Nothing But The Truth by John Rhode

Nothing But The TruthAfter dining with his solicitor, Henry Watlington is dismayed to discover that Ellers, his chauffeur, is too drunk to drive him home – distinctly odd, as Ellers rarely drinks. Luckily a passing policeman offers to drive them both home. The next morning, Ellers wakes up by the side of the road under a rhododendron bush with no recall of the previous evening – and the policeman bearing the name given by the good Samaritan has a similar tale. Meanwhile, Henry Watlington has vanished without a trace…

Soon a body is discovered, an apparent victim of a hit and run – although somebody took the time to lock the body into an Automobile Association box by the side of the road. It will take all of the brainpower of the local police, Scotland Yard, and, of course, Dr Lancelot Priestley, to bring a cunning murderer to justice.

For the latest John Rhode review – I’ve made a page to index them – I’ve jumped to one of the later books in my mini-collection. The unimaginatively titled Nothing But The Truth is book 44 of 72 to feature Dr Priestley and things are feeling pretty familiar. Of course, I’ve only looked at a small sample, but there’s a clear pattern emerging. A suspicious death, it’s confirmed as a bizarre (but not impossible) murder, the basics of the method are established, the killer frames someone in case murder is suspected, Dr Priestley/Desmond Merrion sorts it out. It’s a structure that runs through Death In The Tunnel and The Motor Rally Mystery, so it’s a shame that I read this one and the latter nearly back to back. I know it’s not the same with every Rhode novel – Death In Harley Street is a more convential whodunit – but I begin to wonder how many books follow the same pattern.

I should make this clear, this is not a bad thing. This is a fun read that kept me engrossed from beginning to end. Following the investigation – it’s nice to see, by the way, that Priestley’s cohorts are competent police officers – as leads are followed, theories are formed and eliminated in a logical way while pushing the story forward. It could get bogged down with being too talky in places, but Rhode sidesteps that problem neatly.

It’s not perfect – once again, the villain’s plan is ludicrously complicated, and Rhode clearly doesn’t understand how c******* works – but it’s a highly entertaining read and a clever choice of murderer. Good luck hunting down a copy – there’s a £28 copy on Abebooks, but it’s not that good (what book is?) – but if you stumble upon a cheap copy, it’s definitely Recommended.

BTW, #IReadRhode is on hold for a few books where I catch up on some overdue reviews, but it’ll be back before the end of the month…

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18 comments

  1. The more of these Rhode reviews of yours I read, the more I anticipate returning to him. I was always going to return to him anyway – Death Leaves No Card (as Burton) is a lot of fun, and Ramble house have A Smell of Smoke, plus there are the British Library reprints now, so it’s become slightly easier to find him – and I’m following these with interest to see what’s worth racking down after that…!

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    • You (and everyone else) should try and get your hands on a copy of Death on the Board, or Death Sits on the Board, which ranks alongside The House on Tollard Ridge and Men Die At Cyprus Lodge as the best Rhode’s I have read thus far.

      On this review, I find it interesting the body was stuffed in an A.A. Box. One of the perks of reading Rhode are these particular historical snippets from everyday life nearly a century ago. Whether it is simpe car mechanics, daily routine of a dairy farm or the use of an A.A. box to dipose of a body. Rhode always give you a closer, detailed look at the period he was living in.

      I’ll also try to sneak in another Rhode review somewhere this (or next) month.

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      • You (and everyone else) should try and get your hands on a copy of Death on the Board, or Death Sits on the Board

        I’ve just bought a copy of Death on the Board. In fact it arrived in the post yesterday! I’m looking forward to it even more now.

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      • Death Sits On The Board is one of the titles that is available as an ebook in the US but not in the UK. Grrr.. the cheapest paper copy – sorry, the least expensive paper copy – is over £30 at the moment. I have managed to procure a nearly affordable copy of Tollard Ridge though…

        And yes, I get a much better feeling for the period from Rhode than I ever did from Christie or Carr. Much less interested in caricature and more in background detail that makes these almost feel like an historical novel.

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      • Thanks for this, TC; given the Doc’s researches I shall keep an eye out for anything that comes up. Got a few to get through in the meantime, so maybe some cheaper copies will appear…

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      • Or could this be the opening salvo in your internet lending library business? Charge a joining fee, post out books people request from your reviews…it’ll be a thing in the next few years (probably…) so get in early…

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