#972: Peril at Cranbury Hall (1930) by John Rhode

Peril at Cranbury Hall

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Accompanying an architect in an examination of the faded ancestral pile of Cranbury Hall, prim solicitor Arthur Gilroy happens upon his wastrel half brother Oliver, with whom he has an interview later that evening, who is rather elliptical about the reason for his presence.  The two part on not unfriendly terms and, soon after, a shot rings out that is attributed to poachers taking liberties on the ownerless land.  But when Oliver fails to show up for their meeting, Arthur begins to suspect that “some mysterious tragedy had occurred”…and he might be right, since that shot turns out to have been merely the first attempt on Oliver’s life.

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#892: “He happens to be around when so many murders crop up…” – Bodies from the Library 2 [ss] (2019) ed. Tony Medawar

With the Bodies from the Library 5 (2022) collection due in a couple of months, and spin-off Ghosts from the Library (2022) coming later in the year, the time seems ripe to revisit one of the earlier collections which — given the timespan over which I first read them — I failed to review on publication. And since, for reasons too complicated to bore you with here, the second volume was the first one I encountered, it’s there I’ll head today.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 21: The Diversity of Approaches to Detective Fiction [w’ Martin Edwards]

The detective fiction genre is built around the essential structure of a crime, an investigation of that crime, and the revelation of the guilty party who committed the crime, and good heavens didn’t the Golden Age map out a lot of different ways to walk that path. And there are few people better placed to discuss this than President of the Detection Club and recent recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger Martin Edwards, who celebrates three decades as a published author this year.

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#791: Death at Breakfast (1936) by John Rhode

Death at Breakfast

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Is it damning Cecil Street with disgustingly faint praise to say that he has become the author about whose work I am most likely to say “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I expected”? Whether writing as Miles Burton or as John Rhode, he generally gives you a moderately interesting puzzle that would have been better if a little more time were devoted to its structure and contents. My admittedly small sampling of his work doesn’t display the variety of Freeman Wills Crofts nor the creative construction and elucidation of R. Austin Freeman, and that’s…fine. But given the materials at his fingertips it’s also…a little disappointing.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 16: Modern Writers in the Golden Age Tradition [w’ Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel]

Let’s get the new year off to a happy start by showing some appreciation for contemporary authors who make life difficult for themselves by upholding the traditions of Golden Age detective fiction in their own works. And, if you want to discuss modern detective fiction, few are better-placed than Puzzle Doctor, a.k.a. Steve from In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 8: Uncovering Long-Forgotten Short Stories + Bodies from the Library 3 (2020) ed. Tony Medawar [w’ Tony Medawar]

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Today was due to have been the sixth (sixth!) Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library but, for obvious reasons, it’s not.  I can’t, alas, give you a whole day of GAD-based discussion, but I can at least fill an hour with someone from that line-up of exceptionally knowledgable people, Tony Medawar.

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#685: The Murders in Praed Street (1928) by John Rhode

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One evening, responding to a phone call from the local hospital requesting that he identify a man involved in an accident, Mr. James Tovey, Fruit and Vegetable Merchant on London’s Praed Street, discovers he’s the victim of a prank and that no such call was made by anyone at the hospital.  On the short walk home, he encounters a group of men outside the local pub and…there endeth his story, for he is stabbed and dies shortly thereafter.  With the group all claiming innocence, and talk of a scar-faced sailor seen in the vicinity, the event is put down to a senseless tragedy until circumstances link it to another death on the same stretch of road.  And another.  And another.

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#590: Mystery at Olympia, a.k.a. Murder at the Motor Show (1935) by John Rhode

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While Freeman Wills Crofts’ work has caused me much delight over the last few years, that of his fellow ‘Humdrum’ John Rhode/Miles Burton doesn’t inspire in me quite the same raptures.  Rhode (as I’ll call him here) writes swift, events-focussed novels, and constructs plots with the same deliberation and consideration from multiple sides…so maybe it’s that his plots always feel like a single idea with some people bolted onto it.  Here as in Death Leaves No Card (1944) or Invisible Weapons (1938) I come away with the impression that he read about a single obscure murder method and thought “Yeah, I can get 60,000 words out of that”.

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