The Sweepstake Murders (J.J. Connington)

By J. J. Connington

First published: UK, Hodder & Stoughton, 1931

Blurb (UK)

Connington - The Sweepstake Murders.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

Mr. Connington’s new detective story opens at the end of a bridge-party, when one of the players suggests the formation of a small syndicate to have a flutter in a coming sweepstake.  Winnings are to be pooled and divided among the members.  Most of the bridge-players join, on terms proposed and accepted on the spur of the moment.  A syndicate ticket wins a big prize.  Before the money is collected, however, one of the syndicate dies, apparently by foul play.  Under the agreement, his share falls to be divided among the remaining ticket-holders; and suspicion naturally falls first on those who are certain to profit by the death.  Personal characteristics, possible motives, alibis and circumstantial evidence provide the detectives with an intricate problem of clues and personalities.


My review

A sound detective story of the sort “which presented itself as a mere puzzle to be solved, like a chess problem, without any regard for the feelings of the pieces on the board,” including the murdered members of the Novem Syndicate, one of whom fell down a cliff and whose time of death was proven by an ingenious camera device, and two others who died in impossible accidents. Driffield appears only at the beginning and the end, but brings the case to a satisfying conclusion, based mainly on cameras and typewriters. An alert reader should be able to spot the murderer’s identity without difficulty.  The plot is over-elaborate, with too many red herrings and too much planning on the murderer’s part.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (17th December 1931):

Mr. Connington’s latest detective story has to do with a syndicate of friends and acquaintances who hold a winning ticket in a great sweepstake.  Immediately after they draw the winner comes the news that one of their number has perished in an aeroplane accident.  His executors seek for an injunction in respect of his share; the other partners resent this, and irresistibly, have an idea.  They pledge themselves by agreement that the money is to be shared only by those who are alive at the date of the prize-giving.  That unfortunately gives an idea also to the murderer in their midst.  As other members are killed off, the share of the remainder automatically increases.  But the murders must, of course, be skilfully staged so as to look like accidents.  In all three members of the syndicate are killed before Sir Clinton Driffield and Inspector Severn come to a solution.  An ingenious tale, well developed.


Spectator (16th January 1932):

Four members of a syndicate die mysteriously after they have jointly drawn a winning ticket in the Irish Sweepstake.  Certain incidents point to the identity of the murderer in their midst, and Sir Clinton Driffield finally unmasks the villain.  Mr. Connington’s usual interesting method of narrative is in this book somewhat obscured by a confusion of details of evidence.


E.C. Bentley in the Daily Telegraph:

Mr. Connintgon writes admirably always.  Each one of the fortunate syndicate is a living character.  And in the most interesting of the cunning crimes here dealt with he develops an idea for the construction for an alibi that is a triumph of ingenuity.


Outlook (W.R. Brooks, 6th January 1932, 200w):

We recommend this one.  Mr. Connington can always be counted on to give you full value for your money.


NY Times (24th January 1932, 160w):

The story is ingenious and it is presented with the skill that Mr. Connington’s readers have learned to expect from him.



Mr. J. J. Connington is a master.  And The Sweepstake Murders is a masterpiece of its kind. It is difficult and detailed but honest and logical.  An expert and engrossing tale.


Aberdeen Press and Journal:

A splendidly constructed mystery.



It is an exceptionally well devised yarn, in which the criminal is not a jot less ingenious than the detectives.