Friday, 5 July 2013

Forgotten Book - The Hanging Captain

My Forgotten Book for today is another from the very reliable Golden Age writer Henry Wade. The Hanging Captain is a good story, although by no means his best, and it reintroduces Inspector Lott, who featured in The Dying Alderman, rather than Lott's Scotland Yard rival, Inspector John Poole, who was Wade's best known detective.

There are two fascinating aspects to the book. First, Wade's take on the decline of the ruling classes in Britain. This comes over very clearly and quite evocatively. Wade was an aristocrat himself, but although his writing often had a touch of nostalgia, plus a strong respect for tradition, he had no time for people who squandered the advantages life gave them, at a time when things wee tough for millions.

Ferris Court, the home of Sir Herbert Sterron, is a fading country house with an overgrown garden. Sterron is short of money and is starting to resort to selling (metaphorically) the family silver. He is impotent (this information is conveyed to us delicately but unmistakably) and his much younger wife is attracting other men. So when he is found hanging from a curtain cord it comes as no great surprise. Needless to say, though, before long murder is suspected.

The other striking element of the book is the friendly but competitive relationship between Lott and the local police. Lott has been called in because the locals fear embarrassment, since the High Sheriff of the county is a suspect. Wade knew what he was talking about, as he was once High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. His account of police work and the humanity of police officers is a recurrent strength of his books. This one focuses on a time of death mystery, and the puzzle element is competent but no more than that. Overall, though, this is a novel with qualities which make it still worth reading today.


Christine said...

Any tips for which are the best, Martin?

Martin Edwards said...

Lonely Magdalen is terrific. I also like Heir Presumptive very much indeed. But even his lesser books have something of interest.