My Book Notes: Inspector French and the Sea Mystery, 1928 (Inspector French # 4) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en castellano

Collins Crime Club, 2017. Format: Kindle  Edition. File Size: 809 KB. Print Length: 220 pages. ASIN: B01IMNJAGG. eISBN: 978-0-00-819068-2. First published in Great Britain by Wm Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1928 as The Sea Mystery and in the US by Harper & Brothers the same year under the same title.

9780008190675Book description: Off the coast of Burry Port in south Wales, two fishermen discover a shipping crate and manage to haul it ashore. Inside is the decomposing body of a brutally murdered man. With nothing to indicate who he is or where it came from, the local police decide to call in Scotland Yard. Fortunately Inspector Joseph French does not believe in insoluble cases – there are always clues to be found if you know what to look for. Testing his theories with his accustomed thoroughness, French’s ingenuity sets him off on another investigation . . .

My Take: It would seem that there are several of us interested in knowing more in-depth the work of Freeman Wills Crofts and, on this occasion, my turn has come to read The Sea Mystery, the fourth novel in the series, originally published in 1928 and republished in 2017 by Harper Collins as Inspector French and the Sea Mystery.

The Sea Mystery revolves around the discovery of a body in a wooden crate that has been literally fished in a Wales estuary. As the corpse was found in the sea, the local police regards this a case for Scotland Yard and Inspector French will take charge of the investigation. The case is not short of difficulties. To begin with, the body had been in the sea for some time, the face was completely disfigured as if to prevent its identification, the corpse was only wearing underclothes, and its labels were cut. Besides, there is no way to know how the crate could have get there. But Inspector French is not someone who backs down in the face of hardship and, methodically, starts working. As Mike Grost aptly says ‘The best parts of The Sea Mystery (1928) are the opening chapters, which show the discovery of the body, and Inspector French’s reconstruction of part of the crime.’ And he goes on stating ‘They are also the only parts of the book concerned with pure detection. French uses logic, reasoning and science and engineering skills to reconstruct a very mysterious looking crime; these sections are a gem of pure detection.’

I must admit I have really enjoyed reading this book. Perhaps is not as good as its beginning might presage. Its denouement has seemed to me somewhat far-fetched and I was able to identify the culprit relatively soon, although I couldn’t glimpse exactly what happened. Even so, allow me to say nothing more not to spoil your amusement and entertainment, if you haven’t read it. In any case, a delightful and exiting reading.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Inspector French and the Sea Mystery has been reviewed, among others, at In Search of the Mystery Novel, Bedford Bookshelf, The Invisible Event, The Grandest Game in the World, Mysteries Ahoy!, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, The Green Capsule, and Vintage Pop Fictions.

963

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins Detective Novel (UK), 1928)

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 

A Fondness for French Film: An Interview with Writer Brendan Foley about “Inspector French”–the New Freeman Wills Crofts Television Detective Series at The Passing Tramp

Soundcloud

El inspector French y el misterio del mar, de Freeman Wills Crofts

Descripción del libro: Frente a la costa de Burry Port, en el sur de Gales, dos pescadores descubren una caja de transporte y logran llevarla a tierra. Dentro está el cuerpo en descomposición de un hombre brutalmente asesinado. Sin nada que indique quién es o de dónde vino, la policía local decide llamar a Scotland Yard. Afortunadamente, el inspector Joseph French no cree en casos insolubles; siempre hay pistas que encontrar si se sabe qué buscar. Poniendo a prueba sus teorías con su habitual minuciosidad, el ingenio de French lo conduce a otra investigación. . .

Mi opinión: Parece que somos varios los interesados ​​en conocer más a fondo la obra de Freeman Wills Crofts y, en esta ocasión, me ha llegado el turno de leer The Sea Mystery, la cuarta novela de la serie, publicada originalmente en 1928 y reeditada en el 2017 por Harper Collins como Inspector French and the Sea Mystery.

