Sir John Smethurst is a rich financier with a big country house and a manageable number of family, retainers and hangers-on, and, because this is a Golden Age mystery, before you can say “obvious suspect”, he’s lying dead on the floor of his study. With a plethora of clues to decipher, it falls to Inspector Dobson and his boss, Superintendent Fraser, to track down the clever murderer.
Soon, the detectives become convinced they know who the killer is, but it’s another matter to find the evidence to convict them. Oh, and one other slight problem – they are both convinced who the killer is, but they disagree on who it is. Which one of them is on the right track? Or are they both barking up the wrong tree?
The Henry Wade books first came to my attention when Martin Edwards recommended the impossible-to-find Mist On The Saltings for the first Bodies From The Library conference. A while later, I was lucky enough to stumble on a copy of A Dying Fall. Well, I say lucky – it’s OK, but it’s a bit of a shaggy dog story, basically being a was-it-murder-or-accident tale which is never easy to drag out into a novel. But Wade has a reputation of varying his style, and this one is very different.
It’s a very typical Golden Age tale for the most part. A clue-strewn crime scene, a question about the position of the body, doubt over time of death… the only thing missing is an eccentric detective. Actually, Fraser sort of fits that role, as he’s doing a bit of a Dr Priestley/Nero Wolfe kind of thing at first, refusing to get off his backside and doing his deducing in his office.
It’s rather fun as well, a very accomplished first novel, and with an interesting reveal and a very Golden Age scheme from the villain of the piece. It’s not perfect, as the courtroom scenes towards the end – hardly a spoiler, given the title – drag on a little bit, but there is a point to them so that can be excused.
Luckily, the Henry Wade novels, including the aforementioned Mist On The Saltings, have been rescued as one of the final efforts of The Murder Room from Orion Books and are all available as ebooks – a fact that I discovered after buying this one on Ebay. So if you want to check this one out – and it’s Highly Recommended – then you can. Hurrah! And if you don’t believe me, Kate at Cross Examining Crime enjoyed it too.
And with that book, I’ve managed to just finish the 20 Books Of Summer challenge. Be back tomorrow for a round-up of the challenge. UPDATE: Actually, can’t be bothered with a summary – just check out the link-filled original post.