Dead Men At The Folly (1932) by John Rhode

Tilling’s Folly, an ornamental tower, stands in the woods near Elverton, a town on the way to Exeter. When Leonard Trimmer, on his way to Exeter, gets lost in the dark, he finds his way to the landmark, but as he looks for shelter from the rain, he trips over – you guessed it – a dead body. Someone seems to have jumped from the tower to their death. It’s only when Inspector Rickings realises that the body’s clothes are nowhere near as wet as they should be that he suspects foul play.

Enter Superintendent Hanslet from Scotland Yard, and as he and Rickings struggle to find the identity of the body – he looks very much like a local ne’er-do-well – and a motive, a second body is found in the same place and the same condition. Hanslet, convinced who the murderer is, heads off to Dr Priestley for a bit of a humble-brag, but needless to say, Dr Priestley is far from convinced that he’s after the right man…

This is the thirteenth Dr Priestley title and the earliest book that I don’t own or have read. Well, I’ve read it now, obviously, but that’s why I picked it when I headed for another day trip to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. More on the other book I read very soon, but with this one under my belt, it’s Death Pays A Dividend that’s the next earliest one that I don’t have access to. That’s just a note to myself, but if you did have a copy going spare and wanted to send it to me, feel free. I’m feeling lucky after managing to snag a copy of Rhode’s masterpiece The Robthorne Mystery for a fiver the other day (pretty sure the website got the price wrong) so you never know.

It’s entirely possible that you may have noticed me procrastinating about this book by talking about other ones. Well, that’s definitely true, because this one was a disappointment. As the first gap in my collection – and it’s been that way for a few years – I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, so it was such a disappointment to find that it was rather dull. Actually, very dull.

Rhode’s books about crime conspiracies and criminal gangs never seem to work for me. Previously Pinehurst and subsequently Proceed With Caution left me cold, and this one was the same. It’s a lot of conversations, mostly between Hanslet and Rickings, and Hanslet chasing after a plot thread that ends up having absolutely nothing to do with the main plot.

Ah, I wish I could say more – sorry, any – good things about this one. Oh, it does feature the spelling “Launcelot” for Priestley’s first name. That’s something, I guess. Anyway, be back tomorrow for my other Bodleian read, another title from Major Street, much, much better and even harder to find than this one… And the cover is better too…

One comment

  1. I think I enjoyed this a little more than you did, but I agree that it’s low on the list of his pre-war works (though it compares quite well with some of his later books).


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