My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I haven’t read a lot of mystery books in my life. Seeing a reading available via librivox, I decided to listen to the stream for a bit. Satisfied with a few minutes of Kirsten Wever’s narration of the prologue, I decided to download and listen to the book in its entirety. The book straddles the line between murder mystery and PG romance quite well, making it a rather pleasant change from what I typically read.
When powerful businessman Sigsbee Manderson is found murdered, newspaper reporter Philip Trent is requested to look into the high profile case. The situation is easier said than done as more than one party has an interest in the death remaining a mystery. While Philip has to compete with Scotland Yard Detective Murch, he also has to deal with his growing affections for Sigsy’s widow Mabel Manderson.
There is a touch of Sherlock Holmes in this story, but only in regards to the scenes where the author is going over the details of this clue or that through dialogue (internal and otherwise) and descriptive. It is clear that Trent knows something of the investigative field otherwise he wouldn’t have been called in. He is a bit sneaky as well, something that allows him to find some of the clues.
And while all of this is going on, we are drawn into Trent’s growing affections for Mabel, a woman with more than her share of male admirers and with a reputation for being a good woman. She is a rather neat love interest, a woman with an obvious want for privacy due to her difficult marriage to a particularly horrible man. She is an admirable sort, but she also has her own secrets.
The story was well-paced, but the odd structure did take me aback. E.C. Bentley has Trent come to a conclusion a little after the halfway point, but after some being reunited with Mabel a year and a half years after the inquest, he gets to the bottom of the rather annoying business that shows just how much of a crazy and vindictive bastard Sigsbee was.
Some other notable elements I noted about this novel was the author’s comments on the cultural differences between England, France and southern parts of the USA. This made me giggle slightly, and it shows that much of the beliefs about these places haven’t changed much since it was published in 1913.
Kirsten Wever’s reading is slightly overshadowed by pop sounds that are signs of numerous clipped files. She delivers the story quite well in spite of this, her voice doing justice to the story that might be passed over for the likes of Conan Doyle. She does a great job with the scenes where Trent and Celestine the gossiping maid speak French as well, giving her a place as one of my top 3 favorite librivox readers.
If you are looking for immediate gratification or an easy read, this novel isn’t for you. It has a long start as well, which nearly made me cease listening a few times. However, I was glad I stuck with it as it was well worth the pay-off. This is in regards to the reveal of what really happened on the night of Sigsbee’s death which come only in the last three chapters, but there is more than enough clues early on to avoid the appearance of some illogical twist. And given this wonderful outcome, my rating moved from a 3 star to a 4 with relative ease.