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Trent's Last Case (Philip Trent, #1)
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message 1: by Judy (last edited Jun 01, 2017 02:40PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
This is the spoiler thread for our June group read, Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley. Please note spoilers can be openly discussed here, as it is assumed that anyone reading this thread has finished the book.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2060 comments I did not warm to Trent at all. The murderer turned out to be who I suspected from very early on in the book, and I did not appreciate the romance side of it at all.


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
I enjoyed it, but I will admit to not warming to Trent either. However, it was a fairly early mystery, wasn't it, and so I think I gave a little more leeway to characterisation.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
I've just found an interesting review of the book which explains that it was partly intended as a satire of detective fiction - hence the fact that the detective gets it wrong!

https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs...


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1172 comments Susan wrote: "I enjoyed it, but I will admit to not warming to Trent either. However, it was a fairly early mystery, wasn't it, and so I think I gave a little more leeway to characterisation."

I found I was pretty neutral towards Trent, I didn't like or dislike him- but the book itself I enjoyed- the twists and turns in the plot, and what finally made him give up his career as a detective was fun.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1172 comments It was interesting that he wasn't really wrong in his inferences either the first time or the second, but just that he didn't take into account (or rather didn't find) all the factors/people that were in play.


message 7: by Judy (last edited Jun 01, 2017 02:41PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Lady Clementina wrote: "I found I was pretty neutral towards Trent, I didn't like or dislike him- but the book itself I enjoyed- the twists and turns in the plot, and what finally made him give up his career as a detective was fun.

I rather took against him after he decided not to tell the police about his findings - I know that a lot of GA detectives decide to play God and let people go, but in this case it's hard to see why he thinks the killer deserves to escape justice! I was hoping Mabel would send that document straight to the police.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Lady Clementina wrote: "It was interesting that he wasn't really wrong in his inferences either the first time or the second, but just that he didn't take into account (or rather didn't find) all the factors/people that w..."

Yes, I found it clever that he works it all out so brilliantly but still comes to the wrong conclusion, because of the things that the clues didn't point out.


message 9: by Lady Clementina (last edited Jun 01, 2017 07:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1172 comments Judy wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "I found I was pretty neutral towards Trent, I didn't like or dislike him- but the book itself I enjoyed- the twists and turns in the plot, and what finally made him give up ..."

Mabel was convinced the secretary wasn't the killer- and Trent of course, in the first instance was trying to protect Mabel's reputation- so that bit made sense - and by the end of it all, it turned out to be an accident after all.


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
I think the author was obviously fed up of the Sherlock Holmes type of investigator, who comes in and knows everything instantly. In that sense, it was refreshing - or, must have been so at the time.


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Lady Clementina wrote: "Mabel was convinced the secretary wasn't the killer- and Trent of course, in the first instance was trying to protect Mabel's reputation"

Ah, that's interesting, Lady C - it hadn't struck me he was trying to protect her reputation, I was just thinking that he was trying to save the man (he thought) she loved! I suppose the two go together.

It just struck me that his feelings for Mabel aren't really an argument for allowing a cold-blooded killer, as he looked to be from all the clever planning involved, to get off the hook. But of course as you say by the end this doesn't matter too much as Trent was wrong anyway...


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1172 comments Susan wrote: "I think the author was obviously fed up of the Sherlock Holmes type of investigator, who comes in and knows everything instantly. In that sense, it was refreshing - or, must have been so at the time."
Trent tries to be like Holmes but the whole thing backfires- twice.


Sandy | 2784 comments Mod
I liked the twists to the plot. Trent basically solved the big question of how the murder was accomplished and then the explanations of what really happened made the story much more interesting. The part I didn't like was the romantic element and Trent's fascination with the widow. I would like to think that if he thought she was involved, either before or after, he would have a lower opinion of her. I can more readily see him stepping aside for the sake of his friend. Probably he is more of a romantic than I am.

The flowery language got to me after by the second half. I found myself skimming.

I think it is an excellent model for later GA mysteries. I'm surprised it was written as early as 1913.


message 14: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2060 comments Sandy wrote: "I liked the twists to the plot. Trent basically solved the big question of how the murder was accomplished and then the explanations of what really happened made the story much more interesting. Th..."
That's how I felt about it. The romance and all the romantic feelings, did get me down.


message 15: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
The romance did help to mislead me though... that together with the Woman in Black alternative title made me think Mabel must be the killer! Did anyone else think so?


message 16: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
I've probably just seen too many TV mysteries where the detective's love interest did it...


