Well, I guess I’ll be reading everything Henry Wade ever wrote. I mean, I’ve heard that some of his work isn’t all that great, but man, Heir Presumptive is the type of novel that’ll leave you forever searching for another taste. And I’ve had it for years, just wasting away at the bottom of some neglected pile of books that I excitedly bought, but then didn’t excitedly read. Thankfully a glowing review over at The Invisible Event led to me rescuing the book and placing it in the main To Be Read stack… where it sat for another eight months.
But, it has now been read, and I am a full Henry Wade convert. This is the book that you just never want to end. There isn’t much of a hook for me to dangle for you – Heir Presumptive is a fairly straight forward inverted mystery – which is why it’s all the more amazing that I lapped up every page.
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My only experience with Anthony Berkeley so far has been The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Famous as it is for its multiple solutions, I was just as struck by Berkeley’s acerbic wit. Each character was so deliciously smug in their observations of others, and yet so completely blind to their own foibles.
Trial and Error may not feature as tight of a mystery as The Poisoned Chocolates Case, but it more than makes up for it with a steady feed of wry observations. Anthony Berkeley, through his characters, is so delectably smarmy that I can only imagine that he was the blueprint for Christianna Brand’s work that was to come in the following decades. No other mystery writer seems to come close when it comes to communicating an entire story solely via sardonic observations.
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