By John Rhode
First published: UK, Collins, 1944; US, Dodd Mead, 1944
Tedious! There’s a decent short story in here, but hardly a novel. Has the same method as the Miles Burton Death Leaves No Card, and John Dickson Carr’s Man Who Could Not Shudder – both better books.
The village of Heringworth was certainly “invasion-conscious”. It was the job of John Garstairs to see that it was so. He was the Chairman of the village Invasion Committee and had summoned the meeting to discuss how Heringworth should deal with the Hun. How Death itself invaded that meeting and thereby staged a first-rate mystery is the theme of this very fine novel by that ever popular storyteller, John Rhode.
Throughout his remarkable career as scientific detective, Dr. Priestley’s greatest achievements have been the exposure of killers who have ingeniously masked their crimes as somewhat usual but nevertheless obvious accidents. No one but Dr. Priestley saw anything suspicious in the death of one of the members of the Invasion Committee which met at the house of Mr. Garwood. It was obviously and plausibly an accident – one of those regrettable misfortunes of almost daily occurrence.
But once again Dr. Priestley is the sole dissenter from the verdict of death by accident. How he goes about to prove his own sinister theory, and the strange series of events his investigations disclose make up one of the most gripping adventures in this famous detective’s long pursuit of crime.
Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 15th April 1944):
Books are becoming lethal. They are dangerous not merely because of what may be in them but as ways and means of doing murder. For the second time this season the victim of a detective story is somebody who loved books not wisely but too well. Little more can be said about Death Invades the Meeting, without giving some secret away. The subject suggests a lot of much better titles than the one used, but all of them are a little revealing. Perhaps that is why Mr. Rhode ignored them. His ingenuity is becoming as delicate to handle as high explosive. His stories may become so difficult to review without saying too much that his triumph will come when they cannot, for discretion’s sake, be reviewed at all.
Weekly Book Review (Will Cuppy, 27th February 1944, 200w):
Mr. Rhode provides the usual fine flavour, taking his time to reach a sound conclusion.
NY Times (Isaac Anderson, 5th March 1944, 100w):
Hanslet never does succeed in fastening the crime on any one of the numerous suspects, and the reader is left to draw his own conclusions. It all makes rather tiresome reading.