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

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Mysterious Press.com/Open 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.

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

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(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)

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

I’ve started reading John Rhode’s The Claverton Affair apa The Claverton Mystery (Dr Priestley # 14), with an Introduction by Curtis Evans available here. After the publication in 1925 of The Paddington Mystery, over the next thirty-five years, Cecil John Charles Street (1884-1964) would produce primarily under two pseudonyms, John Rhode and Miles Barton, 143 mystery novels (mostly classical tales of detection), an average rate of four a year. In 1930 Street became one of the founding members of England’s Detection Club, and he remained active in the group for two decades. Most of his mystery novels are difficult to find but Mysterious Press/Open Road Media have started publishing some.

6447For my private use and with the invaluable assistance of Curtis Evans, I have compiled two lists of his best books under his John Rhode moniker, to help me navigate amongst his extensive oeuvre. I hope some of you may find it useful, and I do appreciate any suggestion of other books I might have inadvertently omitted.  Thank you in advance.

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)

2707Notable Works by Cecil John Charles 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).

New Releases January 2022

If my information is correct on 11 January 2022, the following John Rhode’s books will be released by Mysterious Press / Open Road Media: Dr Priestley Investigates (Dr Priestley #8); Peril at Cranbury Hall (Dr Priestley #9); Tragedy on the Line (Dr Priestley #11); The Claverton Affair (Dr Priestley #14); The Venner Crime (Dr Priestley #16); Death in Harley Street (Dr Priestley #43); Blackthorn House (Dr Priestley #48).

I’m particularly interested in The Claverton Mystery aka The Claverton Affair, 1933 (Dr Priestley #14); The Venner Crime, 1933 (Dr Priestley #16); and Death in Harley Street, 1946 (Dr Priestley #43). Stay tuned. 

51X9EmpBlvLA scientifically minded professor is stumped by a case involving séances and an inexplicable inheritance . . .
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 . . .
“The puzzle is sound, the atmosphere menacing in a splendidly gloomy way.” —Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor, A Catalogue of Crime
“You can never go far wrong with a Dr. Priestley story.” —The New York Times (Source: Open Road)

About the Author: Cecil John Charles Street (1884 – 1964) was a British army officer and a prolific writer of detective stories. He authored more than 140 novels. John Street produced two long series of novels; one under the name of John Rhode, the majority featuring the academic Dr Priestley, another under the name of Miles Burton, the majority featuring the retired naval officer Desmond Merrion; and a third under the name Cecil Waye.

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

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

My Book Notes: The Robthorne Mystery, 1934 (Dr Priestley #18) by John Rhode

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Red Kestrel Books, 2019. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 923 KB. Print Length: 287 Pages. ASIN: B082BKFW6M. ISBN: 9781839740763. First published in the UK by Collins Crime Club, 1934 and in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co, 1934.

51hYcPROniL._SY346_Book Description: The Robthorne Mystery, first published in 1934, is part of the series of mysteries featuring private detective Dr Priestley. Author John Rhode, a pen name of Cecil Street (1884-1964), was a prolific writer of mostly detective novels, publishing more than 140 books between 1924 and 1961.
When one of the Robthorne twins commits suicide, there is a question over which one it is and whether it was, in fact, suicide or murder. From the dustjacket: Dr Priestley, well-known crime investigator, is called in to solve the mysterious death of Mr Robthorne, who has been found shot in the greenhouse of his country estate. A chain of damning evidence that Dr Priestley pieces so successfully together forms one of the finest examples of crime detection that Mr John Rhode has yet produced.

My Take: In this instalment, Dr Priestley and Superintendent Hanslet have to come to grips with one of the more complex and difficult cases they ever have had. The Robthorne twins, Maurice and Warwick, are lately leading a flawless live in the village of Milton Kirdmore, when, one day, Warwick is found dead in the greenhouse. How has he met his death? All seems to indicate that he committed suicide, but is there any possibility that he had been murdered? Won’t it be possible that the dead man would be Maurice rather Warwick? The story becomes more confused when it is discovered that Scotland Yard was about to detain Warwick, charged with drug trafficking, which doesn’t seem to make any sense. Finally, another murder takes place that doesn’t seem to be connected with nothing of the above.

