The Ellerby Case (John Rhode)

  • By John Rhode
  • First published: UK: Bles, 1927; US: Dodd Mead, 1927

Rating: 3 out of 5.


On their third appearance, Dr. Priestley and Harold Merefield are both notably active, nearly losing their lives due to the machinations of a murderous dealer in contraband saccharine whom Priestley recognises as one of the most rational and far-seeing murderers he has encountered. And such ingenuity the murderer shows fully bears out Dr. Priestley’s assessment of his opponent, for who but a genius would think of murder by bore or (O porpentine!) by green hedgehog? The thriller element is far superior to that in the better-known Murders in Praed Street: Priestley thinks his way to the discovery of the method of distribution and the identity of the culprit (unlike Praed Street, where he is taken by surprise at the glaringly obvious). These are disclosed to the reader one chapter after he has determined for himself who the individual is and how he operates – Rhode here respects his reader’s intelligence.

Blurb (UK)

The mysterious death of Sir Noel Ellerby in his Lincolnshire mansion (his body, you will remember was found huddled up in front of an empty safe) seemed likely to remain one of the unsolved puzzles of Scotland Yard.  If it were a case of murder, there appeared to be no clue either to its manner or its motive…

However, there were certain aspects of the case which engaged the attention of Sir Noel’s old friend, Dr. Priestley, and that relentless interrogator lost no time in bringing into play his peculiar powers of logical reasoning, until, by a series of masterly moves, he was able to outplay one who proved to be a very formidable antagonist…

And when you have read this ingenious and exciting tale, you will want to read John Rhode’s other mystery stories, such as “A.S.F.” and “Dr. Priestley’s Quest.”

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (27th January 1927): Mr. Rhode builds his plot upon the illegal manufacture and distribution of saccharine in this country, and succeeds in investing the process and the means taken for putting a stop to it with as much picturesque and ingenious villainy and violence as if he were dealing with the contrabandists of romance or the bootleggers of to-day.  Professor Priestley, who has already unravelled the mysteries detailed in earlier stories by Mr. Rhode, on this occasion advances into the forefront of the battle against an exceedingly capable and unscrupulous enemy who almost succeeds in murdering him on four different occasions.  These attempts are cleverly contrived so as to throw suspicion on others, and it is only due to the professor’s skill and the loyal help of his assistant that vice is not triumphant.

Books (NY Herald Tribune) (26th June 1927, 100w): Mr. Rhode’s ratiocination, if involved at times, is highly exciting, and the harmless necessary love story is brief and to the point.