Trent’s Last Case

By E. C. Bentley
Read by Frederick Davidson

7.18 Hours 02/01/2001 unabridged
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Written in 1912 as a light-hearted reaction against the solemnity of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Trent’s Last Case, with its ingeniously twisting plot and cheerfully self-mocking hero, is the first classic of the golden age of English detective fiction. When a powerful and ruthless American millionaire is found murdered in his English country garden, Philip Trent—English painter, poetry lover, and amateur detective—delves into the crime. He successively uncovers three different, plausible solutions to the murder, and in the process, comes face to face with his own fallibility, in detection and in romance.

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Summary

Summary

Written in 1912 as a light-hearted reaction against the solemnity of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Trent’s Last Case, with its ingeniously twisting plot and cheerfully self-mocking hero, is the first classic of the golden age of English detective fiction.

When a powerful and ruthless American millionaire is found murdered in his English country garden, Philip Trent—English painter, poetry lover, and amateur detective—delves into the crime. He successively uncovers three different, plausible solutions to the murder, and in the process, comes face to face with his own fallibility, in detection and in romance.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“One of the seminal novels of the mystery genre.” New York Times
“One of the three best detective stories ever written.” Agatha Christie
“The finest detective story of modern times.” G. K. Chesterton
“It is the one detective story of the present century which I am certain will go down to posterity as a classic. It is a masterpiece.” Dorothy L. Sayers

Reviews

Reviews

by Bertie Wooster 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

What I Did Over Christmas Break, Part 1

Warning: the following review may ruin the fun of listening to this book--and that's the last thing I'd want to do. All you really need to know is that it is a superb story, superbly conceived and written. Want to know more? Read further.

It’s ironic, after having listened to Frederick Davidson’s flawless performance of E. C. Bentley’s captivating book, that the blurbs accompanying said book all give its author credit for establishing the “golden age of detective fiction”.

Ironic because “Trent’s Last Case” is Trent’s last case because he misperceives and misunderstands so much so badly. Which means, of course, that you the listener misperceive and misunderstand just as much—and just as badly. Not since Miss Austen lead Elizabeth Bennett and myself to believe Mr. Darcy was a stuck-up, soulless prig, have I felt so ashamed of myself as a reader.

Of course, the shame is the point. Our hero, Phillip Trent, feels it even deeper than we do—after all, we don’t have a national reputation as an amateur sleuth to live up to. The point, I think (though I could be misunderstanding things again) is that there are limits to human reason—or, maybe more accurately, the hubris that results from the successful exercise of our reason will eventually lead us to hit those limits. When you start theorizing from facts, it is all too easy to slip, without knowing it, and start fitting facts to your theories. True, Father Brown, Lord Peter Whimsey, Nick Charles and Sam Spade all make mistakes. But their mistakes never make them give up the detection business altogether. Phillip Trent does. In other words, the book that began our century-old love affair with the knowing wise guy in the trench coat (or form-fitting tweeds or clerical collar) is the story of a detective hanging up his magnifying glass.

The book succeeds so well because all of Trent’s imperfect deductions make such perfect sense. Having just concluded the entire cycle of Sherlock Holmes novels and stories, I am acquainted with the then-current literary trends Bentley was challenging. The coldly rational (not to say inhuman) deduction from a bit of cigar ash or the mud on the toe of a shoe is all well and good. Half the time it is even correct. But the rest of the time it isn’t. Watson admits that Holmes has his failures but, since he never bothers to write them down, we are left with the popular image of the amateur genius going from strength to strength. By contrast Trent is far more human, far more fallible and therefore engaging in a completely different way. His mind works more like our minds do, so the delight is not, as with Holmes, in admiring a virtuoso but rather in following a reasonable man as he reasons from the clues before him. In that sense, of course, Trent is the template for most of the sleuths who came after him.

Don’t misunderstand—Trent solves the case. But he solves it by…well, you’ll just have to listen. Trent’s Last Case was the first of two Frederick Davidson performances that made this Christmas especially enjoyable.

Author

Author Bio: E. C. Bentley

Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875–1956) was a journalist, novelist, and author of light verse. He wrote first for the Daily News and then for the Daily Telegraph, where he was leader writer and then chief literary critic. Bentley earned a minor place in literary history by his invention of the light-verse form known as the clerihew, and is also known for his contribution to detective fiction. Trent’s Last Case was intended as a satire of detective stories, but was quickly hailed as a classic of the genre.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD
Category: Fiction/Mystery & Detective
Runtime: 7.18
Audience: Adult
Language: English