Reviewed by RICHARD & KAREN LA PORTE:    

JOHN RHODE – The Claverton Affair. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1933. Perennial Library, paperback, 1986. First published in the UK as The Claverton Mystery: Collins, hardcover, 1933.

JOHN RHODE The Claverton Affair

   In this classic tale of crime and detection the scholarly Dr. Lancelot Priestley undertakes the solution of the untimely death of an old friend, Sir John Claverton.

   The inquest rules it as death by natural causes (severe gastric ulcer-like internal damage) but Priestley feels that there are other factors involved. Sir John had just signed a new will that made radical changes in the disposition of his rather substantial estate.

   The beneficiaries now include his estranged sister Clara Littlecote, her daughter Helen, a young cousin, Ivor Dunford; who is a chemist and, as an enigma, a Mrs. Muriel Archer and her daughter, a girl of fifteen.

   John Rhode tells a penetrating story of greed, imposture and misdirection, reserving the final dismantling of the plot for a rigged seance to confront the villain with proof of his crime. Dr. Priestley’s rationalizations are fully explained at long and sometimes pedantic length but his careful attention to detail sifts the almost undetectable clues out until the killer’s fiendish method is disclosed.

   Time and science have advanced a long way since this book was originally published in 1933, but the classic battle of wit and erudition does not suffer from a half century of progress.

— Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 7, No. 1, Fall-Winter 1987.

Editorial Comment:   Richard and Karen La Porte were well-known mystery fans in the 1980s, and this issue of Poisoned Pen contains a dozen or more of their reviews.

   I have editor-publisher Jeff Meyerson’s permission to reprint the reviews, which I think are well done, but I’ve no success in getting in touch with the La Porte’s themselves. The most recent Google reference to either of them is from the early 1990s.

   Conferring with Jeff and several others who knew them, we’ve decided that they’d be pleased to see their reviews online. We hope we’re correct in choosing to do so. This one is the first, with more to come.