Review: The Poisoned Chocolates Case

The Poisoned Chocolates CaseAnthony Berkeley, The Poisoned Chocolates Case

Roger Sheringham is the president of an amateur criminology club. The club has six members, almost all of whom are famous in their respective fields of law, drama, and literature. Since Roger and the other club members are fascinated by crime, they are delighted when a unique opportunity comes their way: a Scotland Yard inspector invites them to try their hands at solving a prominent murder case that has stumped the police. The club members, confident in their abilities, decide that that they will each formulate a possible solution to the mystery and present it to the club as a whole. If all the members agree on the murderer’s identity, they will inform Scotland Yard of their conclusion. As the members take turns presenting their solutions, however, it becomes clear that the case is much more complicated than they originally thought.

This is one of the most unique and interesting mysteries I have ever read. The format is unlike most other mysteries because it doesn’t focus on practical detective work like discovering clues and interviewing suspects. Rather, almost all the evidence is presented to the club members at the beginning of the novel, and the book spends most of its time exploring the characters’ different theories of the crime. I really liked how the book pokes fun at various detective-novel conventions, particularly the idea that facts necessarily lead to one and only one conclusion. Here, all the club members have access to the same facts, but they all argue convincingly for different solutions. I didn’t guess the ultimate answer to the puzzle (although I did have the same theory as one of the club members), but the answer really isn’t the point. Instead, this book is all about the philosophy of the detective novel, and as such, I would definitely recommend it to mystery fans!

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