The Sea Mystery gira en torno al descubrimiento de un cuerpo en una caja de madera que ha sido literalmente pescado en un estuario de Gales. Como el cadáver fue encontrado en el mar, la policía local considera que este es un caso para Scotland Yard y el inspector French se hará cargo de la investigación. El caso no está exento de dificultades. Para empezar, el cuerpo llevaba un tiempo en el mar, el rostro estaba completamente desfigurado como para impedir su identificación, el cadáver solo vestía ropa interior y sus etiquetas estaban cortadas. Además, no hay forma de saber cómo pudo haber llegado allí la caja. Pero el inspector French no es alguien que retrocede ante las dificultades y, metódicamente, comienza a trabajar. Como dice acertadamente Mike Grost: “Las mejores partes de The Sea Mystery (1928) son los capítulos iniciales, que muestran el descubrimiento del cuerpo y la reconstrucción del inspector French de parte del crimen“. Y continúa diciendo: “También son las únicas partes del libro relacionadas con la detección pura. French utiliza la lógica, el razonamiento y las habilidades científicas y de ingeniería para reconstruir un crimen de aspecto muy misterioso; estas secciones son una joya de pura detección.”

Debo admitir que he disfrutado mucho leyendo este libro. Quizás no sea tan bueno como podría presagiar su comienzo. Su desenlace me ha parecido algo inverosímil y pude identificar al culpable relativamente pronto, aunque no pude vislumbrar exactamente lo que sucedió. Aun así, permítanme no decir nada más para no estropear su diversión y entretenimiento, si no lo han leído. En cualquier caso, una lectura deliciosa y emocionante.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

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).

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

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en castellano

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?’.

946

(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

audible

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).

My Book Notes: The Cask, 1920 by Freeman Wills Crofts

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Collins Crime Club, 2016. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 2310 KB. Print Length: 368 pages. ASIN: B01CY4SU2E. ISBN: 9780008190538. First published in Great Britain by The Crime Club by W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1921. Introduction by Freeman Wills Crofts, 1946.

x400Synopsis: A strange container is found in a busy London shipping yard, and its contents point to murder. The cask from a consignment of French wine from the steamship Bullfinch from Paris is bigger than the rest, its sides reinforced to hold the extraordinary weight within. As the longshoremen are bringing it onto the London docks, the cask slips, cracks, and spills some of its treasure: a wealth of gold sovereigns. As the workmen cram the spilled gold into their pockets, an official digs through the opened box, which is supposed to contain a statue. Beneath the gold he finds a woman’s hand—as cold as marble, but made of flesh. He reports the body to his superiors, but when he returns, the cask has vanished. The puzzling case is given to Inspector Burnley, a methodical detective of Scotland Yard, who will confront a baffling array of clues and red herrings, alibis and outright lies as he attempts to identify the woman in the cask—and catch the man who killed her. (Source: Goodreads)

My Take: The Cask, Freeman Wills Crofts’ debut novel, is set in 1912, though it was published in 1920. Croft’s himself recognises in an Introduction, written in 1946, that The Cask was built up, as it were, from hand to mouth. Each new ‘good notion’ was incorporated as it occurred to me, with the not infrequent result that it came out again next day, being found to conflict hopelessly with something else. The book must have been written at least five times before the final draft was reached . . . . Were I writing The Cask today, it would probably turn out a very different book . . . . a much greater attempt should be made to interest the reader in the actors through their characters. Anyhow, The Cask was widely acknowledged at its time as one of the best detective novels ever written. Martin Edwards wrote in his book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, published in 2017:  ‘The meticulous account of detective work, coupled with the ingenuity of the construction (and deconstruction) of the alibi were to become Freeman Wills Crofts’ hallmarks, and they set his debut novel apart form the competition. Over the next twenty years, The Cask sold more than 100,000 copies.’ Likewise, Curt Evans at The Passing Tramp reminds us that ‘The Cask, the first of Crofts’s unbreakable alibi tales, was remarkable in its day for both the complexity of its mystery and the clarity with which that mystery is investigated and explicated.’ It goes without saying that these opinions encouraged me to read this book.

