By John Rhode
First published: UK, Bles, 1949; US, Dodd Mead, 1949, as The Fatal Garden
Two corpses found in the garden of the secretive inventor Gabriel Hockliffe, a dilettante Leonardo. Dr. Priestley, surprisingly for this late date, leaves his chair and travels to Litchgrove in order to solve the mystery. The plot is complex, with plenty of surprises and sub-plots along the way. Although the murderer is obvious from the beginning, there’s a memorably ingenious method to compensate — “about the smartest dodge I ever heard of”, Ex-Superintendent Hanslet states.
Yes, the initial murder in this book was certainly committed on a path in a garden; but it is possible that the ingenious author chose this title to suggest his manner of dealing with his readers. For, though always perfectly fair and with a soul above such things as “red herrings”, he can usualy be found to have some little surprises up his sleeve. Such, for instance, in this book is the mystery of the Bedford Row solicitor…
Some years ago a Sunday Times reviewer wrote: “John Rhode must hold the record for the invention of ingenious forms of murder.” This pleasing trait is exemplified in the present story.
Observer (Maurice Richardson, 24th July 1949):
Two country murders, apparently unconnected, and Superintendent Waghorn scurrying off to Dr. Priestley. Nothing is quite what it seems, and the thrillerish developments and madman’s fly-trap murder-method may elevate an eyebrow or two. But Mr. Rhode has lost very little of his grip.
NY Times (Anthony Boucher, 23rd October 1949, 230w):
Mr. Rhode has rarely been so elaborately Goldbergian as in this latest book; and he has rarely got off to so slow a start… But once the book gets properly launched, patient readers will find a very pretty puzzle in the old tradition—marred, however, for many by a touch of that stereotyped anti-Semitism so regrettably characteristic of much English detection.
San Francisco Chronicle (E.D. Doyle, 4th December 1949, 70w):
Mr. Rhode’s best in a long time.