This collection was originally published 1938.
It contains stories first published between May 1935 and June 1938 featuring PC John Bragg.
PC John Bragg is young and full of ambition, and with his eye on making Superintendent one day, he squares up to each case that comes his way as an opportunity to show himself brave, reliable and a good detective. In town and country, at scenes of murder, robbery, fraud, abduction, military and industrial spying and arson, PC John Bragg’s character grows as his mettle is tested.
From dealing with artists’ models in a murder case, to ensuring a bejewelled, high-spirited American heiress doesn’t attract the wrong sort of attention, to protecting the pay destined for a staff of quarrymen, PC Bragg has his work cut out for him.
A fairly unremarkable collection of procedural short stories. There are a few strong entries but, the collection as a whole is pretty bland.
Henry Wade has been one of my favorite authors to return to since starting this blog and I hold several of his novels in very high regard (especially his excellent inverted story Heir Presumptive). Other than an entry in a British Library Crime Classics collection, this is my first experience reading his short stories.
Unfortunately I was less impressed than I had hoped to be.
These stories, each of which feature Police Constable Bragg as he strives to make a name for himself and earn promotion up the ranks, are first and foremost procedural adventures. The focus for the most part in this collection is not on the deductive process but rather his bravery and perseverance working on often quite straightforward cases.
Many cases are simply dull and lacking in a creative spark or the sorts of memorable elements to make them stand out but there are a few exceptions. The first story, These Artists, features a rather macabre idea to good effect. Steam Coal is even better, offering a genuine puzzle to the reader that I think has a clever solution.
The best two stories though, in my opinion, are The Little Sportsman and Lodgers, both of which are puzzles and require some thought on the part of the reader. I was engaged by both and appreciated that each took their plots in rather unexpected directions at times.
Sadly these stories are the exceptions in an otherwise rather pedestrian collection of tales. As much as I have enjoyed the Wade novels I have read to date, this fell a long way short of those experience.
There is only one other Wade short story collection – the earlier Policeman’s Lot – and after this I am a little less excited to read it.
Thoughts on the individual stories follow: