JOHN RHODE Death on the Boat Train.

JOHN RHODE – Death on the Boat Train. Collins, UK, hardcover, 1940. Paperback reprint: Collins, UK, 1940s (cover shown). Dodd Mead, US, hardcover, 1940.

   How died the man, dressed incognito, found dead from no discernible means after having traveled on the boat train of the title? Foul play of course turns out to be involved, but the discovery of the killer is by no means simple.

   Jimmy Waghorn, just married to Diana, his love interest from Death Pays a Dividend (Collins, 1939), is put on the case, which naturally leads eventually to the involvement of Dr. Priestley, who makes a couple of very significant deductions (one from his armchair, the other after on-scene investigation, underling Harold in tow).

JOHN RHODE Death on the Boat Train.

   Death on the Boat Train is one of the most Croftsian of the Rhode novels, with transportation, alibis and many subsidiary matters involved in the resolution of the murder mystery. The solution hinges on a straightforward enough matter, but one that the reader may well miss.

   Characterization is stock, but fairly pungent, with a sexually profligate industrial magnate, a cynically designing, gold digging “personal secretary” and a dope junkie, among other modernish characters.

   Diana Waghorn makes sporadic, yet welcome, appearances, making the reader wish Street had done more with this character in more of his later novels. And Jimmy and his boss Hanslet manage to be constantly wrong without looking stupid, not something they always manage in other books.

   All in all a pleasing job for fans of this author, if somewhat more Croftsian than Rhodeian in mechanics.

[COMMENT.] 8-14-08.  This is Steve. For an earlier exchange of comments between Curt and myself about John Rhode, see my review of Three Cousins Die (Bles, 1959), a book that neither of us believes is among his best.