HENRY WADE – The Hanging Captain. Perennial Library, reprint paperback; 1st printing, 1981. First published in the UK: Constable, hardcover, 1932. First US edition: Harcourt Brace, hc, 1933 (shown).

HENRY WADE The Hanging Captain

    Henry Wade is as unlikely an author as you could expect to find in your local paperback bookstore, and thanks should go to whoever at Perennial is responsible for seeing to it that he is. Who knows, maybe even John Rhode will be next!

    What Wade does best, at least in this particular example of his work, is to demonstrate that there is no reason why a good, solid detective story must also be dull. There is a lot of importance placed upon alibis and time-tables in this case, and with some splendid cooperation between Scotland Yard and the local police the murderer of Sir Herbert Sterron is inevitably brought to justice.

    WARNING: In what follows, certain aspects of the mystery will be discussed that may reveal information that you, the would-be reader, might wish not to know in advance.

    I am curious that the dead man’s mysterious affliction was never mentioned. In A Catalogue of Crime, Barzun and Taylor tell us it was syphilis, but it might be noted that it was the English edition that they read.

    This one fact explains a good deal. For example, it gives us the reason for the Sterron’s mysterious withdrawal from society some years before. And, what is more, it also adds a strong tinge of irony to the killer’s motive — the overriding reason he did what he did.

    Either I missed something, or I suspect that some alteration was done to the American version, which I assume this edition follows. If the latter, what’s lost is a fine opportunity to make the final, crushing blow the book would (and should) have had.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 2, March/April 1982
        (the last two paragraphs substantially revised)


Editorial Comment:   Not only did Perennial publish this book by Wade, but they did at least the following as well: A Dying Fall (1955), The Litmore Snatch (1957), Mist on the Saltings (1933*) and New Graves at Great Norne (1947*). The dates given are for the first UK edition; those so indicated with an asterisk were first published in the US by Perennial.

   The reference to John Rhode was, I presume at this much later date, meant to be an inside joke. Perennial did indeed publish at least two books by Rhode in paperback: The Claverton Affair (1933) and Death in Harley Street (1946).