To those at the scene, it was quite clear that the death was a suicide. The victim, an extremely unpleasant person, would almost certainly have qualified as insane, with the ability to spread misery everywhere. The death was undoubtedly a blessing for everyone, the victim included. Even the police were inclined to look on the matter from that point of view. Only Roger Sheringham spotted the one impossible fact that made it clear that they were dealing with murder. And he was rather inclined to hide it. Could he?
That's the basic question in Anthony Berkeley's 1933 mystery, Jumping Jenny. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
It's a curious book - and I'm a bit reluctant to share too much of it because there are too many first-rate twists that make it difficult for me to avoid spoilers. Berkeley's amateur detective, Roger Sheringham and his efforts to conceal the fact that the victim was murdered, apparently by one of Roger's friends, are at the center of the mystery; what makes it more fun for the reader is that the reader - not the detective - is given certain additional facts about the murder which Sheringham does not know.
In Berkeley's novels, facts can indeed be tricky things. It's worth noting this comment from Roger Sheringham, talking to a friend:
“It’s so easy to think of a feasible explanation of a fact, without knowing in the least whether it’s the right one, and without probably realizing how many other feasible explanations of the same fact there may be. That was the trouble with the old-fashioned detective story…One deduction only was drawn from each fact, and it was invariably the right deduction. The Great Detectives of the past certainly had luck. In real life one can draw a hundred plausible deductions from one fact, and they’re all equally wrong.”
Keep that in mind as you enjoy the surprises in Jumping Jenny, by Anthony Berkeley. It is available both in a print edition and as an e-book, and it is worth seeking out.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader's Block blog, Jumping Jenny is my entry for the square (top row, second column) called "TBR First Lines." The idea of this square is for the reader to choose, from among his/her pile (or mountain) of books To Be Read, one whose first line captures his/her attention. Jumping Jenny opens with this line:
"From the triple gallows three figures swung lazily, one woman and two men."
Grabbed my attention all right. By the way, that woman's figure is the "Jumping Jenny" of the title. At any rates, that completes the square for me!
NOTE - This is being published a few hours early this week, as much of my Monday will be spent on board assorted planes, returning from Left Coast Crime. Back to normal Monday publication next week.