The Reprint Of The Year Nominations are back, and bigger than ever. Orchestrated by Kate Jackson, over at Cross Examining Crime, it’s time for us bloggers and Golden Age Enthusiasts to suggest titles for your consideration and then, once the nominations are in, it’s over to you, dear reader, to vote for the best of them.
This is the fourth time we’ve done this. The winner in 2018 was Locked Room Murders by Robert Adey, which wasn’t a Golden Age title, rather a catalogue of locked room mysteries including many from the Golden Age, 2019 was The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye by Brian Flynn and 2020 was The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers which shouldn’t have counted either, as it gets reprinted on a fairly regular basis. So really, the only winner so far is Brian Flynn, but this year, I’m not going to nominate him (although I know someone else is…)
My first nomination is a book that I never thought would see the light of day. John Rhode is an author who would top many “who should be reprinted” lists, despite a lacklustre selection of four books seeing the light of day a couple of years ago, and those two British Library Miles Burton titles. I’d completely agree with this, and my US readers at least will see a selection – seven I think – of Dr Priestley titles in the New Year from Mysterious Press. No sign of them over here yet…
But John Street aka John Rhode aka Miles Burton had a third pseudonym for writing detective fiction, namely Cecil Waye. Discovered by Tony Medawar, who made sure he didn’t tell anyone until he’d found all four books released under that name – a policy I adopted when I heard about Brian Flynn’s pseudonym – they were released between 1931 and 1933. At this point, the Dr Priestley series had established itself, but the Miles Burton line was still forming, with the standard pairing of Desmond Merrion and Inspector Arnold yet to become the regular characters. It’s entirely possible that if the Waye books had taken off, the Burton series might have fizzled out. That wasn’t to be though, and after four books, the Waye books disappeared.
The series features the Perrins Detective Agency, initially the brother and sister team of Christopher and Vivienne, although Vivienne disappears after the first book. It’s possible that is one reason why the series petered out, as the second book, The Figure Of Eight, didn’t impress me at all. However the book I want to champion is the first title, Murder At Monk’s Barn.
I think that Murder At Monk’s Barn is one of Street’s best books. The focus is on the pair of professional sleuths, rather than one sleuth and one incompetent policeman, and the contrast between Vivienne and Christopher is well done. Also, it’s one of Street’s better whodunits, with a well-hidden villain and a clever murder method.
It’s a really enjoyable book and it baffles me that Waye’s true identity was kept secret for so long. Thanks to Tony, Dean Street Press and the Street estate for bringing these books back to us. Fingers crossed there will be more Rhode and more Burton to come…