By Henry Wade
First published: UK, Constable, 1936
BURY HIM DARKLY is “classic” Wade. In his previous book Heir Presumptive, a strong emotional plot and the clash of various personalities almost outweighed in interest and importance the actual crimes committed and the unmasking of the criminal. But Bury Him Darkly is pure detection – a sequence of clues patiently followed, a sequence of alibis laboriously confirmed or triumphantly broken.
The night-watchman at Hallams, the old-established Bond Street jewellers, is found dead with his head battered in, and certain show-cases have been rifled. Chief Inspector Burr takes up the trail, with, as assistant, the young Inspector Poole whose exploits in The Duke of York’s Steps, No Friendly Drop and Constable Guard Thyself, are familiar to all Wade-fans. Before long, however, the crime at Hallams is over-shadowed by a mystery which stirs Scotland Yard into a frenzy of resentful activity. Even the Great Superintendent Fraser, who figures in Henry Wade’s first story The Verdict of You All, is aroused from his customary Olympian calm; but it is the detailed work of young Poole which eventually solves the double problem, links mystery to mystery, and provides the reader with an opportunity for using his own brains in following this narrative of absorbing detective interest.
Barzun called this “a notable departure from the formula of the 1930s” – which is odd, because it’s one of Wade’s most formulaic. Instead of the tight puzzle with complex characterisation Wade normally gave, we have a rather routine tale of police procedure, alibi-busting and car-following in the inimitable tradition (though thankfully not the style!) of Freeman Wills Crofts. Competent, of course; but hardly inspired and rather disappointing. The two murderers are obvious as soon as they’re introduced. The book runs out of impetus after the good first third and should have finished a hundred pages earlier. Worst of all is the absence of Wade’s novelist skills. While one doesn’t want the ANGST! of P. D. James, it’s rather cheating to dismiss in a couple of paragraphs the fact that SPOILER Inspector Poole was indirectly responsible for the death of his superior officer and has to arrest his friend for murder. The book would have worked much better if Poole’s reactions to those tragedies had been brought to the forefront and, indeed, suspected the truth much earlier on (about the time the reader did) and was caught between duty and loyalty.
Observer (Torquemada, 4th October 1936):
I doubt if cases investigated by Scotland Yard often turn upon alibis timed to half-a-second, but some excellent detective stories have been written round the idea that they do. Among these Bury Him Darkly will take a good place. Mr. Wade can always be trusted to produce a workmanlike tale, and here he preserves that admirable balance between the genuine interest aroused by his characters and the lure of his jigsaw puzzle which he showed in (never had author less reason so to warn his publisher!) Constable, Guard Thyself. He is, perhaps, a little too generous to the reader at one point, but even so I doubt if many will wholly solve the enigma for themselves. I think that we might have been told the ultimate fate of the accused; but that is Mr. Wade’s way.
Manchester Guardian (E.R. Punshon, 9th October 1936):
Mr. Henry Wade’s Bury Him Darkly is a more usual type of detective story [than Miles Burton’s Where is Barbara Prentice?], though on the highest level. The story is of a burglary in a Bond St. jeweller’s shop that has culminated in the murder of the caretaker and of how the detective dealing with the case disappears during the investigation. The great merit of the book lies in the very careful presentation of the details of the crimes and of the ingenious testing of the alibis and the stories of the different suspects. Nor does the reasoning by which at last the truth is established depend on any esoteric knowledge only a specialist could possess, or on the intuition whereby the one true explanation is selected out of fifty equally possible, but on painstaking intellectual effort within the reach of any who will take the trouble and are ready to consider, for example, why a child should notice about a motor-car merely the fact that its number contains two sevens.
New Statesman & Nation (Ralph Partridge, 10th October 1936):
I have the highest admiration for Mr. Henry Wade’s best work, but Bury Him Darkly does not reach that category. The plot concerns jewel robbery in London; the criminal is pretty obvious and the chase without genuine excitement. The only sparkle in the book is emitted by the dialogue at which Mr. Wade can rattle away as gaily as ever, however mechanical the story.
Times Literary Supplement (Caldwell Harpur, 10th October 1936):
Scotland Yard confronted with a mysterious crime makes a thousand routine inquiries and about ten of them prove clues. By mixing these ten with a few of the failures the process can be made an exciting game for the reader, and Mr. Wade shows exceptional skill in making it so, with little aid from sentiment.
A Bond Street jeweller’s shop was robbed and the night watchman killed. The suspects all had alibis, and each alibi needed a timetable, which had to be combed carefully for chinks. Chief Inspector Burr came so near a chink that the criminal, who had not meant to kill anybody, found he had to kill Burr too. He took the corpse from Greenford by the North Circular Road to a smouldering dump on the Lea in a car with three false numberplates, and tried to provide alibis for that evening too. A date at the head of each chapter, a frontispiece plan of the robbed shop, and a pull-out plan of the North London roads enables the reader to appreciate fully the delicate problems of time and distance, and Inspector Poole’s ingenuity in solving them.
Spectator (Nicholas Blake, 30th October 1936):
Our next three writers [Freeman Wills Crofts’s Man Overboard and Miles Burton’s Where is Barbara Prentice?] reintroduce us to the rigours of the game. They are solid, painstaking, and masters of their craft. Bury Him Darkly opens with burglary in a jeweller’s shop and the killing of a night-watchman. The case is put in charge of Chief Inspector Burr; but before long he disappears, and little doubt is left that he has been murdered, too. The veteran crime-fan will not have much difficulty in laying his hand on those responsible; but he will be clever indeed if he breaks down the alibis which give Superintendent Fraser and Inspector Poole so much trouble. The personalities of these three detectives are brought out with great skill: the author is more successful with them than with his suspects. Mr. Wade knows all there is to be known about the detail of police work; it is this which makes his book so absorbing and enables us to follow him through a maze of alibis that, in the hands of most writers, would become insufferably tedious.