The Noose (Philip MacDonald)

By Philip MacDonald

First published: UK, Collins, 1930; US, Dial Press, 1930

Blurb (UK)

MacDonald - The Noose.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

Detective connoisseurs have already met Anthony Gethryn in The Rasp and The White Crow.  In The Noose Gethryn is recalled hurriedly from the weather of Spain to the November fogs of London.  He finds that his wife is sheltering Selma Bronson, whose husband, convicted of the murder of a man named Blackatter six months before, is in the condemned cell of a great prison.  The Appeal has been rejected; a petition for a Reprieve has been presented and refused—in five days Bronson will hang.  But he is not guilty.  Anthony knows this—simply because Mrs. Bronson tells him so; which seems absurd—till you know Mrs. Bronson.  How does Anthony set about the impossible task of proving one man’s innocence, and another man’s guilt, of a six months’ old crime—all in five days?  Mr. MacDonald has written a detective novel of outstanding merit, and The Crime Club Panel is to be congratulated upon the excellence of its first choice.


Blurb (US)

MacDonald - The Noose US.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

After publishing The Rasp and The White Crow it is difficult not to write enthusiastically of the mere announcement of a new detective story by Philip MacDonald.  Both of his previous stories were hailed as the best of their respective seasons, and The Rasp has been chosen by S.S. Van Dine for inclusion in his library of famous detective stories, published by Scribner’s.  this grandson of the great George MacDonald, author of The Light Princess and At the Back of the North Wind, is a remarkable builder of plots.  In Anthony Gethryn, the ex-Secret Service officer, he has created a detective of the nonchalant, super-dangerous sort who gives the reader a thrill with every drawl.  In The Noose he has allowed free reign to his growing powers of creative invention and produced a positive masterpiece of this popular type of fiction.

My review

Gethryn has to save a man from the gallows, with only six days to spare.  Some good writing – Chapter 6 (“Sunday”) depicts grief and hopelessness, exemplified by the pouring rain and the strokes on Mrs. Bronson’s paper – but unsatisfactory as a detective story.  Is ending fair-play? (We’re not told that the murderer, Blackatter and Bronson were all in the war together.)

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (12th June 1930):

Dan Bronson had been sentenced to death for the brutal murder of a despicable blackmailer.  It was a clear case; the appeal had been dismissed, and a petition rejected.  Nevertheless, Anthony Gethryn knew Bronson was innocent; and, although he had only six days in which to save Dan from the gallows, he set out to investigate the six-months-old crime.  Gethryn made The Horse and Hound Inn, of which Bronson had been landlord, his headquarters; and, assisted by Lucia, his wife, Inspector Pike, a C.I.D. man on holiday, and Francis Dyson and Walter Flood, special reporters on the staff of The Owl, quickly established the dubious honesty of Andrew Dollboys, who had been the principal witness against Bronson at his trial.  Dyson and Flood are successful in a clever trick devised to break down Dollboys’s nerve; but when Gethryn hopes to wring a confession, he finds that Dollboys has apparently committed suicide.  Although at times the case seems hopeless, Gethryn succeeds in clearing Bronson: the identity of the real murderer is cleverly concealed until the end.