Wednesday, March 23, 2011

IN BRIEF: The Sweepstakes Murders - J. J. Connington

This is one of Connington's many detective novels featuring his series character Sir Clinton Driffield. It was the first Connington book I ever read about five years ago and it's excellent. After finishing it I was surprised that I agreed with the assessment of Jacques Barzun in his A Catalog of Crime. The Sweepstakes Murders really is exemplary for its type. If you are familiar with the scientific detection novels that were popular in the late 1920s through the early 1930s and like reading about the intricacies of early criminological techniques you are sure to admire this book.

A syndicate of nine men go in on a sweepstakes ticket together. Their group is drawn on a long shot horse who manages to place in the derby race they are betting on. They win over £200,000 but the holder of the ticket dies in an airplane crash and this leads to a legal dispute. One of the members decides it is in the syndicate's best interests to draw up a document which states that only living members of the syndicate can draw from the winnings. Then members of the syndicate start dying in bizarre accidents and a murderer is suspected among the survivors.

J. J. Connington
An intricate plot device involves a camera and a series of photographs that were taken at a geological formation where one of the murder victims was done in. A clever inspector runs a photography experiment that focuses on the way shadows lie in the photos to prove that the murderer himself took the pictures thereby destroying his alibi and proving the death occurred earlier in the day.

Truly one of the best novels of the Golden Age. I was completely caught up in the story. Although the culprit is easy to identify as the bodies pile up and the suspect pool diminishes, the detection by both Driffield and the inspector (a smart policeman for a change!) is fascinating.


  1. Connington is another one of these authors I haven't read yet, but unlike Anthony Wynne and Roger East I actually have one of his books here, Murder in the Maze. I’ll get to him, eventually. :)

  2. I've only read one of Connington's books--The Eye in the Museum. That was so long ago that I don't really remember a lot about it. I now own the discarded copy (from the library where I read it)...Maybe I should re-read it and refresh my memory. I've had his Case with Nine Slutions on my To Find lisst for a while.

  3. I'd read this book based solely on the author's magnificent mustache.

  4. He had that mustache the whole of his adult life, I believe!

    I think this one is in his upper tier of books. The conception is quite good, the narrative sardonic and some of the murders quite clever.