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
She seemed the most likely suspect, so I didn't really suspect her - does that make sense?!


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
I must admit I got really side tracked by the issue of his missing teeth as well!


message 19: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Yes, I was totally puzzled by the false teeth - this and the shoes are really clever clues which had me scratching my head!

Something I did wonder about the way the killer tries to disguise the time of death - from other mysteries I've read, wouldn't it be possible to pinpoint this a bit more closely through rigor mortis and other clues? Although this is a very early mystery, so probably these methods were more developed by the time of the books published in the 1930s.


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "She seemed the most likely suspect, so I didn't really suspect her - does that make sense?!"

It does indeed! I just found that all the descriptions of her beauty made me a bit suspicious, as I wondered if this was intended to throw readers off the scent.


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
As I said on the other thread, Judy, I think forensic skills were in their infancy, so probably detectives were looking for physical 'clues' rather than things like rigor mortis. This is Patricia Cornwell's obsession in her Ripper theory - if the body was taken and analysed.... Well, it wasn't. It was 1888 and they carted the victim off and, at best, measured wounds and took images. You can't impose modern methods on older times. So, for people who find GA mysteries unrealistic, they weren't really - times were just different.


message 22: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Just found an interesting short article from the Independent about Bentley and the success of Trent's Last Case - this does mention that there is a twist ending, so I thought I'd be on the safe side and post it in this thread:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...

I hadn't realised that the book was filmed three times, including a version starring Orson Welles! Must see if I can get hold of any of the films.


message 23: by Judy (last edited Jun 10, 2017 11:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "As I said on the other thread, Judy, I think forensic skills were in their infancy, so probably detectives were looking for physical 'clues' rather than things like rigor mortis. This is Patricia C..."

Interesting, Susan - I do remember rigor mortis featured in one of the GA novels I've read in the last couple of years, but am not sure which one! I'm now thinking it must have been written quite a bit later than Trent's Last Case, which as we've mentioned isn't far removed from the Sherlock Holmes era.

I think there have been a few forensic details in some of the Sayers books, but as you say it is mainly "clues" in this era.


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
Yes, this changes the shape of the book - it has to. In any contemporary crime novel you are immediately taken to a post mortem, but criminals are more elusive when you are looking at footprints in the flower bed!


message 25: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Funnily enough, I've just read a modern (well, 1990s) detective story where footprints in the flowerbeds feature on more than one occasion! It was Evans Above by Rhys Bowen, a gentle mystery set in North Wales, which I listened to on audio book and enjoyed a lot.


message 26: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
The front cover of one edition of Trent's Last Case carries this quote: "One of the three best detective stories ever written" - Agatha Christie.

Does anyone agree? I don't really see why it is as great as all that, although I quite enjoyed it. I'm not sure when she said this, though, so it's possible many of the most famous Golden Age novels came later.

I'm also dying to know what the other two best stories were in Christie's opinion. Did Sherlock Holmes feature in her list?!


message 27: by Abigail (new) - added it

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 802 comments I liked the puzzle and most of its resolution (up to but not including the last twist), but I didn’t think so much of the writing.


Sandy | 2784 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "The front cover of one edition of Trent's Last Case carries this quote: "One of the three best detective stories ever written" - Agatha Christie.

Does anyone agree? I don't really see why it is as..."


I certainly would not include it as one of the three best, but it was written very early so maybe there wasn't a lot of competition.


Jan C (woeisme) | 1375 comments Judy wrote: "The front cover of one edition of Trent's Last Case carries this quote: "One of the three best detective stories ever written" - Agatha Christie.

Does anyone agree? I don't really see why it is as..."


I think it is supposed to have had a big effect on mystery writing from that point forward. And, does it say when she said that? Was it said in the '20s or the '50s? That would make a difference. We are reading this 100+ years after the fact. So who knows about when it was written.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1172 comments I don't know about it being the best but the twists in the plot did take me by surprise and I did enjoy it overall- he seemed in a way poking fun at the Holmesean way of solving things- may be you can't always infer everything.


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Jan C wrote: "I think it is supposed to have had a big effect on mystery writing from that point forward. And, does it say when she said that? Was it said in the '20s or the '50s?"

