Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery (Anthony Berkeley)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A turning point in Berkeley’s career.  The first half is very much in the line of The Layton Court Mystery or The Wychford Poisoning Case: 1920s amateur sleuthing à la A.A. Milne, with more facetious back-chat than plot or character development—the attitude Barzun summed up as “How jolly all this murdering is!”.  The second half looks forward to the great books to come, with Roger’s ingenious but wrong solution, his rivalry with Inspector Moresby, strictures on the misleading nature of evidence, and a supremely cynical surprise ending.

  • Triumph of police over gilded amateur—SPOILER but can’t prove case.
  • Only romance in all Berkeley’s books, SPOILER and then as a misdirection
  • Victim falls off cliff: Panic Party
  • Seaside murder: Sayers’s Have His Carcase
  • Murder method: Allingham’s Police at the Funeral

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (10 March 1927): Roger Sheringham is an amateur detective and special investigator for the Daily Courier.  With his cousin Anthony, one of those young men of light-hearted modern fiction, who is best described as “a priceless ass”, he proceeds to the Hampshire coast to investigate the death of a woman found at the bottom of a cliff.  A pretty cousin who benefits under her will is suspected; Anthony promptly falls in love with her and easily persuades Roger of her innocence.  Inspector Moresby, an old friend of Roger’s, is also on the scene; they compare notes, try to pick each other’s brains, and stumble upon various clues.  Roger is ingenious, the inspector is sound, and the reader will have a hard job to decide as he reads which is right.