The Rasp
First edition (UK)
AuthorPhilip MacDonald
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesAnthony Gethryn mysteries
GenreMystery novel / Whodunnit
PublisherCollins (UK, 1924)
Dial Press (USA, 1925)
Publication date
Media typePrint
Followed byThe White Crow (1928, the next Gethryn novel) 

The Rasp is a whodunit mystery novel by Philip MacDonald. It was published in 1924 and introduces his series character, detective Colonel Anthony Gethryn. It is set in a country house in rural England.

Plot summary

Anthony Gethryn, ex-secret service agent, is an occasional "special correspondent" for a weekly newspaper and is assigned to cover the story when a cabinet minister, John Hoode, is found murdered in the library at his country house, battered to death with a wood-rasp. Gethryn recalls his acquaintance with a member of the household and is thus invited to investigate the crime as a kind of "friend of the family". It soon seems as though everyone concerned has a cast-iron alibi for the time of the crime, but Gethryn comes up with an imaginative way for the murderer to have accomplished the deed and established an alibi, and reveals the murderer.

Literary significance & criticism

Anthony Gethryn is an early example of the amateur detective, the idea of which was soon to become popular in detective fiction. The focus on the breaking of an elaborate alibi is similar to the work of Freeman Wills Crofts, MacDonald's contemporary. "The story is the conventional body-in-the-study, with a fair amount of obvious detection. ... The killer's fakery is plain from the start. Despite all this, it has several times been declared "a classic" and "epochmaking" by students of the genre."[1]


The Rasp
Directed byMichael Powell
Written byPhilip MacDonald
Produced byJerome Jackson
StarringClaude Horton, Phyllis Loring, C. M. Hallard, James Raglan,
CinematographyGeoffrey Faithfull
Distributed byFilm Engineering, Fox
Release date
  • 1931 (1931)
Running time
44 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The story was made into a film with a screenplay by Philip MacDonald which was directed by Michael Powell in 1932. It starred Claude Horton as Gethryn but is now missing, believed lost. The film is one of Powell's many quota quickies. MacDonald worked again with Powell on Rynox (1932).


Critical reception

In a contemporary review, Kine Weekly called it "an ingenious murder mystery."[3]


  1. ^ Barzun, Jacques and Taylor, Wendell Hertig. A Catalogue of Crime. New York: Harper and Row, 1971, revised edition 1989. ISBN 0-06-015796-8
  2. ^ "The Rasp (1932)".
  3. ^ "The Rasp".