Published by Orion on July 28, 2016 (first published 1930)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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At a meeting of Quenborough Borough Council, the Mayor, Sir John Assington, is accused by Alderman Trant of wasting money and turning a blind eye to speculators on the make.
Then Trant is stabbed with his own knife, and while dying, manages to scratch the initials 'MA' on a piece of paper.
Local Chief Constable Race is on the case. He is new to the force, so Superintendent Vorley comes to his aid. With the help of Scotland Yard, in the shape of Inspector Lott, they each bring a different approach to the investigation.
For the truth is rarely straightforward . . .
The Dying Alderman is the first mystery I’ve read by Henry Wade; he’s not a writer I’d heard of before, but it looks like most of his are out for Kindle now, so I’ll probably pick up more.
The Dying Alderman is a well-plotted mystery with characters who are nuanced and believable. There are three cops working the case, Race who is new to the job, Vorley who is steeped in local gossip and prejudices, and Lott, the outsider who can be a bit heavy-handed in his questioning of suspects. Each of the men brings something to the plate. My favorite was Race, but Lott’s goading of Vorley is rather amusing at times. Lott and Vorley are focussed on two different suspects and each seems reasonable. Wade does a good job with the police procedural aspect, but doesn’t leave us with the impression that police are perfect, instead we know some may have their own agendas that don’t necessarily fit with finding the truth. The clues are well done and I admit that I didn’t know who the killer was until it was revealed.
This was written a decade or so after WW1 and the war’s impact is still seen clearly in the lives of the characters. Sir John Assington, the only trustworthy man on council, is the last of his family. His son died on the Western Front. Race was appointed to his job in part due to his service in the war and knows, and doesn’t want to think ill of, another character because they were in the were in the same regiment. The War is not glossed over, but not lingered on either. I think that’s something that makes Wade a little different. His books are not purely escapism. He doesn’t pass over things that were/are happening in society – corrupt public officials, the war, unethical cops, but he doesn’t dwell on them either; they’re just part of life.
Overall, it’s a smart mystery that stands the test of time.