Review: Constable, Guard Thyself! by Henry Wade

 

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.

 

 

Spoiler space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Constable, Guard Thyself! by Henry Wade

  1. Poole is not a very charismatic or memorable detective

    I got this impression from The Duke of York’s Steps, but then that was Wade’s first novel; it seemed to me very much that the weight was in the writing rather than the people on the page. Give the impossible nature of this I’m hoping to get to it before too long, but there are soooo maaaany boooooks…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘The weight was in the writing’ is a good way of putting it. But, having just read Mist on the Saltings I would definitely suggest reading that (or Lonely Magdalen) before this one, enjoyable as it was. Both the writing and the characters are very solid in those.

      But, you are right, there are so very, very many books… the world is cruel. : )

      Like

      1. I have Hanging Captain, Mist on the Saltings, and Heir Presumptive to read in paperback before I get near any of the Kindle titles. I’m hopuing that by then I’ll have developed a Crofts-like obsession with Wade and have another 16 books to plough through…hope sorings eternal!

        Like

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