Friday, 22 June 2012

Forgotten Book - Mystery at Greycombe Farm

John Rhode was arguably the most prolific of the Golden Age detective novelists, and because he wrote so much, his work tends to be mixed in quality. But I must say that I really enjoyed his 1932 novel Mystery at Greycombe Farm, which shows his gift for plot construction at something close to its best.

Greycombe is owned by a wealthy man universally known as Farmer Jim, who is a very successful cider maker. When a dramatic fire destroys his cider, a body is found among the debris. It belongs to a man named Sibley, who had gone missing some months earlier.

The Chief Constable of Wessex is reluctant to call in Scotland Yard, but does not hesitate to seek the help of that tetchy and sometimes sarcastic old intellectual Dr Priestley. And needless to say, it is the good doctor’s deductions that help to unravel a complicated plot.

There is a clever device regarding the estimation of time of death which helps to confuse the reader, as well as the police. Rhode was very good at this sort of thing – he was interested in the mechanics of committing murder, and my impression is that he was much more at ease writing about things rather than people. He, and Priestley, are much less interested in motive. I must say that my personal tastes are very different, and frankly if Rhode had been more interested in the character of his murderer, he might have tried to explain why someone who commits a very clever crime then gives himself away so foolishly. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying a book that was some notches above some of the other Rhodes that I’ve read.


Charmaine Clancy said...

Sounds like one to add to the list. :)

Sextonblake said...

I've been thinking about trying a Rhode for a while. If I can find a copy, I might try this one. Thanks.

Summer Ross said...

I don't think I've ever read his work- but it sounds like a good read.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, everyone. If you like Golden Age books, this one is worth a look, I think, rather more so than some other Rhodes.

The Passing Tramp said...

Michael Gilbert likes this one, as I'm sure you know. I mention in my book, but only in connection with the rural business elements.

Unlike a lot of GA writers, Street was interested in rural people as agri-businessmen, not just as exaggerated local color rustics and yokels, so to speak.

Martin Edwards said...

Curt, the agri-business point is very well made. I agree.
I certainly didn't know Gilbert liked this book or ever discussed Rhode - when did he say this?