When internationally renowned financier Sigsbee Manderson is found dead on the grounds outside his home, the news sends shock waves throughout English society. Hoping to learn more about the circumstances of Manderson’s death, a notable newspaper magnate calls upon Philip Trent, journalist and amateur detective, to go into Manderson’s neighborhood and investigate the case. Trent soon discovers that Manderson was almost universally disliked, so there is no shortage of suspects, from either of Manderson’s two secretaries to his estranged wife. The more Trent learns about the case, the more he suspects Mrs. Manderson of being involved in her husband’s death. All too soon, Trent arrives at a theory of the case that heavily implicates Mrs. Manderson — which is unfortunate, because he has fallen head over heels in love with her. Will he do the law-abiding thing and disclose his solution to the police, or will he protect the woman he loves?
Contrary to what the title suggests, this is actually the first book featuring Philip Trent; after a 20-year gap, Bentley eventually wrote two more Trent books. Anyway, I knew I would enjoy this book from the moment I saw the dedication to G.K. Chesterton, whom I love. And indeed, there is a sort of Chestertonian twist to the mystery about halfway through, which I don’t want to spoil but which I really, really enjoyed! The writing style is a bit ponderous and old-fashioned, as you’d expect from a book originally published in 1913, but I soon got used to it. I liked Philip Trent as a character; unlike some of literature’s more famous detectives (ahem, Holmes and Poirot), he’s a fairly normal human being without dramatic idiosyncrasies. The romance is very sweet, and the solution to the mystery is both ingenious and unexpected — or at least it was to me! I would definitely recommend this book to fans of vintage mysteries, especially those who are interested in the history of the detective novel.