The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode

Harold Merefield has had an entertaining evening and after staggering home from the Naxos Club, he finds a slight issue with going to bed – the corpse that has been left in it. The inquest claims death came from natural causes, but Harold can’t help but believe that there was more to it than that. Why would a stranger break into his flat and then drop dead?

Luckily, Harold has someone to turn to. He was engaged to April, the daughter of one Professor Lancelot Priestley, someone who has always found the world of crime intriguing. As he casts his analytical eye over the crime, he finds that there is so much more to the case than anyone would believe.

After my post on Dr Priestley yesterday, I thought I’d take a look at Priestley’s career through his books – namely the first, The Paddington Mystery, one from the middle, Death On Sunday, and the last, The Vanishing Diary. Now this one gets some bad press – the expert on Priestley, Curtis Evans, really isn’t a fan of this one. And he’s got a point.

There are a number of problems, but primarily, it’s rather dull. Priestley plays a fairly active role in proceedings, with Harold nosing around for a chapter, then Priestley joins in, and then the pattern repeats itself a few times. Harold, as anyone who’s read a Rhode title, will be Priestley’s assistant after this one, but here he gets much more of the action. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of action going on, with a couple of ideas in the carrying out the crime being pretty obvious to the reader.

As for the solution, it’s pretty silly, feeling more like it has come out of a Victorian melodrama than a Golden Age detective story, but there are some nice bits, mostly from Priestley himself. We see a few private moments concerning Priestley and the relationship between Harold and April. There’s a nice idea as well where Harold isn’t in any way accused of the murder, but is determined to get to the bottom of things partly because he just finds it interesting.

It’s not a strong debut, mostly because a lot of the plot is just rather dull, although there’s some fun to be had with the Communists in the early sections. It’s good that it’s being republished soon by the Collins Crime Club, but please don’t judge Dr Priestley and chums on this one – it’s pretty atypical. Worth A Look, for curiosity if nothing else.

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4 comments

  1. I’ll certainly get this, but won’t keep my expectations too high. Does anyone know if April is ever mentioned in any of the later books?

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    • This is thanks to Curtis Evans, writer of Masters Of The Humdrum Mystery and the definitive expert on all things Rhode. April is mentioned in the next book, Dr Priestley’s Quest, as being off on a trip round the country and then gets a brief mention in By Registered Post – I don’t know if these mentions clarify her relationship with Harold. I’ll let you know, as I have both of these on my shelf

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