By Henry Wade
First published: UK, Constable, 1952
Henry Wade, long known as an excellent writer of what the French call romans policiers – crime novels which lay stress on the methods and limitations of police procedure – has written his greatest novel hitherto. Be Kind to the Killer has a scope and straightforward impressiveness which raises it from the level of a who-dun-it into the class of outstanding fiction in its own right.
One sentence in the book sums up the deceptive simplicity of this remarkable work, and reveals the complex difficulties and mutual rivalries which confront the chiefs of Scotland Yard:—“Building up the case against the murderer of Det. Constable Jordan appeared to the public almost too simple to be true. No clever deductions, no falling into well-laid traps. The results were obtained by normal methodical police work carried out with thoroughness and skill.”
A police novel—not only a novel about police detection, but a novel about policemen who should be wholly impartial public servants, yet who are also human beings, and the resulting pull between duty and their private passions.
Here, DC Campion (Campion?!) becomes a lone avenger when his friend is shot by a gangster who only receives a life sentence (20 years max.); and Campion is later suspected of another murder. The first half is fun in its steady way, as Campion investigates and goes under cover as a spiv to a night club. It becomes less interesting after the second murder, and the revelation that SPOILER Donelli / Donaldson is guilty. That’s the problem with books in which there’s no mystery at all; the detection is gathering evidence to prove a case (what we already know), rather than actually discovering something new.
- Police and gangsters in London. Wade’s a lot more realistic than Crofts—Crofts’s plots are often ingenious (Thorndykean elaborate schemes based on impersonation, disposal of the body, unbreakable alibis), Wade’s are probable (police work as it happens).
- Detection without mystery—very few of Wade’s books are whodunits.
- Like many of Wade’s books, in two sections—first, Campion investigating Jordan’s murder; second, police investigating Tatridge’s murder.
Times Literary Supplement (Julian Symons, 25th April 1952):
There is nothing implausible about Be Kind to the Killer, which tells a straightforward tale of a young detective constable’s pursuit of a man who played a part in the killing of a brother officer. Mr. Wade’s writing is pedestrian and at times faintly comic (his detective thinks of visiting a night-club “as a West-End blood on the spree, with a silly-ass expression, and eye-glass (one of his accomplishments) and possibly even a Guardee moustache”); but Be Kind to the Killer is a sound piece of work, which contains some interesting details of police procedure.