Heir Presumptive (1935) by Henry Wade

Today’s review takes us back to the work of Henry Wade, whose novel The Hanging Captain (1933), I recently reviewed, which focuses on a police led investigation into the death of a country home owner. Today’s novel though is quite a different read and can be seen as a variant of or as a descendant of the Frances Iles school of crime fiction, with a dash of Cyril Hare for good measure. The story opens with Eustace Hendel being informed of the accidental deaths of two of his cousins, who were the grandson and great grandson to Lord Barradys. This does not make him Barradys’ heir though, but it does take him two steps closer. There are only two others in his way, Captain David Hendel and his very ill son Desmond. Financial pressures, a very lacisdasical attitude towards working for your living and a strong desire to hold onto the affections of an out of work actress named Jill, (who in a way becomes a Lady Macbeth figure), lead to Eustace making some drastic decisions to become Barradys’ heir. At first his plans seem to go well but we all know what happens to the best made plans…

 

 

As I have mentioned before Wade’s work progresses into focusing more on character development and a plot of this type works well with this change. In many ways the plot involves a rather small concept and a concept that seasoned mystery readers will recognise. However, it is all the more impressive that Wade creates such an interesting and surprising story. I have to admit that I did not twig the final twist and instead had a much more fantastical idea in mind. Yet once this twist is revealed you end up kicking yourself that you missed it as the story in retrospect strongly leads in this direction. Eustace is an intriguing character. He’s not hugely likeable, though his dedicated love to Jill does make him seem less cold and unfeeling. Nevertheless at the end it is hard to not feel a little bit sorry for him. This is not a first person narration, but Wade still gives us a strong sense of who Eustace is and his viewpoint on others is the one we end up adopting ourselves, for better and worse. The open ended nature of the story’s ending also worked for me and having now read a handful of Wade novels it is interesting to see how varied his work is. This story could have been shortened just a little but otherwise it was on the whole an entertaining and surprising read.

Rating: 4.25/5

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About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
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4 Responses to Heir Presumptive (1935) by Henry Wade

  1. JJ says:

    Sounds like a good ‘un, and I understand that this is seen as the sort of ‘go to’ Wade, so I’m encouraged that you enjoyed it as much as you did; my TBR is absurd at the moment, but all I can do is once again assert my definite intention to get round to Wade at some point. All I need to do is retire and then work out how to banish sleep and I’ll have enough time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that is a reading problem that all reading enthusiasts suffer from. My TBR pile has definitely had a sudden growth spurt so I need try and be good and not buy anymore books for a while. I didn’t realise this was a go to Wade but I think it would make for an encouraging start for a new reader, though they might be surprised by the variety of styles in earlier books.

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  2. JFW says:

    Thanks for the review – is this one of Henry Wade’s inverted mysteries…? I tend to shy away from inverted mysteries, and so I’m of two minds as to whether I should grab it via my Kindle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I remember you saying you’re not keen on inverted mysteries and I think you could say it was such a mystery, given its similarities to Iles’ style. I think Wade sufficiently turns everything upside down in the final third though.

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