For fear of disclosing too much of the story, I would not like to add more about the plot. I rather leave the would-be reader the opportunity to find out what it is all about. I found The Cask  a really entertaining and interesting reading, taking into account the time and circumstances in which it was written. I cannot forget it did mark a true milestone in the evolution of the story of detective fiction. As it is widely known, The Cask was written in 1916 and published in 1920, the same years Agatha Christie wrote and published The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but all similarities end up here. Christie had to struggle to find an editor, while Crofts’ manuscript was resting in a drawer. Christie’s success had to wait for some years, while Crofts had an immediate success. Today, however, it is regarded that both titles helped  launching in full force the Golden Age of detective fiction. Besides these circumstances I truly believe that today’s reader will fully appreciate the reading of The Cask by its own merits. In a nutshell, the story is intelligent and nicely crafted.

My rating: B (I liked it)

925

About the Author: Freeman Wills Crofts was born in Dublin in 1879, the son of a doctor in the British army, who died before he was born. He was raised in Northern Ireland and became a civil engineer. His first book, The Cask, was published in the summer of 1920, immediately establishing him as a new master of detective fiction. Scrupulously planting clues for the reader to find, he was continually praised for his flawless plotting. Crofts was a founder member of the Detection Club and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1939. He created the popular detective, Inspector French, and died in 1957 with more than 30 ingenious books to his name.

The Cask has been reviewed, among others, at The Invisible Event, Bedford Bookshelf, Mike Grost, Dead Yesterday, Mystery File, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, The Grandest Game in the World, Beneath the Stains of Time, and Classic Mysteries.

Freeman Wills Crofts book notes on A Crime is Afoot:

Inspector French’s Greatest Case 1924 (Inspector French #1)

Mystery in the Channel 1931 (Inspector French #7)

The Hog’s Back Mystery (Inspector French #10)

HaperCollinsPublishers UK publicity page

HarperCollinsPublishers US publicity page

audible

Soundcloud

Freeman Wills Crofts at Mysteries Ahoy!

Freeman Wills Crofts at Mike Grost

Freeman Wills Crofts at Wikipedia

The Cask (El barril), de Freeman Wills Crofts

Sinopsis: Un extraño barril aparece en un concurrido muelle de Londres, y su contenido apunta a un asesinato. El barril forma parte de una partida de vino francés del barco de vapor Bullfinch enviado desde París y es más grande que el resto, sus costados están reforzados para soportar un peso extraordinario. A medida que los estibadores lo llevan a los muelles de Londres, el barril se cae, se rompe y derrama algunos de sus tesoros: una enormidad de soberanos de oro. Mientras los trabajadores llenan sus bolsillos con el oro derramado, un funcionario escarba en su interior en donde se supone que contiene una estatua. Debajo del oro encuentra la mano de una mujer, tan fría como el mármol, pero de carne y hueso. Informa del hecho a sus superiores, pero cuando regresa, el barril ya ha desaparecido. El sorprendente caso le corresponde al inspector Burnley, un detective metódico de Scotland Yard, quien se enfrentará a una desconcertante variedad de pistas verdaderas y falsas, coartadas y mentiras descaradas mientras intenta identificar a la mujer del barril y atrapar al hombre que la mató. (Fuente: Goodreads)

Mi opinión: The Cask es la primera novela de Freeman Wills Crofts. Aunque se publicó en 1920, la acción se desarrolla en 1912. El mismo Croft reconoce en una Introducción, escrita en 1946, que The Cask fue construido, por así decirlo, al día. Cada nueva “buena idea” se incorporó conforme se me ocurría, con el resultado no  poco frecuente de que de nuevo al día siguiente, se encontraba irremediablemente en conflicto con otra cosa. El libro debe haber sido escrito al menos cinco veces antes de llegar al texto final. . . . Si escribiera The Cask hoy, probablemente resultaría ser un libro muy diferente. . . . Se debe hacer un intento mucho mayor para interesar al lector en los protagonistas a través de sus personajes. De todos modos, The Cask fue ampliamente reconocido en su momento como una de las mejores novelas de detectives jamás escritas. Martin Edwards escribió en su libro The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, publicado en 2017:  “El meticuloso relato del trabajo de detective, junto con lo ingeniosos de la construcción (y deconstrucción) de la coartada se van a convertir en el sello de identidad de Freeman Wills Crofts, y van a diferenciar su primera novela de la competencia. Durante los siguientes veinte años, The Cask vendió más de 100,000 copias”. Del mismo modo, Curt Evans en The Passing Tramp nos recuerda que “The Cask, la primera de las historias de coartas irrompibles de Crofts, destacó en su día tanto por la complejidad de su misterio como por la trasparencia con la que se investiga y explica ese misterio.” No hace falta decir que estas opiniones me animaron a leer este libro.

