Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Reader Recommendeth: In Praise of John Rhode's The Fourth Bomb (1942)

The Fourth Bomb

Best book 

ever read

if you 

like this


This praise, arranged rather like a Japanese haiku or modern English poem, was written in pencil at some point on the front endpaper of my copy of the American edition of John Rhode's detective novel The Fourth Bomb, reviewed in my last post. 

Stamped on the endpaper is 

BOOK  No. 37552



Jamaica is a neighborhood of the borough of Queens on Long Island.  I don't know what the Jones Circulating Library was.  (Perhaps someone could enlighten me.)  

On the book's back endpaper in pen is written 1/7/42--perhaps the date the book, which was published in January 1942, was received at the library?  Evidently, this eager, mystery fancying patron was so enraptured by The Fourth Bomb that he (she?) couldn't forbear writing his opinion of the book on the endpaper.  I interpret it as a statement that the mystery is the "best book ever" followed by an injunction to "read if you like this kind'--i.e. mysteries, or traditional English mysteries.  Or did he mean it was the "best book [I] ever read--if you like this kind"?

Either way, the infamous naysaying of Raymond Chandler and Edmund Wilson aside, there have long been many Americans, male and female, of the Anglophile persuasion who felt just as this reader did.  More on this soon.


  1. The significance of 1/7/42 is that that's my birthday. It is indeed a small world.

  2. A Rhode that's been sitting unread on my shelf, mainly as it's an overseas White Circle paperback - Australian iirc - with horribly small print. One day, when my eyes are feeling up to it...

    1. We're making one more effort to get the books reprinted.

    2. On the plus side, you might be able to sell that pb for 50 bucks, lol. This lag in reprinting Street has been utterly absurd.

    3. Sometimes when I fail yet again to win an auction for a Rhode or Burton, I do wonder how much my shelf of 60 or so books is worth... After all, I'm never going to read The Vanishing Diary again, amI?

  3. I remember liking how Rhode used the unique circumstances of wartime Britain for the plot, but, on a whole, The Fourth Bomb was far from his best effort. But than again, I also didn't like Vegetable Duck. So take that for what it's worth.

    Whoever scribbled that comment would have had a mystery blog today. :)

    1. I think Vegetable Duck is bountiful with highly ingenious felonious devices, although I think Street must have been inspired by Austin Freeman on the central element. I suppose one could say of 4th Bomb that nostalgia was impacting my judgment, but I recently reread The Mysterious Suspect, after reading Anthony Boucher's rave of it, and found that it was just as poor as I thought it was the first time. The only thing about it is that he mentions the long vanished April Priestley and that Harold is still supposed to be Dr. P's son-in-law. It's hard to imagine poor Harold having any sort of life outside Dr. P., he should be more like Smithers from The Simpsons and of course Priestley is Mr. Burns.

      I wish I knew who wrote that in 4th Bomb, but they didn't want to ress up to writing ina library book, I suppose!