I've been trying to find this out, Jan, but all I can find is the quote on its own! I agree it would be very interesting to know when it was said, and also if she mentioned the other two stories.


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Sorry, I don't remember who mentioned this, but someone posted a little while ago that Raymond Chandler was critical towards Trent's Last Case. Many thanks to whoever pointed this out.

I just had a look at his famous essay The Simple Art of Murder, which also came up during our group read of The Red House Mystery, which Chandler completely slams! He only has a few lines about Trent, but isn't very complimentary to this GA novel either:

In Trent’s Last Case (often called "the perfect detective story") you have to accept the premise that a giant of international finance, whose lightest frown makes Wall Street quiver like a chihuahua, will plot his own death so as to hang his secretary, and that the secretary when pinched will maintain an aristocratic silence; the old Etonian in him maybe. I have known relatively few international financiers, but I rather think the author of this novel has (if possible) known fewer.

Ouch. This is witty (love that last line!) but must say I find it rather unfair - why shouldn't an international financier also be a jealous husband?!

I took care not to reread the whole essay, even though it is a great read, as I remembered that it contains quite a few spoilers for novels that I haven't read, merrily proclaiming whodunit, but for anyone who wants to risk it here is a link:

http://www.en.utexas.edu/amlit/amlitp...


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
They so often put quotes on book jackets by other authors that say how riveted they were, how brilliant the book was, etc. that frankly I take no notice of them. I doubt most of the authors sent out books to review actually read them - it must be impossible. It is easy to just give a wonderful quote they can use attached to your name.

Obviously, Christie's quote is a little different and I think this was an important mystery, in that the detective in the case did not automatically get things right. If Holmes was what the author was reacting against, then that was a big change. Any time an author tries something new, then that is useful.

As we've said so often, you can't compare US GA fiction with the British counterpart. They are very different, and audiences in the UK after WWI were not ready for realism or violence. A body decorously laid on a hearth rug, or discovered in a bath tub, without more than a smear of blood, was what readers wanted - just a puzzle to solve.


message 34: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
That's interesting about the quotes, Susan - must say I've often been tempted to read a book because another author I like has praised it in one of those cover quotes... maybe I should be more wary?

Yes, British and US GA Golden Age fiction are very different.
Of course Trent's Last Case was actually pre-WW1, so it shows that the puzzle tradition was already starting to build.

Also as I think came up when we discussed Chandler before, he grew up in Britain and fought in the trenches in France, so he had a good knowledge of both cultures and felt he could compare - but his preference was for the hardboiled genre that he had chosen to write in! I've been meaning to read more Chandler as I do love him, but keep failing to get round to it...


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
Well, of course, I don't know whether gushing quotes are real or not, but I tend to treat them with a pinch of salt.

I can't seem to get on with the US GA hard boiled fiction, although I enjoy much modern American crime fiction. I can see why some people thought the UK puzzle type mystery was unrealistic, but give me a country house and a group of misfit aristocrats and I am perfectly happy to read on :)


message 36: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
On cover quotes, what really annoys me is when a book cover says something like "If you like writer X, you'll love writer Y!" or "As good as writer X or your money back!"

Must be quite soul-destroying for the new writer who is being sold as an imitation of someone else - and often the two writers are nothing like each other anyway.


message 37: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
I have really enjoyed the hardboiled GA fiction I've read, but I haven't read very much of it as yet, mainly just Chandler, Stout and Hammett and not enough of those!


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
I am sure it is my failing, but, although I can see what people like about Hammett, et al, I don't enjoy reading them myself.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1172 comments Susan wrote: "but give me a country house and a group of misfit aristocrats and I am perfectly happy to read on :) ..."

Me too :)


Marcus Vinicius | 169 comments I liked Trent's Last Case and may be tempted to read the other ones (two or three as I learned in the advertisement at the end of the book). It's struck me that the book was written before WWI, as I practically know nothing about mystery's books of that time. I'm curious about the dedication of the book to G K Chesterton, an author that I know (by way of his Christian's apologetic works) and like it. I wanna read Chesterton fictional works.


message 41: by Abigail (new) - added it

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 802 comments About the quotes from other authors on the back covers of books: unless you personally know a lot of authors and they uncritically support you, it’s actually not all that easy to get them. If you are being published by a publisher that has big-name authors, the publisher will often solicit those quotes from their own folks. But the authors who give the quotes are bearing in mind their own reputations, and they don’t want to get caught praising drek. If you’re an indie-press or self-published author, it’s very, very difficult.


