The Figure Of Eight (1931) by Cecil Waye aka John Rhode

London, and as the number 15 bus pulls into Ladbroke Grove, and Nobby the conductor is concerned about a sleeping passenger. Unable to rouse her, she is dispatched to the local hospital, but she dies soon afterwards, with no obvious cause of death. She is Lola Martinaes, a native of Montedoro, a Central American republic currently in a state of upheaval.

After another native of Montedoro, Senor Vincente de Lanate visits Christopher Perrin, to ask him to trace a man who Lola had spent some time with, and find some missing documents that are vital to his cause, another death occurs that convinces Perrin that both deaths were a case of murder. But with Montedoro and the neighbouring San Benito on the brink of a conflict that might draw in the rest of the world, the truth will need to be discovered quickly.

This is the second of four books written by John Street under the pseudonym Cecil Waye (as opposed to John Rhode or Miles Burton) and things have moved on from the excellent Murder At Monk’s Barn. Christopher’s sister, Vivienne, has retired from the business and has been replaced by the somewhat bland David Meade as Perrin’s sidekick. That’s a bit of a shame, as she was the best thing in the first book. Also, things have moved on from a traditional whodunit to a thriller – there is a bit of a whodunit element, but it’s not a major part of the action, centring more on some capture-escape dynamics and exotic poisons.

Ah, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, being a big fan of John Rhode’s work, but to be honest, I found this rather dull. Perrin and Meade are very similar characters, which doesn’t help, but overall, I just didn’t find myself involved in the story. It’s to Street’s credit that this book is quite different from the Rhode titles (Tragedy On The Line and The Hanging Woman) and Burton titles (Death Of Mr Gantley amongst others), but hand on heart, I much preferred those three. There are going to be a couple more John Street reviews coming soon to contrast with this one. I’m very pleased that Tony Medawar and Dean Street Press for bringing this back into the light of day, but for me, alas, it’s more of an historical curiosity rather than a great read.

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