The House On Tollard Ridge by John Rhode

House On Tollard RidgeTollard Ridge was a lonely place and there was nothing to prevent some wandering tramp breaking into the house on any night during which it stood empty. But against that theory was the fact that, in the Superintendent’s experience, unprovoked murder was entirely outside the ideas of the average tramp.

Samuel Barton was a wealthy, if isolated, widower and lived with a housekeeper in the house on Tollard Ridge, generally keeping himself to himself. But more recently, Barton had moved to the nearby village with his sort-of niece and never visited the house again. Until one evening, when out of the blue, he decides to spend one night there. And promptly gets murdered…

How did the killer know Barton was at the house. Superintendent King thinks he knows. In fact, he’s got a cast iron case against the one person who had the means, motive and opportunity. But when his suspect’s lawyer asks his friend, Dr Lancelot Priestley, for advice with the defence, things start becoming a little more complicated…

Told you that #IReadRhode would last more than a month. At the current rate, my supply should keep going well into September – if you want to see what’s coming (and what’s already been covered) then do take a look at my John Rhode page. I haven’t included the Internet Archive titles there, but you never know…

Anyway, this is the earliest Rhode book for me so far, and he hasn’t clicked into the formula that’s been apparent in some of the other titles. Although it does seem that all of Rhode’s murderers see fit to frame someone else for the crime, but in this case, it’s part of the plot. Rhode sets up an effective small cast of characters and gives them real life. This is set in 1929 – oh, it’s my first book for this month’s #1929book for Crimes of the Century over at Past Offences – and the little touches highlight the differences between then and now. Marrying farmers for their money for example, or pubs serving whisky with a soda syphon given to the customer. And possibly (or it may just be the author) the use of the phrase finger-marks rather than finger-prints. Although, to be fair, Rhode also uses the phrase foot-marks as well, so perhaps he just can’t spell the word “print”. And we get to learn a lot about do-it-yourself radio sets. More than one character has a hobby of creating radio receivers to pick up radio signals from other countries… Interestingly, the word “ham” isn’t used though, so perhaps that’s a later phrase.

By the way, I haven’t said much about the character of Dr Priestley in the reviews so far – that’s because he doesn’t really have one. He’s summed up as a mathematician (yay!) who has issues with academic authority with a hobby of solving mysteries. And that’s about it. He has loyal friends and people seem to like him, but Rhode is more interested in talking about those people involved in the plot.

Oh, the plot? It moves along nicely and, for the first time (in my reading) there’s a second death. The first death is sort of a locked room, but a) it’s not locked really and b) there are so many ways round it that what actually happened isn’t particularly clever. Admittedly, the plot isn’t nearly as complex as in the other books – that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I still don’t understand fully the motives in at least one of them – but to be honest, the murderer’s scheme is pretty obvious here, as is their identity, to me at least. But it’s a book that kept my attention throughout, and, should you stumble across an affordable copy – £25 plus postage seems to be the cheapest at the moment – it’s well worth a look. Highly Recommended.

Thanks to TomCat for recommending this one – the other two recommendations are way beyond my budget for now…

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12 comments

  1. He’s summed up as a mathematician (yay!) who has issues with academic authority with a hobby of solving mysteries. And that’s about it. He has loyal friends and people seem to like him, but Rhode is more interested in talking about those people involved in the plot.

    Sounds like me but with friends. And hobbies.

    Like

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