#1940 Club: Death on the Boat Train and Murder at Lilac Cottage by John Rhode

According to Wikipedia, in 1940, Major Cecil John Street, published five novels, 3 under his pseudonym of Miles Burton (one of which Mr. Westerby Missing has been reviewed earlier on the blog) and two under the name of John Rhode. For the #1940 Club, I read those two.

Death on the Boat Train finds the newly-wedded Inspector Jimmy Waghorn eager to go home to his wife, Diana, when news comes that a man has been found dying on the boat-train at when it entered Waterloo. Cursing his fate, Jimmy starts making his inquiries and finds that the now dead man though carrying a cheap suitcase and clad in cheaper clothes was also wearing silk socks and good shoes. At first, the cause of his death is difficult to decipher but then a small puncture is found in his back and the p.m. report says that he had been injected with a rare poison extracted from castor seeds (I had no idea that castor oil which one applies liberally to one’s hair could be so dangerous:). And Jimmy and his superior seem to think that the man must have committed suicide. Why? Because in his earlier journey on a steamer he had locked himself in a cabin and in this connecting train journey was virtually all alone in his carriage. Further once his identity has been established all those who might have benefitted from his death have iron-clad alibis. But why inject himself in the back, dears? So that Dr. Priestley can make ridicule the two with their notion of suicide.


First Line: Acting on information received, in this particular instance over the telephone, Inspector James Waghorn of the Criminal Investigation Department put on his hat and left his room at Scotland Yard.

Publication Details: 1940. St. Swithin Press, 2013.

Series: Dr. Priestley # 32

Pages: 210

Other Opinions: The Grandest Game in the World; In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel; Mystery File


Jimmy is not so randy in the book which immediately followed Boat Train. While in the earlier book, he cribbed whenever duty took him away from Diana, there is no mention of her in this book. Poor Girl! His fervour evaporated that soon.

Mr N, the squire of Matchingfield village is having his usual evening drink at the pub Woodstock and conversing with Mr. Kempsey, the pub owner when both of them hear the familiar sound of a motorcycle. Mr. Derrington, a tenant of the squire who has rented the eponymous cottage, is going home from station where he leaves his bike every morning when he takes the daily train to London. Unlike the other denizens of the rather gossipy village, Derrington is a man who keeps to himself. In fact, even Mr. N who has lent the cottage to him does not know much about his young tenant, not even what he does for a living. Of late, however there are certain rumours circulating in the village about him. Even as the two men in the pub discuss the mysterious Derrington, they are interrupted by the arrival of Taunton, the squire’s chauffer who tells them that Derrington has met with an accident. When the men reach the spot which is just outside the workshop/garage of Derrington, the man is dead and a bloody iron bar lies on the side of the dead man. The superintendent of the village calls in the yard and Inspector Jimmy Waghorn starts his investigation. However, how does one investigate a person about whom nobody has any knowledge. A five pound note is the beginning…. and then, of course, there is Dr. Priestley, the saviour.


First Line: It being Monday evening, the bar of the Woodcock was almost empty.

Publication Details: 1940. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1940.

Series: Dr. Priestley # 33

Pages: 283

Other Opinions: The Grandest Game in the World; In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel


I have realized now that I prefer the Miles Burton novels to the John Rhode ones, as I find Dr. Priestley to be obnoxious. In the second book, he is so over-bearing and rude that I wondered why Hanslet and Waghorn even go to his dinners just to be reprimanded and insulted. On top of that Hanslet is rude to his junior officers in the same book (perhaps trying to gain back some dignity after suffering offensive remarks during the dinner). So all in all, preferred Boat Train to Lilac Cottage.

How do you find Dr. Priestley?


14 thoughts on “#1940 Club: Death on the Boat Train and Murder at Lilac Cottage by John Rhode

    1. Welcome to the blog. I think it was the first time it struck me as to how offensive Priestley can be. For all Inspector Arnold’s obtuseness, don’t think Merrion treats him in this insulting manner.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s the thing, isn’t it, Neeru – if a main character is unpleasant, it’s really hard to be as drawn into a story. And being rude to everyone is not a way to endear a character to me! I can see why you prefer the second book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any of the Dr Priestley ones, but I do like Merrion in the Miles Burton ones. I’ll give Priestley a try one day, but rude detectives annoy me! Why can’t they all be as polite as Poirot? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Five novels in a year! That makes even Erle Stanley Gardner look like a sluggard.

    Major Cecil John Street is on my radar, but I haven’t actually read any of his at all.

    Liked by 2 people

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