You can tell that I've been on an Anthony Berkeley binge lately, can't you? My choice for today's Forgotten Book is a novel he wrote in 1933, which I read years ago and have now enjoyed again a second time around. Unfortunately, the plot of Jumping Jenny - which has one feature that I think is quite unique in the genre- is such that I don't want to say too much about it, for fear of saying too much. Suffice to say that there is a great twist in the very last line.
But there is plenty to enjoy in the story, that's for sure. I liked the opening lines a lot - they tell you so much about Berkeley's style that I'd like to quote them:
" From the triple gallows three figures swung lazily, one woman and two men.
Only a gentle creaking of their ropes sounded in the quiet night. A horn lantern, perched above the triangle of the crosspieces, swayed in the slight wind, causing the three shadows to leap and prance on the ground in a grotesque dance of death, like some macabre travesty of a slow-motion film in silhouette.
'Very nice,' said Roger Sheringham.
'It is rather charming, isn't it?' agreed his host."
The oddest feature of the story, by far, is the attitude taken to women in general terms - the victim is a truly awful person, although I should add that there are also sympathetic female characters. But Berkeley clearly had 'issues' with women. Perhaps that's why both of his marriages broke down. Then again, in his defence, there is plenty of evidence that he remained on very good terms with both his ex-wives. A complicated man, for sure. But a very entertaining writer, and this is a book well worth reading. In the US, it is known as Dead Mrs Stratton.