If I’m not mistaken this has been my first encounter with Cecil John Street writing as John Rhode, even though I’ve read Murder at Monk’s Barn, written as Cecil Waye and The Secret of High Eldersham, written as Miles Burton. I’m sure it won’t be the last. Regretfully, there are few John Rhode’s books available, particularly among those recommended by Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp, see below. But I look forward to reading the ones I have in a not too distant future. Stay tuned. By the way, I did not say I very much enjoyed reading The Robthorne Mystery, and I strongly recommend it.

The Robthorne Mystery has been reviewed, among others, by Steve Barge at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, Martin Edwards at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jacket LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1934)

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(Source: facsimile Dust Jacket, LLC. Dodd, Mead & Company (USA), 1934)

About The Author: Capt. 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)

The Best of John Rhode (Source: Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp): The Davidson Case aka Murder at Bratton Grange, 1929 (Dr Priestley #6); The House on Tollard Ridge, 1929 (Dr Priestley #7); The Claverton Mystery aka The Claverton Affair, 1933 (Dr Priestley #14); The Venner Crime, 1933 (Dr Priestley #16); Poison for One, 1934 (Dr Pristley #17); The Robthorne Mystery, 1934 (Dr Priestley #18); The Corpse in the Car, 1935 (Dr Priestley #19); Shot at Dawn, 1934 (Dr Priestley #22); Death on the Board aka Death Sits on the Board, 1937 (Dr Priestley #26); The Bloody Tower aka The Tower of Evil, 1938 (Dr Priestley #29); They Watched by Night aka Signal For Death, 1941 (Dr Priestley #35); Vegetable Duck aka Too Many Suspects, 1944 (Dr Priestley #40); Death in Harley Street, 1946 (Dr Priestley #43).

The Best of Miles Burton (Source: Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp): The Secret of High Eldersham aka The Mystery of High Eldersham, 1930 (Desmond Merrion, #1); Where Is Barbara Prentice? 1936 (Desmond Merrion #12); The Platinum Cat, 1938 (Desmond Merrion #18); Murder MD aka Who Killed the Doctor? 1943 (Desmond Merrion #28); The Three-Corpse Trick, 1944 (Desmond Merrion #30); The Cat Jumps, 1946 (Desmond Merrion #33); Bones in the Brickfield, 1958 (Desmond Merrion #56).

Unfortunately most of these books are very difficult to find. For a detailed bibliography click on John Rhode page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki.

Further reading: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961 (McFarland & Company Inc. 2012) by Curtis Evans.

Red Kestrel Books publicity page

John Street, aka John Rhode and Miles Burton, and the end of the Golden Age

John Rhode / Miles Burton A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection by Mike Grost

A Score of Fine Street Fare: The Best of John Rhode and Miles Burton

How To Read Cecil Street aka John Rhode aka Miles Burton

John Rhode – The Story So Far

Money For Old Rhode: The Price Of Collecting John Street

John Rhode at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel 

The Robthorne Mystery, de John Rhode

Descripción del libro: The Robthorne Mystery, publicado por primera vez en 1934, forma parte de la serie de misterios protagonizada por el detective privado Dr. Priestley. El autor John Rhode, uno de los seudónimos de Cecil Street (1884-1964), fue un prolífico escritor de novelas policiacas en su mayoría, y publicó más de 140 libros entre 1924 y 1961. Cuando uno de los gemelos Robthorne se suicida, la pregunta que surge es cuál de los dos es ysi fue, de hecho, un suicidio o un asesinato. De la contraportada: el Dr. Priestley, conocido investigador de crímenes, es llamado para resolver la misteriosa muerte del Sr. Robthorne, que ha sido encontrado muerto de disparos en el invernadero de su finca. Una cadena de pruebas condenatorias que el Dr. Priestley reúne con tanto éxito forma uno de los mejores ejemplos de detección de delitos que John Rhode ha producido hasta ahora.

