(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

The detective novels written by Cecil John Charles Street under the pseudonym John Rhode are books of detective reasoning almost to the exclusion of action. The murder has usually been committed before the book begins. Dr. Lancelot Priestley solves the crime by deductive logic on the basis of information brought to him by his friends at Scotland Yard. He frequently gives Scotland Yard hints that open the appropriate lines of investigation. In his day, Rhode was often cited as one of the leading figures of British detective fiction, but he has not retained his popularity from the Golden Age quite so well as some of the others. His greatest achievement is in meticulously observing the rules of fair play even in the most complex situations involving arcane knowledge.

The books that Street wrote under the name Miles Burton are in general regarded as weaker than those he wrote as Rhode. Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor suggest, however, that the Burton books “tend to be wittier and less dependent on mechanical devices, as well as more concerned with scenery and character. They are often less solid, too, the outcome being sometimes pulled out of a hat rather than demonstrated.” Another difference is that Merrion and Arnold operate in the country, while Priestley is an urbane Londoner.

John Rhode Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Barnes, Melvyn. “John Rhode.” In Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by John M. Reilly. 2d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Combined biography, bibliography, and criticism of Rhode and his works.

Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor. A Catalogue of Crime. Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. List, with commentary, of the authors’ choices for the best or most influential examples of crime fiction; provides perspective on Rhode’s works.

Cuppy, Will. Introduction to World’s Great Detective Stories: American and English Masterpieces, edited by Will Cuppy. Cleveland: World, 1943. Rhode is included in this anthology of detective fiction by recognized masters in the genre, and the introduction justifies his inclusion in their rarefied company.

Knight, Stephen Thomas. Crime Fiction, 1800-2000: Detection, Death, Diversity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. This work looks at the history of the detective novel, containing a chapter on club-puzzle forms, which includes locked-room mysteries such as those of Rhode.

Routley, Erik. The Puritan Pleasures of the Detective Story: A Personal Monograph. London: Gollancz, 1972. Idiosyncratic but useful discussion of crime fiction in terms of nominally puritanical ideology; sheds light on Rhode’s work.

Steinbrunner, Chris, and Otto Penzler, eds. “John Rhode.” In Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976. Examines Rhode’s distinctive contribution to genre fiction.