My Book Notes: The Claverton Affair aka The Claverton Mystery, 1933 (Dr Priestley # 14) by John Rhode

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Mysterious Road Media, 2022. Book Format Kindle Edition: File Size: 4865 KB. Print Length: 277 pages. ASIN: BO9KKR45QD. ISBN: 978-1-5040-7276-2. With an Introduction by Curtis Evans. Originally published in 1933 by Collins The Crime Club in London as The Claverton Mystery and as The Claverton Affair by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, in 1933.

9781504072762Synopsis: After drifting apart from Sir John Claverton, Dr Lancelot Priestley is finally visiting his old friend for dinner. But Claverton’s situation is worrying. He’s surrounded by relatives, among them a sister who speaks to the dead—but not to him—and a niece who may or may not be a qualified nurse. Based on Claverton’s odd behavior, Priestley and a mutual friend suspect that someone is slipping him arsenic. But when Priestley discovers that Claverton has died just a week later and shares his concerns with the police, no trace of arsenic—or anything else untoward—is found during the autopsy. Still, the perceptive professor can’t shake his sense that something isn’t right, and Claverton’s recently revised will only adds to the mystery . . .

My Take: I would like to share with you the summary and fine review of this book by J F Norris on the pages of Golden Age of Detection Wiki:

An early entry in the series and definitely one of the better books.  Sir John Claverton calls Dr Priestley to his claustrophobic and Gothic home in a part of London that is undergoing vast urban renewal.  When Priestley arrives he is surprised to find the household increased to four – there are three unknown people staying with Calverton.  We later discover they are his niece, nephew and the niece’s mother – an odd woman who dabbles in being a medium.  Claverton tells Priestley a nearly incoherent story about his medicine and how a capsule went missing and that he suspects his butler of tampering with it.  Priestley then hears a story from Dr Olderton, who is caring for his friend, who thinks his patient was being poisoned with arsenic by someone in the house. Exactly two days later Claverton is dead.  A post mortem shows he died of a perforated stomach, but there is no sign of arsenic in his body or the last meal he consumed. Nonetheless, Priestley suspects foul play. The story involves a convoluted will that introduces two more characters, (Mrs. Archer and her daughter Mary) seemingly no relation to Claverton, who receive the bulk of his estate. Who are they? Why would Claverton change his will within a few days of his death to make them his primary heirs? There is a weird séance sequence in which Mrs. Littlecote (the odd aunt) summons the spirit of Claverton and speaking in his voice reveals some secrets of the doctor and alludes to Claverton’s death as a murder. Really the book is chockfull of gripping scenes, is a lively story that rarely drags, compounding mystery upon mystery as Priestley slowly discovers that an ingenious plot (and a fiendish murder method) was concocted to murder Sir John and let the murderer escape almost undetected. The final sequence in which the murderer is forced to confess takes place during yet another séance, but this one with some ghostly surprises concocted by Priestley. (July 2010) J.F. Norris.

I can’t put it better. A superb story, highly recommended.

The Claverton Affair has been reviewed, among others, by Nick Fuller, J.F. Norris and Michael at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, Richard & Karen La Porte at Mystery File, dfordoom at Vintage Pop Fictions, and Puzzle Doctor at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel.


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club, London, 1933)


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1933)

About The Author: Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964), also known as CJC Street and John Street, began his military career as an artillery officer in the British army. During the course of World War I, he became a propagandist for MI7, in which role he held the rank of temp Major. After the armistice, he alternated between Dublin and London during the Irish War of Independence as an Information Officer for Dublin Castle. Street went on to become a prolific writer of detective novels when, in 1924, he published a thriller under the name of John Rhode and, by the end of the decade, he had already established himself as a prime candidate for founder-membership of the Detection Club. Only after his death did it emerge that Miles Burton was also a pen-name for Cecil John Street. And his flair for remaining a man of mystery was underlined when, as late as 2003, it was revealed by the Golden Age expert and researcher Tony Medawar that in the early Thirties Street had also written four obscure mysteries under the name Cecil Waye featuring ‘London’s most famous private detective’, Christopher Perrin.

