Mr Clerihew, who later stars in a couple of detective novels, has a wine cellar without compare. His palate is superbly trained, and even, “employed a veritable secret service to keep him informed of any cellars throughout the world where really precious wines were stored.”

Mr Manton is supposedly a wine expert also; indeed on being introduced to each other, he challenges Clerihew to a game of identifying exceptional vintages from his collection. At this point I was wondering whether the story would start to resemble Roald Dahl’s ‘Taste’ (also excellent), especially when Manton offers Clerihew an incredible Tokay that Clerihew has never encountered.

Any similarities with Dahl disappear when Manton is found dead next morning. What’s more, the plans for the Baltic Treaty are missing from a guest’s room, and without them it’ll be war! And with that, the story settles into cosy detective fiction with well-designed mechanics. The outcome is honest, and plays well with Clerihew’s wine expertise.

Tokay of the Comet Year by H. Warner Allen

Availability: print only

Word count: 3,800

First published: Strand magazine, July 1930

Where to find it: Detective Stories from the Stand, edited by Jack Adrian, 1991

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