The Hanging Captain by Henry Wade (1932)

When Captain Herbert Sterren is found hanging from a curtain rod in his study, it looks for all the world like he committed suicide. The once wealthy, dashing cavalry officer with the beautiful young wife now hasn’t the funds to keep up his estate, and a wife who prefers to spend her time with another man. But Superintendent Dawle finds the evidence questionable, and then a discovery is made showing that Sterron was indeed murdered. 

Dawle’s suspects include Captain Sterren’s brother Gerald, who was a houseguest on the night of the murder, Sir Carle Venning, High Sheriff of the county (and cousin to the Lord Lieutenant by the way), who has been spending quite a bit of personal time with the Captain’s wife Griselda, and Father Speyd, Griselda’s religious confessor, who abhorred the Captain for his mistreatment of his wife. In order to avoid an unpleasant situation of the local police questioning Sir Carle, the Chief Constable calls in Scotland Yard in the form of Inspector Lott, freeing Dawle to investigate closer to home. 

Wade has written a puzzle with a crime that, based on mounting evidence, could only have been committed in an allotted span of time. Every suspect is presented as equally convincing, and each also has an unbreakable alibi. Dawle and Lott are given their prime suspect and while each carries out a separate investigation, they often come together to compare notes in, what becomes, a competition to see who can uncover the killer first. 

The highlight of this story though is some very interesting characters. The seemingly meddlesome Sir James Hamsted, repentant Father Speyd, and the mercurial widow Griselda. But it is Dawle and Lott who are standouts. It is their personalities and their relationship, which is often filled with tweaking and good humor, drives the story. Lott may be the smart, up-and-coming Scotland Yard man, but in Dawle he does not find the “fair amount of stupidity, not unmixed with deliberate obstruction” he expects. 

The C.I.D. man was full of confidence, not untinged with condescension.

 ‘Well, Mr. Dawle,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I shall be bothering you with my presence much longer.’

 The Superintendent looked surprised.

‘What, giving it up?’ He asked.

‘When I’ve handed him over to you, yes.’ replied Lott.

‘Ah, I see; you’ve made a bit of progress, eh?’ Well, I daresay it won’t be long before our murderer’s in our cells.’ Dawle paused to light a pipe. ‘Though he may not be the chap you’re after,’ he added, complacently puffing.

Lott raised his eyebrows.

‘You’ve been on the go, too, have you, Mr. Dawle? Any objection to letting me know about it? No point in having secrets between us, is there?’

“Not as far as I’m concerned. I’ve got no reputation to worry about,’ replied Dawle with a chuckle.”

Yes, I definately recommend this one, and I am really looking forward to reading more of Wade.

My Judgment – 4/5

Prior Rulings – Kate @ Cross Examining Crime, Curt @ The Passing Tramp, JJ @ The Invisible Event

Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2020 – Fulfills # 14: There must be but one detective–that is, but one protagonist of deduction–one deus ex machina. (Van Dine #9) Any book where you have more than one detective (loosely interpreted). For instance, books with an amateur detective working in concert with or separately from the official force. (Holmes & Lestrade; Lord Peter Wimsey and Charles Parker; etc.)

Murder Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge – Clues or clichés: Fingerprints 

Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – September #2: Author’s birth month

8 thoughts on “The Hanging Captain by Henry Wade (1932)

  1. I’m very late, but I’m also glad you enjoyed this. You like it a it more than I did, but the key thing is that there’s definitely something intriguing about Wade’s writing. I’ve only read three, and until more get reprinted that will have to remain the case for now, but he’s been so variable over those three books I’m curious to try to get some sort of overview. Usually you can pin down an author’s approach pretty neatly with three books read, but there’s waaaay to much (deliberate) variety of style and approach in even that sample…honestly, the man has me very, very curious.

    1. I did not enjoy it and I’m looking for more. I was intrigued by how he developed the two separate investigations, how each had a totally separate flavor.

      I know you read Heir Presumptive. What as the third book? Hopefully the next one I find won’t disintegrate as I read it. By the time I was done, me edition was more library tape than paper🤨.

      1. I’ve read this, Heir Presumptive, and The Duke of York’s Steps. All are very different, each with its own triumphs. I know he’s available on Kindle, but I’m finding ebooks increasingly unappealing to read (probably on account of my eyes getting older) and so am holding out for a treasure trove of paperback reissues…

      2. One can only hope! has a number of copies of Lonely Madeline…but they’re all in the US so you’d pay a lot for shipping. I did order Duke of York so we’ll see how our tastes compare.

    2. Slightly like Sayers Wade tends to go from puzzle focused mysteries and more into character focused ones – The Mist on the Saltings and Lonely Magdalen are two that spring to mind for the latter group – not ones I am sure you would enjoy. His political expression also changes a heck of a lot in the books. His earlier books embody much more “leftish” thought and then post WW2, when country gentry are struggling financially he becomes more overtly on right wing. Curtis Evans’ book on him was very helpful in outlining this in much better detail.

      1. That’s really interesting! Considering that he was in reality Sir Henry, and a member of the gentry, one could understand the change. Have to find a copy of the biography.

  2. Pingback: The Duke of York’s Steps by Henry Wade (1929) – Bedford Bookshelf

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