Book 22: Trent’s Last Case by E.C. Bentley Vs Book 23: Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

Yes, I’m cheating. By cheating, I mean reviewing two books in one go but here are my reasons: 1. They are both ‘classics’ of the crime genre, 2. I got them both from the library and read them back to back, 3. They were both on my list of crime fiction I want to read and 4. I want to!

Firstly, I must start with Trent’s Last Case by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. I was so excited to find this in the library because it’s on my list of crime books I MUST read, and I was even more excited once I’d read the blurb. But for me, the absolute kicker was the quote on the front cover, by none other than Agatha Christie herself, saying

“One of the three best detective stories ever written.”

High praise indeed, Agatha. (Never mind my thoughts of “What are the other two?”) I took this recommendation of my favourite author as golden and read on…

Basically, Trent’s Last Case was written in 1913 in response to the also very famous G.K. Chesterton’s challenge to his friend E.C. Bentley to write his own detective story. It’s about the murder of a wealthy businessman from America. It all takes place after the death. All of it. I’m sorry, Agatha, I’m sorry classic crime, I’m sorry Mr Bentley and Mr Chesterton, but… I did not like it. I was bored. It saddens me so much to say that of such a book, but it truly dragged on it the first part. I found myself skim reading, or giving up for long periods of time. It perks up towards the end, which I don’t want to spoil for you, but suffice it to say that Trent is not even that great a detective. Oh dear.

So without further ado, I finished Trent’s Last Case and moved on to Double Indemnity by James M. Cain. This, I was excited to find because I recently read Cain’s first novel The Postman Always Rings Twice and it shocked me (see my review here). The ending was like being punched really hard in the face (I imagine). In contrast to E.C Bentley’s story, I devoured Double Indemnity in a day. I loved it. It has all the same plot points as Cain’s earlier work really, but the planned murder of the annoying spouse was even better executed. The characters too are more detailed. Instead of a drifter, we have an insurance salesman as leading man. Instead of a down to earth wife, we have a psychotic woman who will stop at nothing to cheat the system. I loved the minute details, the lengths the people go to to construct elaborate alibis. It’s a great great book. I haven’t seen the film yet but I will. My only complaint is that it hasn’t stuck with me like The Postman Always Rings Twice. In fact, in order to write this, I had to look up the ending online. But I did read it nearly a month ago.

I would give Trent’s Last Case 6 and a half/10, and noir classic Double Indemnity 7/10.

Next up will be my review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

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