Between 1924 and 1961 Street published a total of 144 novels, seventy-seven as John Rhode, sixty-three as Miles Burton and four as Cecil Waye. Under the name of John Rhode he produced a long series of novels featuring the forensic scientist Dr Priestley (72 books) and, as Miles Burton, he penned  another long series featuring the investigator Desmond Merrion (61 books). The Dr Priestley novels were among the first after Sherlock Holmes to feature scientific detection of crime, such as analysing the mud on a suspect’s shoes. Desmond Merrion is an amateur detective who works with Scotland Yard’s Inspector Arnold. Under the name of Cecil Waye, Street produced four novels: Murder at Monk’s Barn (1931), The Figure of Eight (1931), The End of the Chase (1932) and The Prime Minister’s Pencil (1933).

Critic and author Julian Symons places this author as a prominent member of the “Humdrum” school of detective fiction. “Most of them came late to writing fiction, and few had much talent for it. They had some skill in constructing puzzles, nothing more, and ironically they fulfilled much better than S. S. Van Dine his dictum that the detective story properly belonged in the category of riddles or crossword puzzles. Most of the Humdrums were British, and among the best known of them were Major Cecil Street, who used the name of John Rhode, ….” Symons’ opinion has not however prevented the Rhode and Burton books becoming much sought after by collectors, and many of the early ones can command high prices. Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor in their A Catalogue of Crime offer a different perspective to Symons, praising several of the Rhode books in particular, though they only review a small proportion of the more than 140 novels written by Street.

Curt Evans has written the only detailed account of Street’s life and works: “I wrote my new book, Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920–1961 (published by McFarland Press) in part to give a long overdue reappraisal of these purportedly “humdrum” detection writers as accomplished literary artists. Not only did they produce a goodly number of fine fair play puzzles, but their clever tales have more intrinsic interest as social documents and even sometimes as literary novels than they have been credited with having.” (Source: Wikipedia and others)

Bibliography (as John Rhode):

John Rhode’s Bests: The House on Tollard Ridge (1929); The Davidson Case (1929) apa Murder at Bratton Grange; The Claverton Mystery (1933) apa The Claverton Affair; The Venner Crime (1933); The Robthorne Mystery (1934); Poison for One (1934); Shot at Dawn (1934); The Corpse in the Car (1935); Death on the Board (1937) apa Death Sits on the Board;; The Bloody Tower (1938); They Watched by Night (1942); Vegetable Duck (1944); and Death on Harley Street (1946) (Source: Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp)

Notable Works by John Street writing as John Rhode: The Paddington Mystery (1925); Dr Priestley’s Quest (1926); The Ellerby Case (1927); The Murders in Praed Street (1928); The House on Tollard Ridge (1929); The Davidson Case (1929) apa Murder at Bratton Grange; Peril at Cranbury Hall (1930); Pinehurst (1930) apa Dr. Priestley Investigates; The Hanging Woman (1931); Mystery at Greycombe Farm (1932); Dead Men at the Folly (1932); The Motor Rally Mystery (1933) apa Dr. Priestley Lays a Trap; The Claverton Mystery (1933) apa The Claverton Affair; The Venner Crime (1933); The Robthorne Mystery (1934); Poison for One (1934); Shot at Dawn (1934); The Corpse in the Car (1935); Hendon’s First Case (1935); Mystery at Olympia (1935) apa Murder at the Motor Show; In Face of the Verdict (1936); Death in the Hopfields (1937) apa The Harvest Murder; Death on the Board (1937) apa Death Sits on the Board; Proceed with Caution (1937) apa Body Unidentified; Invisible Weapons (1938); The Bloody Tower (1938) apa The Tower of Evil; Death Pays a Dividend (1939); Death on Sunday (1939) apa The Elm Tree Murder; Death on the Boat Train (1940); Death at the Helm (1941); They Watched by Night (1941) apa Signal For Death; Dead on the Track (1943); Men Die at Cyprus Lodge (1943); Vegetable Duck (1944) apa Too Many Suspects; The Lake House (1946) apa The Secret of the Lake House; Death in Harley Street (1946); The Paper Bag (1948) apa The Links in the Chain; The Telephone Call (1948) apa Shadow of an Alibi; Blackthorn House (1949); In Face of the Verdict (1936); The Two Graphs (1950) apa Double Identities; Family Affairs (1950) apa The Last Suspect; The Secret Meeting (1951); Death at the Dance (1952); Death at the Inn (1953) apa The Case of Forty Thieves; The Dovebury Murders (1954); and Licensed For Murder (1958). (Source: Mainly Curtis Evans at Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery and others).

