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Republished for the first time in nearly 95 years, a classic winter country house mystery by the founder of the Detection Club, with a twist that even Agatha Christie couldn’t solve!
Stephen Munro, a demobbed army officer, reconciles himself to taking a job as a footman to make ends meet. Employed at Wintringham Hall, the delightful but decaying Sussex country residence of the elderly Lady Susan Carey, his first task entails welcoming her eccentric guests to a weekend house-party, at which her bombastic nephew – who recognises Stephen from his former life – decides that an after-dinner séance would be more entertaining than bridge. Then Cicely disappears!
With Lady Susan reluctant to call the police about what is presumably a childish prank, Stephen and the plucky Pauline Mainwaring take it upon themselves to investigate. But then a suspicious death turns the game into an altogether more serious affair…
This classic winter mystery incorporates all the trappings of the Golden Age – a rambling country house, a séance, a murder, a room locked on the inside, with servants, suspects and alibis, a romance – and an ingenious puzzle.
First published as a 30-part newspaper serial in 1926 – the year The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was published, The Wintringham Mystery was written by Anthony Berkeley, founder of the famous Detection Club. Also known as Cicely Disappears, the Daily Mirror ran the story as a competition with a prize of £500 (equivalent to £30,000 today) for anyone who guessed the solution correctly. Nobody did – even Agatha Christie entered and couldn’t solve it. Can you?
‘Detection and crime at its wittiest – all Berkeley’s stories are amusing, intriguing and he is a master of the final twist.’
‘Anthony Berkeley is the supreme master not of the “twist” but of the “double-twist”.’ Milward Kennedy in the Sunday Times
About the author
Anthony Berkeley (1893-1971) was the founder of the Detection Club and a highly innovative early crime writer. He is acknowledged as inventing the psychological crime novel, and The Poisoned Chocolates Case is one of the most successful of the British Library’s classic crime reissues. He wrote Malice Aforethought and other thrillers as Francis Iles, but gave up writing novels before WW2 and became better known afterwards as literary critic for the Telegraph and Sunday Times.
Berkeley (1893 1971) combines humor with a golden age plot so baffling that Agatha Christie couldn't solve it when this tantalizing mystery was originally serialized in 1926. London gadabout Stephen Munro, who must seek gainful employment after spending all his inheritance, lands a job as a footman at Wintringham Hall, the Sussex household of Lady Susan Carey. Fortuitously, Munro's Jeeves-like valet, Ebenezer Bridger, whom Munro can no longer afford, has also joined Lady Susan's staff. Soon after Munro begins life downstairs, Lady Susan hosts a house party. Munro struggles to adapt both to his new status as a servant and as the ex-boyfriend of guest Pauline Mainwaring, now engaged to one of the richest men in London. Lady Susan's nephew Freddie Venables persuades the guests to join him in conducting a s ance, but after the lights are turned back on, one of the participants has disappeared, despite all the room's exits having been guarded. A murder follows. Munro and Bridger make an engaging investigative team reminiscent of Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter. Fair play fans will enjoy seeing whether they can succeed where Christie failed.