I enjoyed John Rhode’s work under the name of Miles Burton, so I snapped this and two others up when I spotted them. Rhode is a fairly workmanlike writer, without the exquisite turns of phrase of Cox or Sayers, or the deep sense of place and character of someone like E.C.R. Lorac. They’re puzzles to be solved, with an ingenious method of murder and all kinds of twists in the tale (four separate attempts to harm the victim, any of which could have killed him… and not all by the same culprit, for instance). There are some nice little character sketches (primarily Mrs Markle, but with neat little impressions of several other characters and how they think).
The way it works out is surprising, mostly because I think there are really insufficient clues; it’s one of the school where the detective is utterly reasonable in his suspicions, but hopelessly wrong, and the big man of the story (Sherlock in some, Dr Priestley in this) has it all figured out in actuality… and it’s so Machiavellian and labyrinthine that you can’t guess. That’s not something I enjoy greatly in too big a dose, but it was nice to settle back and let the story carry me to its conclusion in this case. I knew I probably wouldn’t work it out and that there’d be a surprise, so thus prepared, I just passively followed the process.
Probably I’ll avoid reading Death at Breakfast or Invisible Weapons too soon, and come back when I’m ready to be told what the non-obvious “obvious” solution is.
Oh, and if you’re just picking it up and wondering if you need to follow all that explanation about how the fancy new transmission works in the cars at the Olympia show… the answer is no. You can skip that whole spiel. Someone got too pleased with his own idea there.