Trent Intervenes by E.C. Bentley
When I started looking around for books to read for the 1938 Club, little did I realise that one of my Christmas gifts from last year would fit in nicely! But as it turned out, the final volume of crime stories from E.C. Bentley, “Trent Intervenes”, was published in that very year – so there was no question but that it would be my next read for the Club!
I’m still ruing the fact that Bentley only produced three volumes featuring Philip Trent, as they’re such wonderful, classic crime reads. This last book is a collection of twelve short stories and a fine array they are. I wondered initially whether they would follow on from the second story, “Trent’s Own Case”, but it seems that these are actually set in the time before “Trent’s Last Case”, when our detective was attached to the Record newspaper as an occasional correspondent, which gave him the chance to exercise his little grey cells. And much like Trent Investigates, there is little sense of the contemporary events of 1938 with Trent investigating in settings untouched by the upcoming conflict.
I thought I was going to hear you say that (X) had made dishonourable proposals to you, or that he drinks laudanum, or that he has a private delusion that he is a weasel.
However, that really doesn’t matter, as these are quite wonderful stories; pure escapism, and each cleverly written and containing enough twists to keep the average Golden Age crime fan very happy! The subject matter is varied too, with Bentley not sticking to only murder mysteries – there are tales of revenge, fraud, assault, disappearance and mysterious marks on furniture that lead to so much more! Each is a shining gem of storytelling, and the writing is so good that I once again found myself wishing that Bentley had given us more of Philip Trent and his “reputation as an unraveller”. Bentley’s also a very witty writer, and I was chuckling at several points during the book; for example, of a missing millionaire’s rough tweed hat, he says that “After a day and a half in salt water, it still had an aroma of Highland Sheep”.
All in all, this book was a delight to read, and I devoured it almost in one sitting – while telling myself all the time to slow down, because once I’d read it there was no more Trent to come! However, I’ve loved reading these books so much that I can tell I’ll return to them. The best of Golden Age crime is the books and detectives you can read over and over, and E.C. Bentley’s Philip Trent stories certainly fall into that category. My first full length foray into 1938 has been a winner – let’s hope the rest of my reads are up to this standard!