The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

Starring: Ian Carmichael, Peter Jones, Allan Cuthbertson and Martin Jarvis
BBC Audio
RRP: 12.99
ISBN 1 846 7148 8
Available 03 July 2006

The dignified calm of the Bellona Club is shattered when General Fentiman is found dead in his favourite chair. A straightforward death by natural causes? Perhaps... but why can no-one remember seeing the general the day he died? And who is the mysterious Mr Oliver? Lord Peter Wimsey moves between London and Paris, salon and suburbs, to unfold the intriguing case...

The Unpleasantness of the Bellona Club was first broadcast in 1975, and is based on Dorothy L. Sayers's famous 1923 amateur detective.

General Fentiman can be found every day at his club, settled with a newspaper in his favourite chair. So it comes as a shock when another member notices that the general isn't sleeping at all - he's dead. What seems like a straightforward death by natural causes takes a dramatic turn when it is discovered that the time of death may be longer than originally suspected. The exact time of the general's death must be determined, for an inheritance of half a million pounds depends on it. With so much money at stake, could his heirs, both Bellona Club members, be covering something up?

Both the general and his sister have left each other's estate to the other. So in order for the General's children to inherit his money they need to ensure he dies after his sister - so Lord Peter is immediately suspicious when he learns that the General's sister died, from a long and drawn out illness, on the morning that the General's body was discovered. So, establishing who died first is essential in order to sort out the estates.

This audio drama is split into two acts. The conclusion of the first act would, it appears, be an end to the matter. Everything is neatly tied up and we think we know what has gone on. That is until Lord Wimsey unearths something else that leads him off in another direction - digging up the past as he goes. Nothing, and no one, is what it seems and Lord Peter leaves no stone unturned in his quest for the truth.

To be honest though, the first act was fairly easy to work out - I did that way before the end. But if you can work out a fraction of the second act you should start your own detective agency.

While I appreciate this recording is based on a 1920's world, I was still surprised by the conclusion. Would two people really let the murderer do what they do here? Was that the "done" thing back at the early part of the 20th Century. Sayers's fans will know what I'm talking about (a similar conclusion appeared in Murder Must Advertise) and I suspect that this was a common theme in her tales.

As detective stories go, there's a lot here to keep you entertained for the two hours and 30 minutes run time of both CDs. Entertaining stuff.

Pete Boomer

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