The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode

Harold Merefield returns to his rooms, from another in a series of drunken nights, to find a man dead in his bed. The police investigation and interrogations of Harold are unable to identify the man, or how he came to be there. Also, while an inquest finds that the man died of natural causes, Harold believes that he is still under a cloud of suspicion, “the police and everybody else seem to think that even if I didn’t kill him, I must know something about the business.” In order to clear his name, he turns to the only man he believes may still be his friend, Doctor Lancelot Priestley.

Ok, I’ve read the reviews and I knew what I was getting myself in to. But, having never read anything by Rhode, and being rather OCD when it comes to a series of books, I had to start at the very beginning. I was pleasantly surprised. Not a great book, but it has some good points.

It kept me engaged. This is very important. If I’m putting a book down over and over, I’m not happy with it. Yes, the majority of the story is Harold doing a little legwork, then returning to Dr. Priestley who processes the information and determines it’s meaning. Dull stuff I know, the premise of the story was entertaining, even if the execution wasn’t genius. Also, I found the character of Dr. Priestley, his method of deductive reasoning, and how he presents the information very entertaining. Even though I knew the who and the how, and it was a bit over the top, it was quite fun to see Dr. Priestley laying out of the evidence for his audience.

Now, there is one really big quibble.  The story and dialogue are almost Victorian in the depiction of Harold’s life choices, which he believes to have lead him to his potential downfall. “He felt like an outlaw, shunned by the whole world. Return to his former life was impossible…A return to the world of respectability was impossible while the stigma of intangible wrongdoing still attached to him.” Sooooo melodramatic! It was like a silent movie, and I was watching as the hero struggled against his baser instincts that lead him to desert his family for an evil temptress. 

This was an interesting entry into Rhode’s books for me. It may not be his best, But I am looking forward to reading more to see how the character of Dr. Priestley and the stories develop.

My Judgement – 3.75/5

Prior Rulings – Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy!, The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery, Martin @ Do You Write Under Your Own Name? 

2 thoughts on “The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode

  1. Glad you enjoyed it, even with those few reservations. Thanks for linking to my own review.

    I know what you mean about the moralistic tone of the prose – Rhode does adopt a rather fussy narrative voice sometimes. If you like audiobooks at all, Gordon Griffin reads four of them and his voice works perfectly with that type of writing. He also does a brilliant take on Dr Priestley, making him speak in a slow and very exact manner. These days when I read the character on the printed page I can’t help but “hear” it as it would be read by him.

    As you suggest, there are definitely stronger Priestley stories than this so if you liked this I am confident you would enjoy the other three titles that Harper Collins reissued a year or so ago. I would definitely be interested to read your takes on some of those!

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