls into that grey area of tales deaing with things or people that suddenly and inexplicably disappear.


Complete E. C. Bentley Bibliography


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