Wednesday the 20th of November–time again for Shelf Control. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
This week my pick is another mystery (last week I had Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (here)), and yet again one from the 1930s, but this one’s a British Library Crime Classic, The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts. [By the way, Rekha from the Book Decoder is hosting a British Crime Classics Challenge for 2020. You need to read at a minimum only a small number of books (6), but you are free to read as many as you like, but published before 1965. So if you like crime classics, I think you’ll enjoy this challenge. Find the details here. I know I will join in, and this mystery might be one of my picks.]
Back to this post now, The Hog’s Back Mystery was first published in 1933 and is the tenth entry (according to the Goodreads listing) in the series by Freeman Wills Crofts to feature Inspector French. Dr. James Earle and his much younger wife are living a peaceful retired life near the Hog’s Back in the North Downs in the Surrey countryside. But one day, Dr Earle suddenly vanishes. Inspector French, called to investigate the case, suspects a simple domestic intrigue, but soon finds that he has a much more complex mystery on his hands. Others including a house guest of the Earles disappear as well. Where have they gone? Who could have taken them and why? Have they been murdered? The reader follows alongside as Inspector French pieces together the case, which has twists right until the end.
The Author: Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957), born in Dublin, was apprenticed to, and became a Railway Engineer in 1899. When recovering from a serious illness in 1919, he began his writing career with his first novel The Cask (1920) being accepted by a London publisher, and selling 100,000 copies over two decades. After this, he continued to write, producing a book nearly each year until his death, while also writing 50 short stories and 30 BBC radio plays. As a result of his background, railway themes feature in many of his books. Inspector French is his best-known character, who solves his cases with painstaking work and dogged determination. French appeared in 30 detective novels between 1924 and 1957, the first being Inspector French’s Greatest Case (1924). Crofts became a full-time writer in 1929.
From reviews of this book, it seems that it has quite an interesting puzzle element with a denouement in the last chapter which specifically points the reader to pages at which clues appear. This isn’t something I’ve come across before, so it would be interesting to see how it works in reading terms. Also our detective, Inspector French is apparently no Sherlock Holmes or Poirot even who magically put things together, but works step by step to solve his case. There are only a few mysteries I’ve read earlier where the detective is an ordinary person, rather than a genius. So I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how he works out the puzzle.
Have you read this book or any of the other Inspector French or other mysteries by Crofts? Where did you come across them and how did you find them? Looking forward to your thoughts!
Image source: Goodreads (here).