Mi opinión: En esta entrega, el Dr. Priestley y el superintendente Hanslet deben enfrentarse a uno de los casos más complejos y difíciles que jamás hayan tenido. Los gemelos Robthorne, Maurice y Warwick, llevan últimamente una vida impecable en el pueblo de Milton Kirdmore, cuando, un día, Warwick es encontrado muerto en el invernadero. ¿Cómo se encontró con la muerte? Todo parece indicar que se suicidó, pero ¿hay alguna posibilidad de que hubiera sido asesinado? ¿No sería posible que el muerto fuera Maurice en lugar de Warwick? La historia se vuelve más confusa cuando se descubre que Scotland Yard estaba a punto de detener a Warwick, acusado de tráfico de drogas, lo que no parece tener ningún sentido. Finalmente, se produce otro asesinato que no parece estar relacionado con nada de lo anterior.

Si no me equivoco, este ha sido mi primer encuentro con Cecil John Street escribiendo como John Rhode, aunque he leído Murder at Monk’s Barn, escrito como Cecil Waye y The Secret of High Eldersham, escrito como Miles Burton. Estoy seguro de que no será el último. Lamentablemente, hay pocos libros de John Rhode disponibles, particularmente entre los recomendados por Curtis Evans en The Passing Tramp, ver más arriba. Pero espero leer los que tengo en un futuro no muy lejano. Manténganse al tanto. Por cierto, no dije que disfruté mucho leyendo The Robthorne Mystery, y lo recomiendo encarecidamente.

Acerca del autor: El capitán 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)

Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964)

c-j-c-streetJohn Rhode was one pseudonym used by the prolific English author Cecil John Charles Street (1884-1964) who also wrote as Miles Burton and Cecil Waye. Street’s two main series are the Dr Lancelot Priestley books under the Rhode name, and the Desmond Merrion/Inspector Henry Arnold books under the Burton name. The Priestley books are classics of scientific detection, with the elderly Dr Priestley demonstrating how apparently impossible crimes have been carried out. Priestley ages through the series and by the last books must be well into his eighties, but his faculties are unimpaired. The Burton series are more traditional detective fiction with the addition of chases and the occasional romance; in fact the hero, amateur investigator Desmond Merrion, meets his wife in the first, The Secret of High Eldersham (1930). (Source: gadetection)

John Rhode, born as Cecil John Charles Street and also known as John Street, was extremely reticent about his private life. He refused to be listed in Who’s Who, and many reference works do not give the exact date of his birth or death (several are in error about the year of his death). An indication of how secretive a person Street was and how carefully he separated his various personalities is the fact that he used the title Up the Garden Path for both a Burton book published in 1941 and a Rhode book published in 1949. He even invented a fictitious year of birth for Burton, whose books he never admitted were his. He is said to have been a career officer, a major, in the British army and a field officer in both World War I and World War II. Awarded the Order of the British Empire, he also received a Military Cross, a fairly high distinction. Street’s firsthand experience of war may perhaps even be credited with directing him to literary pursuits because his first few books were studies of gunnery and a war novel (The Worldly Hope, 1917) published under the pseudonym F.O.O. (for Forward Observation Officer) while World War I was still being fought. Curiously, no trace of Street appears in Quarterly Army List of this period or of later periods. Immediately after the war, he tried his hand at thrillers before launching his two highly successful series. Between the wars, Street was stationed in Ireland and Central Europe, and while maintaining a steady production of two novels a year in each of his series, he also published a number of political works that grew out of his firsthand experience. His intelligence experience during World War II was put to use in such Desmond Merrion novels of the war years as Up the Garden Path and Situation Vacant (1946). He continued to write at a steady pace into his seventies and died at a hospital near his Seaford home in Sussex. (Source: “Cecil John Charles Street – Biography” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson. eNotes.com, Inc. 2008 eNotes.com 29 Feb, 2020 http://www.enotes.com/topics/cecil-john-charles-street#biography-biography-3424)

After the publication in 1925 of The Paddington Mystery, over the next thirty-five years, John Street would produce, primarily under two pseudonyms, John Rhode and Miles Barton, 143 mystery novels (mostly classical tales of detection), an average rate of four a year. In 1930 Street became one of the founding members od England’s Detection Club, and he remained active in the group for two decades. His greatest friend in the Club, John Dickson Carr and Lucy Beatrice Malleson (who wrote as Anthony Gilbert) remembered him warmly.

