Trent’s Last Case, by E.C. Bentley, is properly regarded as one of the landmark books in the history of crime fiction. The first two film versions left Bentley unimpressed, but the third, shot in 1952, was better and I’ve just watched a DVD of the movie that I received as a welcome Christmas present.
The stars were Michael Wilding (one of Elizabeth Taylor’s many husbands), Margaret Lockwood (whose many other films include that classic The Lady Vanishes), Orson Welles, no less, as Sigsbee Manderson, and Miles Malleson, who had a rather more important role than usual in his prolific career.
I thought it was a decent film. Famously, whodunits are tricky to film; you can understand why Hitchcock generally favoured suspense rather than a heavily plotted mystery. But this one remains perfectly watchable.
The book was greatly admired by Sayers and Christie, among others, and it was a formative influence on their writing careers. Sayers later became a good friend of ‘Jack’ Bentley, so much so that she even rhapsodised over the belated follow-up, Trent’s Own Case, though in truth it was a relatively minor work. Bentley never came close to surpassing his debut novel.