Contribution

(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.