By John Rhode
First published: UK, Collins, 1942; US, Dodd Mead, 1942
Workmanlike Rhode set in a country town in WWII. I spotted who early on.
Yardley Green was not a military objective. It was in fact so small and unimportant that it hadn’t even got a siren of its own. But that didn’t prevent it from receiving the attentions of the enemy, and one night four bombs were dropped in the village, injuring two of the inhabitants slightly. A third casualty was found in a ditch beside the crater of the fourth bomb. The unfortunate person, subsequently found to be dead, was naturally presumed to be also the victim of enemy action until later evidence suggested that he was alive after the bombs were dropped. Here is a first-class mystery of topical interest, featuring Jimmy Waghorn and the redoubtable Dr. Priestley and told with marvellous ingenuity always associated with that name of John Rhode.
Apparently the fourth bomb Jerry unloaded over the small English village that foggy night killed Gazeley, the town’s leading citizen. But routine investigation disclosed some astounding facts. There was, for example, the question of a fortune in diamonds that had disappeared from Gazeley’s person, and a matter of a missing will. And no answers were forthcoming.
In desperation Jimmy Waghorn, able investigator and a familiar figure to followers of John Rhode, consulted Dr. Priestley. Before he’s through, Dr. Priestley craftily unravels one of the most intriguing cases yet to confront him. Despite unsettled conditions about him, John Rhode, recognized as one of England’s ablest detective story writers, continues to produce adventures concerning his amazing criminologist. The Fourth Bomb will certainly not disappoint those who have come to recognize the keen ability of this author.
Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 2nd May 1942):
By way of aperitif a hint of the plot faces the title page of The Fourth Bomb. It explains that an “unfortunate person”, supposed to have been killed in an air raid, is shown by later evidence to have been alive after the bombs had dropped. No doubt this may attract attention. On the other hand nearly half the book has to be read before the point is reached. Though the plot is handled with Mr. Rhode’s customary skill, there is not so much packed into it that he can afford to throw away his chief surprise in this reckless manner.
Observer (Maurice Richardson, 3rd May 1942):
The Fourth Bomb deals in Mr. Rhode’s usual painstaking detailed fashion with the murder of a diamond merchant in a home counties village on the night of an air-raid. Inspector Waghorn does the investigating, but the evidence is so contradictory and suspicion so widely distributed that the solution calls for Dr. Priestley, whom, you will be sorry to hear, I thought was looking alarmingly shaky. Sound recommendation, of course.
New Yorker (10th January 1942, 70w):
Technically brilliant, but too slow in the telling.
Sat R of Lit (10th January 1942, 50w):
Interesting picture of English rural life during wartime. Characters interesting; detecting sound; action leisurely; solution logical. Standard British brand.
Books (Will Cuppy, 11th January 1942, 200w):
You’ll find a bit of war background in this up-to-the-second and quite satisfactory Dr. Priestley opus… This has plenty of John Rhode’s village atmosphere and it’s a lifesaver for fans who want real detection. Not enough bombs to scare you too much.
NY Times (Isaac Anderson, 11th January 1942, 150w):
It is merely the familiar Dr. Priestley formula set against the background of wartime England.
New Repub (Mort. Post, 26th January 1942, 50w):
Solid and satisfying.