Some of these books are very difficult to find, but I do hope Mysterious Press/Open Road Media will soon have more titles available.

John Rhode – Mysterious Press

Mysterious Press publicity page

Open Road Media publicity page

The Life and Times of John Street, aka John Rhode, aka Vintage Mystery’s Master of Murder Means by Curtis Evans

The Eventful Life of Cecil John Charles Street

John Rhode at Golden Age of Detection Wiki

John Rhode and Miles Burton by Mike Grost

The Claverton Affair, de John Rhode

Sinopsis: Tas haberse distanciado de Sir John Claverton, el Dr. Lancelot Priestley finalmente visita a su antiguo amigo para cenar. Pero la situación de Claverton es preocupante. Está rodeado de parientes, entre ellos una hermana que habla con los muertos, pero no con él, y una sobrina que puede ser o no una enfermera titulada. Basándose en el comportamiento extraño de Claverton, Priestley y un amigo en común sospechan que alguien le está envenenando poco a poco con arsénico. Pero cuando Priestley descubre que Claverton murió solo una semana después y comparte sus preocupaciones con la policía, no se encuentra ningún rastro de arsénico, o cualquier otra cosa perjudicial, durante la autopsia. Aún así, el perspicaz profesor no se puede quitar de encima la sensación de que algo no anda bien, y el testamento revisado recientemente de Claverton no hace mas que aumentar el misterio. . .

Mi opinión: Me gustaría compartir con ustedes el resumen y la excelente reseña de este libro de J F Norris en las páginas de Golden Age of Detection Wiki:

Una de la primeras entradas de la serie y definitivamente uno de los mejores libros. Sir John Claverton llama al Dr. Priestley a su casa gótica y claustrofóbica en una parte de Londres que está experimentando un gran cambio urbano. Cuando llega Priestley, se sorprende al descubrir que la familia aumentó en cuatro: hay tres personas desconocidas alojadas con Calverton. Más tarde descubrimos que son su sobrina, su sobrino y la madre de la sobrina, una extraña mujer que se dedica a actuar como médium. Claverton le cuenta a Priestley una historia casi incoherente sobre su medicación y cómo se perdió una cápsula y sospecha que su mayordomo la manipuló. Priestley luego escucha una historia del Dr. Olderton, que se encarga del cuidado de su amigo, quien cree que alguien en la casa ha estado envenenando a su paciente con arsénico. Exactamente dos días después, Claverton muere. La autopsia demuestra que murió de una perforación en el estómago, pero no hay señales de arsénico en su cuerpo ni en la última comida que consumió. No obstante, Priestley sospecha que hay algo turbio. La historia incluye un testamento enrevesado que incorpora a dos personajes más (la Sra. Archer y su hija Mary) aparentemente sin relación alguna con Claverton, quienes reciben la mayor parte de su herencia. ¿Quiénes son? ¿Por qué Claverton cambiaría su testamento pocos días antes de su muerte para hacerlas sus principales herederas? Hay una extraña sesión de espiritismo en la que la Sra. Littlecote (la extraña tía) convoca al espíritu de Claverton y hablando con su voz revela algunos de los secretos del doctor y se refiere a la muerte de Claverton como un asesinato. Realmente, el libro está repleto de escenas apasionantes, es un animado relato que rara vez se alarga innecesariamente, y combina misterio sobre misterio a medida que Priestley descubre lentamente que se urdió una trama ingeniosa (y un método de asesinato diabólico) para asesinar a Sir John y conseguir que el asesino se escape apenas sin ser descubierto. La secuencia final en la que el asesino se ve obligado a confesar tiene lugar durante otra sesión de espiritismo, junto con algunas sorpresas fantasmagórica ideadas por Priestley. (Julio de 2010) JF Norris.

