The Raso 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.
I have managed to get hold of a copy of the first edition of the dust jacket (pity it's only a facsimile, because the original would be worth a good deal!)I found it interesting to read the blurb, which was notably enthusiastic. Now, blurbs often are very enthusiastic, but in this case, the publishers had indeed discovered an author whose reputation would endure, at least among fans of Golden Age mysteries.
The Rasp is not, itself, one of my favourite Philip Macdonalds, but it is written with sufficient gusto to justify the publishers' faith - and in years to come, Macdonald would write a number of fascinating books. Over 30 years later, the last Gethryn - The List of Adrian Messenger - appeared, and it was turned into quite a good film.
Here is what the blurb writer said:
‘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, and The Rasp is now largely forgotten. But it marked the start of a notable solo writing career.