I was alerted that Henry Wade had made it onto Kindle, by this excellent post from TomCat, which focused on this novel. I’d read a few Wades and mostly liked them and loved ‘Lonely Magdalen’ so this was irresistible.
And I did not regret it. ‘Constable, Guard Thyself’ is a well-written, twisty and nicely paced book, which keeps the surprises coming.
My favourite part of the book was the relationships between characters: the realistic tensions between the former soldiers and the non-combatant police; the difficulties of Scotland Yard Inspector Poole, coming in as an unwelcome outsider and making suggestions that no-one wants to hear. I like the way the past war (the book is set in 1933) hangs heavily over everything. It’s almost another character in the novel.
Poole is not a very charismatic or memorable detective, but he is a plausible one, with realistic merits and flaws. And I would have liked more of Sergeant Gower, skinning his knuckles in the pursuit of justice (and sensibly pointing out the obvious to avoid more loss of flesh); weighing up the correct type and quantity of booze to evince the most information out of potential sources.
All in all, recommended. However…
I do have a bit of a reservation. This might require spoiler warnings, so if you haven’t read the book and want to, leave the review here and go have fun.
The problem I have is that the identity of the murderer and the motive are obvious really quickly. Really, really quickly. And this is from someone who doesn’t always spot the killer in a book I’ve actually read before.
So, either the killer is obvious because the cluing is very clumsy, or because Wade wants you to be led, smugly, in one direction, before finding yourself in a nest of contradictory signposts, second-guessing yourself and dashing down each one. And then, just when you’re certain you’ve reached the correct destination, you find that you should have stayed put all the time.
It’s probably the latter, but I don’t think it really works, although the red herrings are dragged liberally all over the investigation. Still, it has enough good qualities for me to ignore this and enjoy the book as a whole.