Peril At Cranbury Hall by John Rhode

Peril At Cranbury HallArnold Gilroy is presented with an investment opportunity that he cannot say no to. A colleague has arranged with Professor Verclaes, a famous innovator in the field of alternative medicine, to set up a treatment centre in Cranbury Hall, a clinic that offers to enable his patients to banish fatigue forever. It’s a clear money-spinner, and Gilroy signs up. But there is a shadow on the horizon.

His brother, Oliver Burford has just been released from prison for fraud and he is a man who knows many secrets about many people, and before long he has acquired the position of running Cranbury Hall, and is in the process of making full use of those secrets. But somebody clearly doesn’t like what Burford is up to – a bullet grazing his forehead is only the beginning of his troubles. Luckily for him – possibly – Dr Priestley stumbles across a second attempt on his life. But can Priestley find the killer before the killer finishes his work?

The second book this month for Crimes Of The Century’s #1930Book over at Past Offences – with a bit of luck, there’ll be a few more this month – and it’s an early outing for Dr Priestley. His ninth escapade and unlike the later books, once he appears, he’s in the book quite a bit and he’s a lot more active this time, even popping over to Ostend. It’s quite different from the later books, where he just prompts the police. The focus of the narrative is based on Burford primarily, concentrating on his schemes and the attempts on his life and, after a bit, Priestley’s attempts to find the would-be killer.

It’s a wonderfully twisty tale, with the reader never sure what’s going to happen next, and a great example of the Golden Age genre. The identity of the villain became a little inevitable as the end approaches, but even then, I was never quite sure I’d flagged it up correctly. After reading a couple of later Rhode books recently, both of which were, to be honest, a bit dull and a bit obvious, it was a delight to be reminded how good his writing could be. Rhode has a few weak points – overcomplicated motives, obscure characters as the killer, reliance on a certain plot shape – but none of those problems are present here. He makes the most of a small cast of characters, all of which get a nice bit of page time, and pulls off a nice revelation at the end of the tale that I doubt many readers will spot.

And good news! There’s currently a cheap edition on Abebooks for only £43.62! So a quick appeal to the Rhode estate – there are some outstanding books in Cecil Street’s back catalogue that lots of readers would absolutely love, in particular this one. I was very lucky to get my hands on this one for a relative pittance – I wish more people could enjoy it too. Good luck hunting for it, as this is Highly Recommended.

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13 comments

  1. This is one of my favorites of the handful of Dr. Priestley books I’ve read. He really was fascinated with deadly means and infernal devices, wasn’t he?

    FYI – there is a much better bookselling website that will offer you a much wider choice of places to find books for sale. Almost every online bookseller lists their catalogs on multiple third party bookselling sites. Abebooks.com prices ARE NOT the cheapest out there. In fact, because of the way amazon (who owns abebooks) charges listing fees and handling credit card purchases for sellers who do not have business charge accounts many bookseller’s prices on abebooks are higher than other sites. Not by much, but they are higher. The book search website I prefer and recommend for anyone looking for used books is vialibri.net.

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