My Book Notes: Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy, 1927 (Inspector French # 3) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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HarperCollinsPublishers, 2017. Format: Kindle  Edition. File Size: 622 KB. Print Length: 304 pages. ASIN: B01IMNJAIY. eISBN: 978-0-0081-9065-1. First published in Great Britain by Wm Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1927. US Title: The Starvel Hollow Tragedy, 1927.

9780008328610_3556641d-f0d6-4561-9495-282668569732Blurb: A chance invitation from friends saves Ruth Averill’s life on the night her uncle’s old house in Starvel Hollow is consumed by fire, killing him and incinerating the fortune he kept in cash. Dismissed at the inquest as a tragic accident, the case is closed – until Scotland Yard is alerted to the circulation of bank-notes supposedly destroyed in the inferno. Inspector Joseph French suspects that dark deeds were done in the Hollow that night and begins to uncover a brutal crime involving arson, murder and body snatching . . .

My Take: After a fire that destroyed Simon Averill’s house at Starvel, the three people that were supposed to be in the house at that time are found charred, totally unrecognisable. It is assumed the corpses belong to  Simon himself, and his two domestic servants, John and Flora Roper. Luckily Ruth Averill, Simon’s niece, wasn’t at home that night. The Palmer-Gores had invited her to spend a few days with them at Thirsby. The preliminary inquest concludes that Simon Averill, John Roper and Flora Roper lost their lives in a fire at Starvel on the night of the fifteenth of September, whose cause hasn’t been possible to ascertain. Simon was a miser who hoarded his fortune at home in twenty pounds notes he kept in a safe box. The safe, when opened,  contained only some 1952 pounds in sovereigns and a mass of burnt papers. According to his solicitor Simons Averill was a rich man. He must have worth between thirty  and forty thousand pounds when he died, however there were only a few thousand pounds in his bank account, the rest was in his safe in notes and gold. The nineteen hundred odd pound in gold were there all right, but the whole paper money has been destroyed.

When the Starvel Hollow Tragedy, as it came to be known, begun to be left behind, a new occurrence took place which returned to remind everyone the whole matter again. Though it was supposed that all the money was destroyed in the fire, it has just appeared one of the notes that was sent lately to Mr Averill, whose numbering was kept by the bank. That supposition was quite justifiable, since Averill’s habits were well known. He always paid by cheque what he had to pay, and the cash the bank sent to him, always went into his safe. And another twenty has turned up in London lately. And one thing seems to have been overlooked during the inquest, the fact that the safe was fireproof. In consequence, there is a suspicion that it may be a case of murder, robbery and arson and Inspector French is sent to investigate it.

Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy is the fourth book featuring Inspector French and the fifth by Crofts I’ve read. The story for my taste is  highly engaging and the plot is wonderfully crafted. With very little clues on which an investigation can be build, Inspector French begins to elaborate one hypothesis after another without discouragement each time he reaches a dead end. In this way, the reader himself will be able to try to disentangle the mystery hidden among its pages. It is true that, at a given moment, I had some  suspicions, but just like Inspector French , I almost arrived too late to identify the real culprit. A very entertaining and highly recommended read.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy has been reviewed, among others, at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, The Invisible Event, The Grandest Game in the World, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Mysteries Ahoy! Classic Mysteries, Vintage Pop Fictions, and ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’.


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins Detective Novel (UK), 1927)

About the Author: Freeman Wills Crofts (1879 – 1957) was born in Dublin. His father (a British army doctor) died while he was still a child, and his mother subsequently remarried. He was educated at the Methodist and Campbell Colleges in Belfast. In 1896 he was apprenticed to his uncle, chief engineer on the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. In 1899, he became junior assistant engineer on the Londonderry and Strabane Railway. In the following year he was promoted to district engineer. In 1912, he married Mary Bellas Canning. In 1923 he went back to work for the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. By this time, he was already a published author. In 1925 the first ‘Inspector Joseph French’ novel was published. This hero appeared in another 29 novels. The success of his novels enabled him to give up his job and become a full-time writer. He and his wife moved from Northern Ireland to Blackheath, Surrey. In the early Fifties, Crofts became seriously ill but continued to work on what turned out to be his final novel. (Source: embden11)

Crofts is one of three writers explored in depth in Curtis Evans’ book Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery (2012).

Inspector French series: Inspector French’s Greatest Case (1924); Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery (1926); The Starvel Hollow Tragedy (1927); The Sea Mystery (1928); The Box Office Murders (1929); Sir John Magill’s Last Journey (1930); Mystery in the Channel (1931); Sudden Death (1932); Death on the Way (1932); The Hog’s Back Mystery (1933); The 12:30 from Croydon (1934); Mystery on Southampton Water (1934); Crime at Guildford (1935); The Loss of the ‘Jane Vosper’ (1936); Man Overboard (1936); Found Floating (1937); Antidote to Venom (1938); The End of Andrew Harrison (1938); Fatal Venture (1939); Golden Ashes (1940); James Tarrant, Adventurer (1941); A Losing Game (1941); Fear Comes to Chalfont (1942); The Affair at Little Wokeham (1943); Enemy Unseen (1945); Death of a Train (1946); Silence for the Murderer (1949); Dark Journey (1951); Many a Slip (1955); and Anything to Declare? (1957).

HarperCollinsPublishers  UK publicity page

HarperCollinsPublishers US publicity page

Freeman Wills Crofts at Mysteries Ahoy!

