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on July 13, 2000
This is a wonderful, old-fashioned book, where the language is complex and clever, and honorable people recognize other people of honor at a glance. The plausible (and implausible) explanations of the mystery are intriguing. It's a lot of fun!
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Scholars consider it the first modern mystery novel. Agatha Christie called it "one of the three best detective stories ever written;" G.K. Chesterton went further, calling it "the finest detective story of modern times." The ever-erudite Dorothy Sayers flatly stated that every mystery novelist owed something to "its liberating and inspiring influence." Today, however, the vast majority of the reading public has never even heard of it.

The novel, of course, is E.C. Bentley's TRENT'S LAST CASE. By most accounts, Bentley wrote the book on a dare--much as Agatha Christie would later write THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES. When financier Sigsbee Manderson is found murdered at his country home, a London newspaper dispatches part-time artist, part-time journalist Trent to the scene. Within three days Trent cracks the case... or so he thinks. But is his solution correct? Or will it result in a terrible miscarriage of justice?

From a 2005 standpoint, TRENT'S LAST CASE is not a remarkable novel. Published in 1913, it feels overwritten, wordy, more Victorian in style than modern--and while the plot itself is interesting, it hardly compares to the unexpected twists offered by the very writers who so praised it and who were so influenced by it. But the fact remains that it was the first: Poe may have created the detective story and such writers as Doyle, Collins, and Dickens may have wrung romantic changes upon the theme, but it really wasn't until TRENT'S LAST CASE that the mystery novel as we presently think of it was born.

Most contemporary readers will likely find Bentley's style tough going, and although extremely influential the triple-twist plot has been done with considerably more drama in later novels. But say what you like, TRENT'S LAST CASE really is "the first," and that counts for a lot. Worth reading for the history of it!

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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on June 19, 1998
A stupendous mystery; one of the best I have ever read. Fans of Christie or Chesterton will thoroughly enjoy it. To say more might give something away, so I will not.
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on October 17, 2001
Actually Trent's last case is his first - and his last: E. C. Bentley didn't write another full-length novel (although there is a disappointing collection of short-stories entitled 'Trent Intervenes', I think; the only edition of this I have seen was in the green and white Penguin crime classics). The importance of 'Trent's Last Case' is that it helped to shape a new paradigm in British detective stories: witty, social acute, conservative (to the point of looking down on 'trade'), and flippant bordering on frivolous. We have Bentley to thank for Allingham, Christie, Crispin, Hare, Innes, and Sayers; the alternative could have been more tedious imitators of the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes.
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on September 27, 2006
This is a wonderful story -- I highly recommend it. HOWEVER, beware of the edition published by Kessinger. It is apparently an unedited, unproofread and minimally (if at all) formatted direct printout of the open source copy available on Gutenberg.org. (This was verified by comparing the typos in the two versions. They're identical.) It appears that what this outfit does is downloads/copies/cuts-and-pastes the text file, converts it to a proportional font, and prints it as is. Superficially, the result looks respectable enough, until you start to read the thing. First, there's the book's odd format -- 7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches -- about the size and shape of, say, your child's math workbook. It's awkward to handle and the simple mechanics of reading becomes an unpleasant chore. The text is properly single spaced, however there's a double space between each paragraph. This brings the eye up short and makes your brain involuntarily expect some sort of climax.

At the end of each PARAGRAPH, mind you.

Imagine a page or two of dialogue.

Talk about interrupting...

...the flow.

