A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Looking for some free books to fill your eReader? You may already know that there are plenty of classics available as free downloadable eBooks, but if you explore enough you’ll find some free titles you might not expect: forgotten bestsellers, early genre classics, pulp fiction and more. Here’s a free title that has caught my attention lately, with links to the download below.
I’m going to flaunt convention and end with a summary: E.C. Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case is an innovative detective novel from 1913 that’s charming and compelling. It’s essential reading for mystery buffs who want to get to know the roots of the genre. Highly recommended for fans of Christie, Sayers, or Conan Doyle.
There. Now if you don’t want a teeny bit of a spoiler (not the whodunit, mind you, that would hardly be teeny) don’t read ahead, you should know if the book is you’re kind of thing by now anyway.
What makes Trent’s Last Case innovative is that it manages to be both a suspenseful mystery and a send-up of the genre at the same time. Bentley’s detective, Trent, is one of the earliest amateurs in mystery, and the direct opposite of the many infallible genius detectives that abounded at the time. Trent is a famous journalist and artist (the author himself was a journalist and poet), who when asked to cover a particularly scandalous murder attacks the case with the confidence of a Sherlock Holmes. Only, Trent is wrong about the case. Wrong wrong wrong. Wrong at every turn. And the kicker is that his confidence only serves in goading him into more mistakes.
It’s got all the hallmarks of a classic British mystery, including the aristocratic setting and the suspicious servants. The characters are all likeable and interesting. In fact, the murdered man is the only cad in the bunch. The pace is leisurely, but because it’s such a genuinely puzzling crime there is never any waning of suspense. There is some humor in it, especially when it comes to our detective’s failings, but I would stop well short of calling the novel a parody (if that’s what you’re looking for A.A. Milne’s Red House Mystery is probably more your speed). So, once again, if you love classic mysteries but would like to try something a little bit different don’t miss this one.
Available as a Free Download from Project Gutenberg for Kindle, Nook, or just about any other eReader.
Review by Matthew