Freeman Wills Crofts at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection

Freeman Wills Crofts at Wikipedia

Freeman Wills Crofts at Golden Age of Detection Wiki


El inspector French y la tragedia de Starvel

Propaganda publicitaria: Una oportuna invitación de unos amigos le salva la vida a Ruth Averill la noche en que la vieja casa de su tío en Starvel Hollow es destruida por el fuego, matándolo y quemando la fortuna que guardaba en efectivo. Descartado el asunto durante la investigación preliminar como un trágico accidente, el caso queda cerrado, hasta que Scotland Yard es alertada de la circulación de billetes de banco supuestamente destruidos en aquella infernal hoguera. El inspector Joseph French sospecha que aquella noche se realizaron maniobras oscuras en The Hollow y empieza a destapar un crimen brutal en el que intervienen un incendio provocado, un asesinato y el robo de un cadáver . . .

Mi opinión: Después de un incendio que destruyó la casa de Simon Averill en Starvel, las tres personas que se suponía que estaban en la casa en ese momento se encuentran carbonizadas, totalmente irreconocibles. Se supone que los cadáveres pertenecen al propio Simon y a sus dos criados domésticos, John y Flora Roper. Por suerte, Ruth Averill, la sobrina de Simon, no estaba en casa esa noche. Los Palmer-Gore la habían invitado a pasar unos días con ellos en Thirsby. La investigación preliminar concluye que Simon Averill, John Roper y Flora Roper perdieron la vida en un incendio en Starvel la noche del 15 de septiembre, cuya causa no ha sido posible determinar. Simon era un avaro que atesoraba su fortuna en casa en billetes de veinte libras que guardaba en una caja fuerte. La caja fuerte, cuando se abrió, contenía solo 1952 libras en soberanos de oro y una masa de papeles quemados. Según su abogado, Simons Averill era un hombre rico. Debía tener una fortuna de entre treinta y cuarenta mil libras cuando murió, sin embargo, solo había unos pocos miles de libras en su cuenta bancaria, el resto estaba en su caja fuerte en billetes y en oro. Las mil novecientas libras en oro estaban allí, pero todo el papel moneda ha quedado destruido.

Cuando la tragedia de Starvel Hollow, como llegó a ser conocida, comenzó a quedar olvidada, tuvo lugar un nuevo suceso que volvió a recordar a todos el asunto nuevamente. Aunque se suponía que todo el dinero se destruyó en el incendio, acaba de aparecer uno de los billetes que se le envió últimamente al señor Averill, cuya numeración guardaba el banco. Esa suposición era bastante justificable, ya que los hábitos de Averill eran bien conocidos. Siempre pagaba con cheque lo que tenía que pagar, y el efectivo que le enviaba el banco siempre iba a su caja fuerte. Y otros veinte han aparecido en Londres últimamente. Una cosa parece haberse pasado por alto durante la investigación, el hecho de que la caja fuerte era a prueba de fuego. En consecuencia, existe la sospecha de que puede tratarse de un caso de asesinato, robo e incendio provocado y se envía al inspector French a investigarlo.

El inspector French y la tragedia de Starvel es el cuarto libro sobre el inspector French y el quinto de Crofts que he leído. La historia para mi gusto es muy interesante y la trama está maravillosamente elaborada. Con muy pocas pistas sobre las que construir una investigación, el inspector French comienza a elaborar una hipótesis tras otra sin desanimarse cada vez que llega a un callejón sin salida. De esta forma, el propio lector podrá intentar desentrañar el misterio que se esconde entre sus páginas. Es cierto que, en un momento dado, tuve algunas sospechas, pero al igual que el inspector French, llegué casi demasiado tarde a identificar al verdadero culpable. Una lectura muy entretenida y muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre del autor: Freeman Wills Crofts (1879 – 1957) nació en Dublín. Su padre (un médico del ejército británico) murió cuando aún era niño, y su madre se volvió a casar posteriormente. Fue educado en el Methodist y Campbell Colleges en Belfast. En 1896 fue aprendiz de su tío, ingeniero jefe en la Compañia de Ferrocarriles Belfast y Northern Counties. En 1899, se convirtió en ingeniero asistente junior en la Compañía de Ferrocarriles  Londonderry y Strabane. Al año siguiente fue ascendido a ingeniero de distrito. En 1912 se casó con Mary Bellas Canning. En 1923 volvió a trabajar para la Compañía de Ferrocarriles Belfast y Northern Counties. En ese momento, ya era un autor publicado. En 1925 se publicó la primera novela del “Inspector Joseph French”. Este héroe apareció en otras 29 novelas. El éxito de sus novelas le permitió dejar su trabajo y convertirse en escritor a tiempo completo. Él y su esposa se mudaron de Irlanda del Norte a Blackheath, en Surrey. A principios de los años cincuenta, Crofts enfermó gravemente, pero continuó trabajando en lo que resultó ser su última novela. (Fuente: embden11)

Crofts es uno de los tres escritores analizados a fondo en el libro de Curtis Evans Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery (2012).

5 thoughts on “My Book Notes: Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy, 1927 (Inspector French # 3) by Freeman Wills Crofts”

  1. Great review…and such perfect timing! I finished Starvel a few days ago and loved it! I believe it is one of the best Crofts I’ve read so far.

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