Trent's Last Case

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375 pp (hardcover 1st edition)

Trent's Last Case is a detective novel written by E. C. Bentley and first published in 1913. Its central character re-appeared subsequently in the novel Trent's Own Case (1936) and the short-story collection Trent Intervenes (1938).[1]


Plot summary

Trent's Last Case is actually the first novel in which gentleman sleuth Philip Trent appears. The novel is a whodunit whose unique place in the history of detective fiction is because it is at the same time the first major send-up of that very genre: not only does Trent fall in love with one of the primary suspects — usually considered a no-no — he also, after painstakingly collecting all the evidence, draws all the wrong conclusions.

Convinced that he has tracked down the murderer of a business tycoon who was shot in his mansion, he is told by the real perpetrator over dinner what mistakes in the logical deduction of the solution of the crime he has made. On hearing what really happened, Trent vows that he will never again attempt to dabble in crime detection.

Critical reception

Some preposterous plot points were ridiculed by Raymond Chandler as "I have known relatively few international financiers, but I rather think the author of this novel has (if possible) known fewer" in his critique of the genre, The Simple Art of Murder.

According to Aaron Marc Stein, in his introduction to the 1977 edition published by University Extension of UCSD: "At the risk of bringing down on his memory the wrath of the Baker Street Irregulars it must be recorded that Bentley had reservations about even the Conan Doyle originals. He deplored the great detective's lack of humor and he was irritated by the Sherlockian eccentricities.... Bentley had the idea of doing a detective who would be a human being and who would know how to laugh."

Film adaptations

The novel was adapted into a silent movie directed by Richard Garrick in 1920.

A second silent adaptation was made by Howard Hawks in 1929.

The most recent film adaptation of Trent's Last Case was directed in 1952 by Herbert Wilcox. The 1952 film starred Michael Wilding as Trent, Orson Welles as Sigsbee Manderson, and Margaret Lockwood as Margaret Manderson.

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