In Face Of The Verdict by John Rhode

in-face-of-the-verdictMajor Walter Bedworthy has a set routine. If ever he visited his friend, Sir John Hallatrow, he would never drive the circuitous route but walk the shorter route across the fields. Even in the dark, he would always find the footbridge across the stream – he had a perfect method for finding it. And then one night, he disappears, to be discovered drowned a few days later. But Hallatrow is convinced that it could not have been an accident or a suicide and luckily, Dr Priestley, eminent scientist and investigator is a friend of a friend, who soon sets off for the town of Blacksand.

The inquest rules it an accident – there is no evidence of foul play at all – but Priestley is convinced there is more to it than that. A second death soon accelerates matters but a motive seems desperately elusive. Can Priestley find the killer before their plan is complete?

The 24th Dr Priestley mystery (also known as In The Face Of The Verdict) which starts very oddly as the first words of the book are “Dr Priestley”. He’s a much more central character in this one than in the others that I’ve read and we get to see a little more of the character. In particular, we get to see that he’s a bit of an arse – once he works out who the killer is, he basically tells the police that he’s bored now and they can find the evidence as it’s all a bit of a chore. It’s not the first time he does this – he generally can’t be bothered to get his hands dirty as even interviewing suspects is delegated to his detecting chums.

It trundles along very nicely, with some nice detection going on, although you could make a case for questioning if the murder method would actually work – you’d need to be pretty damn accurate – and well before the end of the book, the killer is pretty obvious, which does make the non-Priestleys in the book seem a little dim when they need it spelled out to them. The tale suffers from a dearth of suspects, really, but I prefer this approach to the obscure-character-pulled-out-of-nowhere that Rhode has used in a couple of other books.

Rhode seems to be embracing his standard style here, despite the increased presence of Priestley, and it’s a perfectly competent and enjoyable tale – not his best work, but a long way from his worst. Well Worth A Look – but for twenty quid or so, there are better examples of his work out there.

 

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13 comments

  1. I shall consider myself reasonably lucky to have recently found a copy of this for something of a bargain, then. Quite when I’ll get round to reading it is another matter…

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      • Well, as it happens — picture me smugface — I’ve just been given a box of classic GA paperbacks which contain among them a ton (note: the ton here is figurative) of Burton and Rhode, among others. I just rememberd this particular title because of Wade’s The Verdict of You All and I got them mixed up in my head upon seeing this one. So, who knows, maybe I have some better ones in there, too…

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      • GAD fanatic reveals they have recently obtained a number of potentially rare mystery novels… I feel like this is the beginning of a murder/theft mystery where the motive is the criminal being another GAD fanatic who wants to get their mitts on the books.

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  2. “I feel like this is the beginning of a murder/theft mystery where the motive is the criminal being another GAD fanatic who wants to get their mitts on the books”
    Well, if there is a murder/ theft at a certain apartment at W. Sherwin Avenue, Chicago, I shall understand the motive. 🙂

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  3. I have this one on my pile of Rhodes TBR but haven’t got around to it yet – I read one every so often but try to alternate with other authors. Dr Priestley is a bit irritating and many times is hauled in just to expound the solution without much detection. Usually I’ve guessed whodunit by then anyway.
    JJ’s box reminds me of the time a friend gave me a boxful of Christie paperbacks, many with artwork from the 50s/60s including a copy of ATTWN with the original title and a gloriously un-pc cover illustration. They are very battered paperbacks but I had to give them a home…

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  4. […] Back to this one, and it’s one of Rhode’s cleverer mysteries, especially on the whodunit side. If you spot what’s going on (like me, mostly), you’ll see a version of one of Rhode’s standard tricks, but it’s used much more subtly here – I think the murderer is apparent for the last quarter of the book or so, but I’d already guessed as much so maybe I was reading too much into it. It’s certainly much less obvious than the last tranche of In Face Of The Verdict. […]

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