Friday, 29 July 2016
Forgotten Book - The Davidson Case
Today's Forgotten Book dates from 1929, and is an early case featuring Dr Priestley, John Rhode's cerebral and rather curmudgeonly Great Detective. The Davidson Case is an enjoyable mystery. I figured out the culprit's secret at a fairly early stage, but that didn't spoil the book for me, which strikes me as one of the best Rhodes I've read to date. (He also wrote as Cecil Waye and as Miles Burton, and two Burtons have been chosen for inclusion in the British Library's series of Crime Classics.)
The book has a background in business, something that was - perhaps surprisingly - quite common in Golden Age stories, especially those written by people like Rhode and Freeman Wills Crofts, who had extensive business experience. Guy Davidson's unpleasant cousin, Sir Hector, has taken charge of the family firm, and his behaviour - which includes getting rid of a senior employee called Lowry - is causing Guy concern. Sir Hector seems unstoppable, but when he is found dead after a train journey, Guy is able to take control of the company, and order seems to have been restored.
Until, that is, the police start to suspect Guy of having murdered Sir Hector. Priestley assists the police, but finds some aspects of the case troubling, and refuses to testify in court. Rhode offers a pleasing sequence of plot twists, and "justice" is mentioned in the very last sentence, a reminder of the extent to which notions of justify preoccupied Golden Age writers. I found the story held my attention from start to finish.
One line I enjoyed particularly came when Priestley and his secretary Harold pursue their investigations into Guy's activities. "Really, my boy," the great sleuth says, "the public house is the finest possible place in which to obtain information" There speaks Rhode, a pub-lover who enjoyed a pint or three (one can't quite imagine Poirot saying something similar to Hastings, can one?) A good book, well worth a read.