In short, this is a very annoying publication, made more so by the fact that there's nothing on the Amazon page or the publisher's web site to indicate the nature of this product. It goes a long way toward spoiling what should be the unalloyed pleasure of this terrific classic mystery. Buy a good used copy instead.
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on June 26, 2015
This is a famous mystery story written in1913. It is the precursor of the modern mystery story. The vocabulary & characterizations of the people in the story are very much of the pre-WWI mindset. By the end of the story you may have guessed who the real killer is and there are 2 slow chapters. (However what modern "cozy" mystery hasn't had a slow "discussion" filler in it?) That being said, if you are a hard core enthusiast of mysteries, you should read this book to see how the modern mystery developed and to appreciate how writing styles have changed over the years.
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on December 20, 2005
E. C. Bentley (July 10, 1875 - March 30, 1956), was a popular English novelist and humorist of the early twentieth century, and the inventor of the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics.

Born in London, Bentley worked as a journalist on several newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph. His first published collection of poetry, titled Biography for Beginners (1905), popularized the clerihew form; it was followed by two other collections, in 1929 and 1939. His detective novel, Trent's Last Case (1913), was much praised, numbering Dorothy L. Sayers among its admirers, and with its labyrinthine and mystifying plotting can be seen as the first truly modern mystery. The success of the work inspired him, after only 23 years, to write a sequel, Trent's Own Case (1936).

All lovers of the genre of mystery will enjoy his work immensely.
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on June 15, 2014
The first in the "Trent Series", this is a great detective story where the detective is definitely recognizable as "being human". Agatha Christie called this story "one of the best detective stories ever written" and Dorothy Sayers has noted that this story "ranges from a vividly coloured rhetoric to a delicate and ironical literary fancy" and has hailed this story as "the first work of The Golden Age of mystery fiction". It is truly a brilliant mystery, with many clues for the reader and a difficult solution. It will definitely give the reader lots to think about and is wonderfully "cozy". Mr. Philip Trent, artist and amateur criminologist, is truly a gem! Inspector Murch is also delightful! (This review is for the Dover Edition)
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on April 18, 2016
A great period piece. It takes me awhile to get into the style of books written in different eras but I enjoy the challenge, not to say they are difficult. This has such a wonderful plot that it is worth it.
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on June 29, 2010
In 1944 the famous hard-boiled mystery writer Raymond Chandler published an influential essay titled "The Simple Art of Murder" in which he praised the hard-boiled mystery fiction of Dashiell Hammett and disparaged the supposed lack of realism in earlier mysteries, including TRENT'S LAST CASE (1913). The chief fault he found with it was that no millionaire would do X to himself just to take vengeance on another person (read Chandler's essay to see what X might be). The only problem with Chandler's statement is that he is wrong! The millionaire did NOT do what Chandler says he did. And yet several "standard" reference books quote or paraphrase Chandler as if he were right. (Now THAT IS A MYSTERY. Do critics occasionally plagiarize from others without reading the books they comment on? Or do they just have faulty memories? Or are they deliberately playing fast and loose with facts and trusting that nobody can tell the difference? Or what?)

TRENT'S LAST CASE is actually a very cleverly plotted mystery novel that has two major twists AFTER Philip Trent believes he has solved the shooting of millionaire Sigsbee Manderson. What this essentially means (SEMI-SPOILER ALERT) is that Trent has been mistaken in his first solution--and that the second solution, which is handed to him by another person (the one that Chandler and others seem to be remembering), is ALSO mistaken. The final twist, which occurs naturally enough in the last few pages, provides the REAL solution (which Chandler and others appear to have forgotten).

Anyway, these twists (which neither Trent nor most readers could foresee) are plausible enough when they have been laid out for us, and they provide us with most of the pleasure of the story. The main fault I find with this mystery is that the embedded love story (which does serve a key role in the overall plot) does not seem believable to me. (Other readers may differ, and indeed readers of 1913 might have considered it totally in line with how people felt and acted back then.)

If you read and enjoy this novel, the good news is that E. C. Bentley later wrote 13 good short mystery stories about Philip Trent that are prequels to this book. Twelve of them were published in TRENT INTERVENES (1938), and the last one, titled "Ministering Angel," appeared in THE STRAND magazine in Nov. 1938 and has been anthologized in at least 3 books that are fairly easy to find.
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