Death Invades The Meeting (1944) by John Rhode

Woe betide the German forces who would attempt to invade the village of Heringworth – for the village was “invasion-conscious”. John Garstairs regularly chaired the village Invasion Committee meetins at his house, in order that the village would be ready to repel the Hun. The meetings at Garstairs’ house, Motleys, were well attended, despite the fact that nobody in the village particularly liked the chairman – in fact many had something akin to a motive to murder him.

But when Death invades the meeting and strikes down Garstairs, it seems to be natural causes. Garstairs went alone into his library and then cried out, apparently falling from a ladder and dying of shock. Nobody else was with him in the room and there was nothing in the room that could have caused his death. The local doctor is suspicious and soon Superintendent Hanslet of Scotland Yard is on the case. But is there a case to investigate?

From 1944, this is one of the rarer Dr Priestley titles – I paid a little over my “strict” budget for this (it was my birthday) but I don’t recall seeing a copy of this for sale before, and I do keep my eye out. Only eight or so more to go… Anyway, being a wartime tale, this is from the period when Inspector Jimmy “Wildly-Varying-Intelligence” Waghorn is attached to the War Office so Hanslet is called out of retirement to take up the slack. Not that there is much slack as the Yard allow him to investigate a case based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

It’s actually a bit weird for Hanslet to be given so long to investigate what is, for a long time, little more than a hunch that murder has been committed. It’s a reasonably clever scheme, although it does rely on a very specific reaction of the victim when faced with something and could easily have gone wrong – not the most practical plan, shall we say? Oh, and it’s also a bit similar to an idea in a book by Miles Burton from a few years earlier – I wonder if Rhode asked Burton’s permission to use it?

[Just in case, as sarcasm isn’t always detected – yes, I know they are the same person.]

Unfortunately for this review, the most interesting part of the book is the denouement – and being a spoiler-free blog, I can’t say much despite the fact that most of you never have and probably never will read this book. It’s possibly the most… I suppose nebulous is the best word to describe it… nebulous ending. It’s interesting to present a solution that has no level of surety about it. Realistic, perhaps, but I’d expect a little more of a concrete statement at the finale.

It’s an interesting book, though. My buddy Dimmy Waghorn does make an appearance, as Hanslet needs a second opinion, and today, Dimmy has his thinking head on, so is actually quite useful.

Will anyone get this reference?

Priestley gets a reasonable page-count, even getting off his backside and investigating the scene of the crime, albeit mostly to accurately measure a hole. It does take an age for certain aspects to be seen as vital, despite them being rather obvious to this reader at least, but it’s a decent read. It probably ranks in the second quartile of Rhode’s output.

And interesting word of the day – the word “blitz” used as a verb in the sense that Garstairs never went to London as he was scared of “being blitzed”. Not a usage I’ve heard before.


  1. I never even have to open your post to know when you’re talking about a John Rhode mystery. It’s those mundane titles: Death on the Track, Death on the Boat Train, Death on Sunday, Death at the Dance, Death at the Inn, The Secret Meeting, The Paper Bag, The Telephone Call . . . Yeesh! No wonder so many readers gravitate toward Vegetable Duck!


    • Oh come on, Death isn’t “At” the meeting, it “Invades” the meeting. Give him points for that at least. And yes, it did make the #murdereverymonday “Death” theme very easy to do…


  2. I quite enjoyed this one. Good luck finding the last eight to complete your collection. I’m fortunate in having all the Rhodes in various editions…just the last three Burtons to find.. 😟

    Liked by 1 person

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