The Rasp by Philip Macdonald

This was the book that introduced Philip Macdonald’s regular detective, Anthony Gethryn, and served to establish his reputation as a writer of ingenious mysteries. Macdonald was born in 1900, and yet this book, published in 1924, when he was only 23, was not his first – he had previously co-authored two novels with his father, Ronald Macdonald. This particular edition was inscribed by Macdonald on 23 October in the year of publication – the dust jacket, alas, is a facsimile.

The blurb was notably enthusiastic:

‘Messrs Collins are publishing several detective stories this Autumn,most of them by famous names, but The Rasp, Mr Macdonald’s first attempt, is well worthy to stand with them. Firstly, because the murder is the most ingenious crime. Secondly, because Anthony, who unravels it, is a brilliant investigator and a delightful person. Thirdly, because all the subsidiary characters, especially the ladies, usually the weak spot in detective fiction, are drawn with humour and insight. Readers will note the close attention which the author gives to his detail, and how all the threads are essential to the pattern. The publishers believe The Rasp to be one of the best discoveries they have made for a long time.’

Macdonald eventually moved to Hollywood, and in his later years he focused more on script-writing than on novels. He died in 1980, but his reputation, both in the cinema and in fiction, endures.