Monday, April 11, 2022

Murder in the Basement - Anthony Berkeley

It's been a while since I posted a book review, mostly because I've just not been reading much recently. When I do get away from watching the news I've found I have more concentration for knitting, very little for books. On a more particular note, it didn't help that I lost this book for a month after finishing it (obviously it was where I must have left it, buried in a pile of other books).

Anyway, classic crime and romance are about all I have the patience for when I am reading, and Murder in the Basement was fun. It opens with a young couple moving into their new home - where they swiftly make a gruesome discovery in the basement. If there's a moral to this story it might be that it's better not to go around poking at potential DIY issues if you don't want to end up with a bigger problem than you bargained for. 

The traumatised young couple are swiftly out of the picture, replaced by the police and amateur sleuth,  Roger Sheringham - also an author for those who have not yet met him. The first problem is to identify the victim, and it's not an easy one to solve. From there a motive has to be sifted out as well as a possible perpetrator. 

For reasons, it seems that the victim might have been employed in a school where Roger briefly worked, and where he'd taken notes on the staff intending to use them for characters in a novel. These notes become a key part of the investigation, as well as being a lovely way to show all the ways in which Roger's conclusions are off the mark. There are a few more red herrings and then an interesting conclusion.

The British Library helpfully prints a note about content at the beginning of these books now, advising that we might meet with opinions and stereotypes which wouldn't fly today. I think this is very much the right thing to do with older books and this one is a good case for why.

On the whole, it's an engaging mystery with plenty of dark humour to help it along, but there's a vein of misogyny, especially in the conclusion that I'd dislike in a contemporary novel. In a book that was first published 90 years ago, it's part of what makes it interesting. 

Beyond that I enjoy Sheringham's ego, and Berkeley's pleasure in occasionally puncturing it, Roger is less annoying to me than some (I'm looking at you Peter Wimsey and Mrs Bradley). Altogether an excellent book to escape into when current events are just Too Much. 


  1. It's funny the tension (pun unintended) between knitting and reading. When I first started knitting I wondered if I would ever read another book again.

  2. I know! And knitting is so much easier when everything else feels like too much. One stitch after another and suddenly you've made a thing. Books are currently for hiding behind rather than reading!