No puedo decirlo mejor. Excelente historia, muy recomendable.

Acerca del autor: Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964), también conocido como CJC Street y John Street, comenzó su carrera militar como oficial de artillería en el ejército británico. Durante el transcurso de la Primera Guerra Mundial, se convirtió en propagandista del MI7, en cuyo cargo ocupó el rango de comandante eventual. Después del armisticio, alternó entre Dublín y Londres durante la Guerra de Independencia de Irlanda como Oficial de Información del Castillo de Dublín. Street se convirtió en un prolífico escritor de novelas policíacas cuando, en 1924, publicó un thriller con el nombre de John Rhode y, a finales de la década, ya se había consolidado como firme candidato a miembro fundador del Detection Club. Solo después de su muerte se supo que Miles Burton también era un seudónimo de Cecil John Street. Y su talento por permanecer un hombre de misterio se puso de relieve cuando, en el 2003, el experto e investigador de la Edad de Oro Tony Medawar demostró que a principios de los años treinta también había escrito cuatro misterios oscuros bajo el nombre de Cecil Waye con ‘el detective privado más famoso de Londres’, Christopher Perrin.

Entre 1924 y 1961 Street publicó un total de 144 novelas, setenta y siete como John Rhode, sesenta y tres como Miles Burton y cuatro como Cecil Waye. Bajo el nombre de John Rhode creó una larga serie de novelas protagonizadas por el científico forense Dr. Priestley (72 libros) y, como Miles Burton, escribió otra larga serie protagonizada por el investigador Desmond Merrion (61 libros). Las novelas del Dr. Priestley estuvieron entre las primeras después de Sherlock Holmes en incorporar la investigación científica de los delitos, como el análisis del barro en los zapatos de un sospechoso. Desmond Merrion es un detective aficionado que trabaja con el inspector Arnold de Scotland Yard. Bajo el nombre de Cecil Waye, Street produjo cuatro novelas: Murder at Monk’s Barn (1931), The Figure of Eight (1931), The End of the Chase (1932) y The Prime Minister’s Pencil (1933).

El crítico y autor Julian Symons coloca a este autor como un miembro destacado de la escuela de ficción detectivesca “Hundrum”. “La mayoría de ellos llegó tarde a escribir novelas y pocos tenían mucho talento para ello. Tenían algo de habilidad para construir enigmas, nada más, e irónicamente cumplieron mucho mejor que S. S. Van Dine su máxima de que la historia de detectives pertenecía propiamente a la categoría de adivinanzas o crucigramas. La mayoría de los Humdrums eran británicos, y entre los más conocidos se encontraba Major Cecil Street, que usaba el nombre de John Rhode, ….” Sin embargo, la opinión de Symons no ha impedido que los libros de Rhode y Burton sean muy buscados por coleccionistas, y muchos de los primeros pueden alcanzar precios elevados. Jacques Barzun y Wendell Hertig Taylor en su A Catalog of Crime ofrecen una perspectiva diferente a Symons, elogiando varios de los libros de Rhode en particular, aunque solo reseñan una pequeña proporción de las más de 140 novelas escritas por Street.

Curt Evans ha escrito el único relato detallado de la vida y obra de Street: “Escribí mi nuevo libro, Masters of the” Humdrum “Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart y la novela policíaca británica, 1920-1961 (publicado por McFarland Press) en parte para dar un replanteamiento pendiente desde hace mucho tiempo de estos escritores policiacos aparentemente “rutinarios” como artistas literarios consumados. No solo produjeron un buen número de enigmas de juego limpio, sino que sus historias inteligentes tienen mas un interés intrínseco como documentos sociales e incluso a veces como novelas literarias de lo  que se les atribuye “. (Fuente: Wikipedia y otras)

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