Family Affairs (John Rhode)

By John Rhode

First published: UK, Bles, 1950; US, Dodd Mead, as The Last Suspect

The solution is a clever use of one of the genre’s conventions, but it’s more of a police procedural than a fair play detective story, the characters are flat, and the telling is lifeless.  Would have made a great short story.

Blurb (UK)

Two events in two widely separated parts of the country engaged the attention of Superintendent Jimmy Waghorn of New Scotland Yard.  There seemed no possible connection between the sudden death of young Mr. Edward Drayton at the Leopard Brewery whilst travelling by car to collect sums of money due from publicans in his diocese and the equally sudden death of Sir Leonard Tamar on the night of his birthday party; but there was a Highest Common Factor in both cases…

Once again the ingenious John Rhode displays that “soundness of method that keeps him in the front rank of detective story writers”, as a reviewer wrote in The Illustrated London News.

Contemporary reviews

Observer (Maurice Richardson, 23rd July 1950):

Supt. Jimmy Waghorn, with very slight assistance from Dr. Priestley (“This is an unexpected visit, Jimmy,” he said, cordially enough.  “May I ask what brings you here this evening?”) finds the Highest Common Factor between two apparently unrelated murders of a brewer’s collector and a big shot.  But can we, even from dear, steady, reliable Mr. Rhode, tolerate a blowpipe and curare?

Times Literary Supplement (Julian Maclaren-Ross, 4th August 1950):

In Family Affairs, Superintendent Jimmy Waghorn investigates and solves the mystery of two apparently unrelated deaths, with verbal assistance from the pedantic Dr. Priestley; Mr. Rhode’s description of police methods is as factual as ever, but his method of murder, it might have been imagined, had long ago been considered, together with mysterious Chinamen, inadmissible by practitioners in this genre.