No Friendly Drop (Henry Wade)

By Henry Wade

First published: UK, Constable, 1931; US, Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1932

Blurb (US)

Wade - No Friendly Drop US.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

At first it seemed that he had taken an overdose of sleeping medicine, but the formal autopsy that followed revealed a very sinister state of affairs.  True, the body contained a dose of sleeping medicine, but it was an ordinary dose.  And with it there was an infinitesimal amount of “scopolamine” …and the two were harmless in themselves, but fatal together.


There was a poisoner at work in the great house at Tassart, a poisoner with an apparently expert knowledge.  What was the motive?  How was the poison conveyed?  Before he could find an answer to these questions, Detective-Inspector Poole was faced with a second murder, more horrible this time, and more desperate.  And when at last he reached a solution of the problem it was such that even he hoped it might not be true.

Poole is the sort of detective who gives you every chance to outguess him, if you can; the sort of detective whom you follow step by step…well into the small hours of the morning.

My review

Wade - No Friendly Drop.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

One of Wade’s best. Insp. Poole, one of the most likeable police detectives—competent, intelligent and human —works out who poisoned Lord Grayle with di-dial and scopolamine.  Wade, a nobleman, views his own class as corrupt and untrustworthy; all the relatives are greedy, ambitious, and unscrupulous.  Poole pays more attention to psychology and motive than to opportunity, and is led neatly astray by a beautiful woman he believes is poisonous, but which instead grows slower than empires, and more vast…  The crime is at once complicated and simplified by the death of the prime suspect, either suicide or execution. Towards the end, it seems as though Poole may have made a fool of himself, but he is triumphantly vindicated. The seeming red herring of furniture faking is made integral to the whole, while the ingenious and subtle plot involves a murderer’s mistake. The best, and most devastating, twist is reserved for the third-to-last paragraph.


Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement:

The first edition of this book was unfortunately withdrawn from circulation soon after its publication, the proprietors of the “unfriendly drop” having taken exception to the use to which Mr. Wade had unwittingly put it.  With great skill, the author has now expunged the offending passages without injuring in any way the very original and subtle scheme of his book.  Its excellence, indeed, justifies the expense and trouble which Mr. Wade and his publishers have incurred in order that it should have once more the circulation it deserves.


Aberdeen Press:

Mr. Henry Wade is one of the acknowledged masters of the mystery novel, and No Friendly Drop is not inferior to his best.



An ingenious and well-thought-out plot…  The people with whom it deals are just the sort of people you might easily meet in everyday life…  No mere mechanical jig-saw puzzle but a really good story with a latent undercurrent of genuine human tragedy that, even apart from its detective interest, would make it worth reading.


N.Y. Evening Post:

A superior detective story, depending more upon intrinsic interest in a logical plot than upon excitement and goriness for its hold on the reader.


Will Cuppy, N.Y. Herald Tribune:

An admirable item of the police persuasion; crammed with difficult clues, lore of poisonous plants, and sleuthing that you will go far to find elsewhere.


Christian World:

A genuine classical stay-up-till-two detective story.