RogerBW's Blog

The Poisoned Chocolates Case 02 September 2023

1984 audio adaptation by Neville Teller of Anthony Berkeley's 1929 mystery, in one 90-minute episode. The womanising Sir Eustace was sent a box of chocolates, which he gave to Graham Bendix; Graham was taken ill, and his wife died. A circle of amateur criminologists tries to work out what happened.

This reminds me somewhat of The Floating Admiral from two years later, the mystery by fourteen writers doing a chapter at a time in rotation. The basic gimmick is similar: each of the six principals comes up with their own solution, and of course they can't all be true. But here there's rather more coherence, because there's just one author who was able to revise as he went along, and each presentation of a solution gives the chance for digs at the previous ones.

As a dramatic piece, it suffers slightly from Neil Stacy (Roger Sheringham) and Conrad Phillips (Sir Charles Wildman) coming over as supercilious and casually offensive to their supposed friends; that's easier to take in a book, when it's not reinforced by tone of voice. But there's never any trouble telling who's who, or how their various motives may interact – because, in the small society of the right sort of people in 1920s London, some of them may turn out to be more directly involved than they appear…

It seems like an obvious candidate for a six-episode treatment; taken all in one session it can be somewhat wearing, and there are obvious places (after each explanation) where one could pause and resume.

Still, I shall probably try to track down Berkeley in written form, and in that sense the production has done its job.

See also:
The Floating Admiral, The Detection Club

  1. Posted by Rand Brittain at 04:58pm on 02 September 2023

    Berkeley is definitely worth tracking down in written form (although a lot of his work is still out of print for mysterious reasons). He was probably the most experimental members of the Detection Club, and pretty much all of his books are totally different from each other in form.

    Of the ones that have been republished by the British Library, I'd say The Poisoned Chocolates Case and Jumping Jenny are the best (TPCC is unavailable as an ebook in the USA, to my annoyance, but that won't affect you). The audiobook versions of both are also extremely good.

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