Friday, 29 July 2011

Forgotten Book - Panic Party

My choice for today's Forgotten Book is a 1934 title from the pen of Anthony Berkeley. Panic Party, aka Mr Pidgeon's Island, was the last novel to feature Roger Sheringham - one of the great Golden Age amateur sleuths, even though his career lasted less than ten years.

The book begins with Berkeley’s riposte to the challenge Milward Kennedy set him in Death to the Rescuea and which I mentioned last week:

“You once challenged me, in public print, to write a book in which the only interest should be the detection. I have no hesitation in refusing to do anything so tedious, and instead take the greatest pleasure in dedicating to you a book which is precisely the opposite, which breaks every rule of the austere Club to which we both belong, and which will probably earn my expulsion from its membership.”

In fact, the novel does not break all the Club’s rules by a long stretch. Sheringham joins a yachting party organised by Guy Pidgeon, an Oxford don who has come into the money. The group finds itself marooned on a desert island, and Pidgeon announces that their party includes a murderer. His 'murder game' has a predictable outcome – soon he is found dead.

When I first read this book years ago, I felt rather dissatisfied with it. On a second reading, I was more sympathetic. It's an interesting experiment. almost a forerunner of Lord of the Flies. And, as usual with this author, there are some witty passages as well as several darker ones.

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