R. A. J. WALLING – The Dinner-Party at Bardolph’s. Jarrolds, UK, hardcover, 1927. Hardcover reprint; Hodder & Stoughton, 1937. US title: That Dinner at Bardolph’s. Morrow, hc, 1928. Series character: Inspector Pierce.

   A few years ago (certainly more than five, probably less than ten) I was walking past my local library and saw outside a trolley of books for sale. They consisted of tatty, much read recent books but amongst them was this title in a 1937 Hodder & Stoughton edition. It clearly wasn’t from the library itself — it’s far too old and had no library stamps — so I guess it must have been some sort of donation though I haven’t really heard of that happening over here (though I think it is common in the US).

R. A. J. WALLLING The Dinner-Party at Bardolph's

   Anyway for the sake of 30p I couldn’t really leave it there so, against my better judgement, I forked over the cash and brought it home to join the thousand or so other books awaiting my attention.

   It might have stayed in the loft forever, or until my executor starts disposing of the contents, but Barry Pike had an article on another Walling book in the current issue of CADS (that well known literary magazine) and I was inspired to fish it out and give it a try.

   And I’m glad I did. In many ways it was dated and slow-moving, the whodunit element was not particularly cunning, and the actions of the narrator a gentleman of the old school – were hard to credit, yet it was fascinating and held my attention well.

   The story involved the death by shooting — at first assumed to be suicide — of the titular character and the subsequent disappearance of all the dinner guests. The narrator and his hardworking factotum-cum-chauffeur are involved in the clandestine movements of two of them but when murder is uncovered they become caught up in a chase to clear the names of the innocent and find out what is behind the crime.

   And, as I said, it all worked — for me anyway. I probably won’t go actively searching out more Walling’s to read — I have so many other books piled up and clamouring for my attention, but if I come across one in a second hand book shop I will probably pick it up.

Editorial Comment:   Geoff mentions in passing the existence of a mystery fanzine called CADS, but he failed to point out two things. First of all, that he is the editor and publisher, and then secondly, that the magazine is still going strong.

   If you’re interested in articles about authors and reviews of mystery fiction that are both solidly and substantially done, you should most definitely be reading CADS. The most recent issue was #59, and copies should still be available at a cost of $14 by air or $12 by surface mail. #60 will be ready in a few weeks, says Geoff, but since postage fees will be going up in early April, the price hasn’t been determined yet.

   Geoff’s mailing address can be found here, but the ad’s way out of date. Email Geoff to double check on the availability of #59 or to reserve a copy of #60. (Tell him I sent you.)