The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkley

Death by chocolate!

Yes, really – let me explain!

Notorious womaniser Sir Eustace Pennefather was staying at his London club when he received a complimentary box of liqueur chocolates in the post. Sir Eustace was unimpressed.

Graham Bendix, another member of the club, needed a box of chocolates. He had lost a bet with his wife and the stake had been a box of chocolates.

And so Bendix took the chocolates home. He and his wife both tried them; he didn’t care for them, but his wife did. And a few hours later Joan Bendix was dead and her husband, seriously ill in hospital.

You see – death by chocolate!

The police were called in and they discovered that the chocolates had been laced with poison; that they had been posted in a box near The Strand the previous evening; that they came with a letter typed on the chocolatier’s notepaper.

But who was the poisoner? Who was the intended victim? They were baffled!

And so they took a most unusual approach. They called in the Crime Circle: a group of six amateur detectives. The members agreed that a week would be allowed for each to investigate and then present their results to the society. 

And so this is a very different Golden Age mystery. As fine a puzzle as you could want!

Six voices, all different, but all had both intelligence and wit.

Each of the sextet picks up on a different detail, takes a different tack, and provides a watertight case. Trouble is, each of the six points to a different murderer!

I couldn’t fault anybody’s logic, and I have to say that the way the book is structured to work as a whole is incredibly clever.

It was a wonderful roller-coaster ride as cases were built and then demolished.

Six people expounding theories could have been dull, but it wasn’t at all. There was plenty more going on, and the outcome was in doubt until the very last page. I had to read the ending twice, and the second time it made perfect sense.

The Poisoned Chocolates Case is, if you will excuse the pun, a confection. It has nothing of importance to say, but it is oh so entertaining.

And it is that rare thing, a crime novel I could happily read many times.


I must thank The Classics Circuit for hosting The Golden Age of Detective Fiction Tour.

It was the perfect excuse to buy the lovely Felony & Mayhem edition of The Poisoned Chocolates Case that I had wanted for so long. In fact, I was so enthused that  I accidentally ordered two copies. So, if you would like the spare give me the name of your favourite book from the golden age of detective fiction is and tell me what makes it special. I’ll pick a winner after 8pm on Sunday.

18 responses

  1. I read this last year and it is a clever commentary on various detection theories.

    I wouldn’t mind being entered for a copy, my favourite golden age mystery is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey because it actually goes back and looks at a historical mystery, that of Richard III and the little boys he supposedly killed in the tower. It was a fascinating take on the past and how history is studied and how human motivations don’t seem to change.

    • Clever is the word, and not many writers can be so entertaining at the same time.

      The Franchise affair is the only Josephine Tey I’ve read and it has left me wanting to read more. I’ve heard nothing but praise for The Daughter of Time in particular.

  2. “The Poisoned Chocolates Case” is actually an expanded version of Berkeley’s short story, “The Avenging Chance,” which also appeared in 1929. Curiously, the same murder is solved in that story – but in the novel, the solution from the short story is one of the ones discarded as false.

    I also think “The Poisoned Chocolates Case” has one of the cleverest endings of any Golden Age mystery. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. What a clever way to build a mystery novel. It sounds like such fun! I’d be interested in giving this a try, so I’ll share my favorite Golden Age Mystery. It’s Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers–not an unusual choice, I think. (But it’s best read after Strong Poison and Have His Carcase.)

  4. I haven’t read this, and it’d be great to win a copy.
    My favorite Golden Age mystery is Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. Not so much for the crime, I’m afraid, but for exceeding all my expectations as to how a Wimsey-Vane union might turn out. I lurve this book!

  5. This sounds brilliant! My favourite Golden Age detective fiction book is Peril at End House by Agatha Christie. It is not her best, but was my first Agatha Christie and introduced me to the magnificent Hercule Poirot!

  6. Sounds wonderful, so I’d love to win a copy! My favorite golden age dectective novel is Curtains by Agatha Christie. Someone is out to murder famed detective Hercule Poirot and he must solve his own murder before it’s too late. She announced when it was published that it would be the last book with Poirot, so you’re not sure what to expect.

  7. Pingback: Crime Fiction Alphabet: N is for Not to be Taken | Fleur Fisher in her world

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