Jan C (woeisme) | 1375 comments Susan wrote: "I am sure it is my failing, but, although I can see what people like about Hammett, et al, I don't enjoy reading them myself."

Have you tried the short stories - The Continental Op. Kindle has recently reissued some of the stories put into smaller volumes. Some of those stories have stuck with me over the years, although I long ago gave the books away.


message 43: by Susan (last edited Jun 17, 2017 10:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan | 10008 comments Mod
No, I haven't, to be fair, Jan - although I am not a big fan of short stories. I have tried a few 'hard-boiled' authors over the years, but they just don't appeal to me. I am now at the stage where I won't really persevere with books that I do not want to read - unless I have to read them for a group.


message 44: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "About the quotes from other authors on the back covers of books: unless you personally know a lot of authors and they uncritically support you, it’s actually not all that easy to get them. If you a..."

That's interesting, Abigail. You've reminded me that I read one of Nick Hornby's collections of book reviews where he said he is often asked to give cover quotes but is very sparing with them and keeps them for books he really likes.


message 45: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8932 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "I did not warm to Trent at all. The murderer turned out to be who I suspected from very early on in the book, and I did not appreciate the romance side of it at all."

Good detective work, Jill. Did anyone else guess the murderer early in this one? I didn't, though I did get an inkling later on!

I notice the killer's identity breaks one of the Ronald Knox/Detection Club "rules" (which to be fair hadn't been invented yet at the time of this book!)

http://www.thrillingdetective.com/tri...

"The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow. "

We do follow the thoughts of the killer early on, though they are mainly about what's for breakfast...


message 46: by Abbey (new) - added it

Abbey (abbess) | 93 comments Susan wrote: "I can't seem to get on with the US GA hard boiled fiction, although I enjoy much modern American crime fiction. I can see why some people thought the UK puzzle type mystery was unrealistic, but give me a country house and a group of misfit aristocrats and I am perfectly happy to read on :)

there were many American writers in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, who wrote "in the English Style" (strange rich folks being quite peculiar in a Big House), altho just now I can only think of one: Mignon G. Eberhart.

Like many female mystery authors of the time she now suffers from the tags "romantic" and "cozy" being associated with her work, but I think you'll find that her mysteries (and yes, they are mysterious, not sweet romances) have some dark edges and that not only are her plots terrific, her characterizations and settings are wonderful! "In Her Day" (grin) in America she was as popular as Christie! plus she wrote for nearly as long as Christie did too.

Not all American writers in the 1920s and 1930s were either male or romantics - some of 'em were downright scary females who told good, strong stories! And a Pet Peeve of mine, the *current* cozy stories are very sweet and many of them are extremely romantic as well, and an apalling number of them have very very light plots, seeming to focus more on being as "coooooooo-UUte!!!!" (you know what I mean...).

The older writers, especially females, tend to now be considered only and always cozy (cosy) too, simply because there isn't much blood'n'gore or gratuitous violence in their stories. BUT their forms of writing are quite different and IMO very often far superior in quality to many of the current crop of sweet cosy writers. There are wonderful DARK plots (Christie too) and scary psychological manipulations and lots of angst and some humor, but the majority of their writing grips you, transports you, entertains you, sometimes scares you, in a way the fluffy, overly-sweet modern "cosy" stories can't.

whoops. been ranting. sorry, this is tooooo long, will stop for now.


Joanne (joannegw) | 33 comments I liked this book a lot, especially when the plot twists started showing up. I was just along for the ride and didn't concern myself with rule-breaking, etc. The romance didn't bother me, but I wondered how anyone could afford to go to the opera every night until they spotted their sweetie! I liked the writing style, but it's very different from later mysteries. I'll probably read more by this author.


Sandy | 2784 comments Mod
I didn't think about the cost of going to the opera every night! Quite a commitment.


Susan | 10008 comments Mod
Yes, shame she didn't frequent the music halls instead - it would have been cheaper.


Jessica | 366 comments Did anyone find it odd where the detective had gone off to? When he is introduced to us, we get told how Trent and Scotland Yard Inspector Murth compare cases and try to beat each other to the punch. But aside from the investigation of the house, we never hear from him again. I expected him to reappear in the last chapters at the very least.


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