Selected Bibliography: (Source: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery by Curtis Evans)

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 aka Murder at Bratton Grange (1929); Pinehurst (1930) aka Dr. Priestley Investigates; The Hanging Woman (1931); Dead Men at the Folly (1932); The Motor Rally Mystery (1933) aka Dr. Priestley Lays a Trap; The Claverton Mystery (1933) aka 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) aka Murder at the Motor Show; Death in the Hopfields (1937) aka The Harvest Murder; Death on the Board (1937) aka Death Sits on the Board; Proceed with Caution (1937) aka Body Unidentified; Invisible Weapons (1938); The Bloody Tower (1938) aka The Tower of Evil; Death Pays a Dividend (1939); Death on Sunday (1939) aka The Elm Tree Murder; Death on the Boat Train (1940); Death at the Helm (1941); They Watched by Night (1941) aka Signal For Death; Dead on the Track (1943); Men Die at Cyprus Lodge (1943); Vegetable Duck (1944) aka Too Many Suspects; The Lake House (1946) aka The Secret of the Lake House; Death in Harley Street (1946); The Paper Bag (1948) aka The Links in the Chain; The Telephone Call (1948) aka Shadow of an Alibi; Blackthorn House (1949); The Two Graphs (1950) aka Double Identities; Family Affairs (1950) aka The Last Suspect; The Secret Meeting (1951); Death at the Dance (1952); Death at the Inn (1953) aka The Case of Forty Thieves; The Dovebury Murders (1954); and Licenced for Murder (1958). (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Miles Burton: The Secret of High Eldersham (1930) aka The Mystery of High Eldersham; Death of Mr Gantley (1931); To Catch a Thief (1934); The Devereux Court Mystery (1935); Death in the Tunnel (1936) aka Dark is the Tunnel; Murder of a Chemist (1936); Where is Barbara Prentice? (1936) aka The Clue of the Silver Cellar; Death at the Club (1937) aka The Clue of the Fourteen Keys; The Platinum Cat (1938); Death Leaves No Card (1939); Mr Babbacombe Dies (1939); Mr Westerby Missing (1940); Up the Garden Path (1941) aka Death Visits Downspring; Murder, MD (1943) aka Who Killed The Doctor; The Three Corpse Trick (1944); Not a Leg to Stand On (1945); The Cat Jumps (1946); Situation Vacant (1946); Death Takes the Living (1949) aka The Disappearing Parson; Ground for Suspicion (1950); Murder in Absence (1954); and Bones in the Brickfield (1958) (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Cecil Waye: This was a very short-lived Street pseudonym. There are four in number and very hard to find. Curtis Evans has read two and he found neither work memorable.

2774

(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode, Geoffrey Bles Ltd. (UK), 1925)

A special release of the very first crime novel by John Rhode, introducing Dr Priestley, the genius detective who would go on to appear in more than 70 bestselling crime novels during the Golden Age.

When Harold Merefield returned home in the early hours of a winter morning from a festive little party at that popular nightclub, the ‘Naxos’, he was startled by a gruesome discovery. On his bed was a corpse.

There was nothing to show the identity of the dead man or the cause of his death. At the inquest, the jury found a verdict of ‘Death from Natural Causes’ – perhaps they were right, but yet . . . ?

Harold determined to investigate the matter for himself and sought the help of Professor Priestley, who, by the simple but unusual method of logical reasoning, succeeded in throwing light upon what proved to be a very curious affair indeed.

This Detective Club classic is introduced by crime writing historian and expert Tony Medawar, who looks at how John Rhode, who also wrote as Miles Burton and as Cecil Waye, became one of the best-selling and most popular British authors of the Golden Age.

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Secret of High Eldersham, by Miles Burton, Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1930)

Samuel Whitehead, the new landlord of the Rose and Crown, is a stranger in the lonely East Anglian village of High Eldersham. When the newcomer is stabbed to death in his pub, and Scotland Yard are called to the scene, it seems that the veil dividing High Eldersham from the outside world is about to be lifted.
Detective-Inspector Young forms a theory about the case so utterly impossible that merely entertaining the suspicion makes him doubt his own sanity. Surrounded by sinister forces beyond his understanding, and feeling the need of rational assistance, he calls on a brilliant amateur and ‘living encyclopedia’, Desmond Merrion. Soon Merrion falls for the charms of a young woman in the village, Mavis Owerton. But does Mavis know more about the secrets of the village than she is willing to admit?

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