By Henry Wade
First published: UK, Constable, 1951; US, Macmillan, 1952
As a writer of detective stories HENRY WADE has always enjoyed two great advantages. He is thoroughly conversant with police procedure and police routine; and he knows, really knows, the kind of people and the kind of life about which he writes.
Once again it is the police who are the real heroes of Diplomat’s Folly. Henry Wade is never sentimental about the Force, never minimises the difficulties under which they work, never allows them to score spectacular and improbable successes. Once again the process of detection rings true – the careful and often heart-breaking assembly of small fragments of evidence; this time the scene of the story is a country house, in a country village, the City of Oxford, and Paris.
From its opening chapter with General Sir Vane Tabbard seated at the head of his dinner table and with Lady Tabbard on his right talking to the General’s closest friend who is waiting to hear whether or not he will be offered the Paris Embassy, the story develops, logically and excitingly, into a drama, first of blackmail and then of murder.
Disappointing. It’s one of those books where Wade delivers less than he’s capable of (Bury Him Darkly is another, at least to a modern reader). It should have been a fully-fledged inverted story, with the second half focusing equally on the murderer’s character and on the policemen investigating the case, rather than beginning as Iles and ending as Crofts. Still, there are some good touches reminiscent of Hitchcock.
Observer (Maurice Richardson, 17th June 1951):
The title, if not the book, of the week. A modern country house murder with thrillerish ramifications in past as well as future, and visits to Paris. Neurotic ex-commando type involved. Good police procedure. Solid writing with plenty of cosy circumstantial detail. Safe read.
Time and Tide:
Mr. Henry Wade is one of those writers who succeed by other than usual means. We trust the detailed knowledge of police procedure on which most of his plots depend. I found the whole story cosily enjoyable.