Por miedo a revelar demasiado de la historia, no me gustaría agregar más sobre la trama. Prefiero dejar al lector potencial la oportunidad de descubrir de qué se trata. Encontré The Cask una lectura realmente entretenida e interesante, teniendo en cuenta el tiempo y las circunstancias en que fue escrita. No puedo olvidar que marcó un verdadero hito en la evolución de la historia de la novela policiaca. Como es ampliamente conocido, The Cask fue escrita en 1916 y publicada en 1920, los mismos años que Agatha Christie escribió y publicó The Mysterious Affair at Styles, pero todas las similitudes terminan aquí. Christie tuvo que luchar para encontrar un editor, mientras el manuscrito de Crofts descansaba en un cajón. El éxito de Christie tuvo que esperar algunos años, mientras que Crofts tuvo un éxito inmediato. Hoy, sin embargo, se considera que ambos títulos ayudaron a iniciar con toda su fuerza la Edad de Oro de la novela policiaca. Además de estas circunstancias, realmente creo que el lector de hoy apreciará plenamente la lectura de The Cask por sus propios méritos. En pocas palabras, la historia es inteligente y está muy bien elaborada.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: Freeman Wills Crofts nació en Dublín en 1879, hijo de un médico del ejército británico, que murió antes de que él naciera. Se crió en Irlanda del Norte y se hizo ingeniero civil. Su primer libro, The Cask, fue publicado en el verano de 1920, reconociéndole inmediatamente como un nuevo maestro de la novela policiaca. Sembarando escrupulosamente pistas para que el lector las pueda encontrar, fue constantemente alabado por sus impecables argumentos. Crofts fue miembro fundador del Detection Club y fue elegido miembro de la Royal Society of Arts en 1939. Creó al popular detective, inspector French, y murió en 1957 con más de 30 inteligentes libros a su nombre.

Otros libros de Freeman Wills Crofts en A Crime is Afoot:

Inspector French’s Greatest Case 1924 (Inspector French #1)

Mystery in the Channel 1931 (Inspector French #7)

The Hog’s Back Mystery (Inspector French #10)

Meet Chief-Inspector French

In an Introduction written in 1935, Freeman Wills Crofts offers this insights about his Chief-Inspector Joseph French of the CID of New Scotland Yard which I hope will be of your interest.782988

He’s decent and he’s straight and he’s as kindly as his job will allow. He believes that if you treat people decently –you’ll be able to get more out of them; and he acts on his believe. Politeness is am obsession with him, and he has well earned his nickname of “Soapy Joe”. But I have to admit he’s not very brilliant: in fact many people call him dull. And here I’ll let you into secret history. Anyone about to perpetrate a detective novel must first decide whether his detective is to be brilliant and a “character”, or a mere ordinary humdrum personality . . . . I [Croft] . . . tried to make French a perfectly ordinary man, without particularities or mannerisms. Of course he has to have some qualities, but they were to be the ordinary qualities of ordinary fairly successful men. He has to have thoroughness and perseverance as well as a reasonable amount of intelligence: just the qualities which make for moderate success in any walk of life. 

From this it follows that he does not leap into his conclusions by brilliant intuition. He begins a case by going and looking into information in those places in which he thinks is most likely to be found. When he get the information he swots over it until he grinds out some sort of theory to account for the facts. Very often this turns out to be wrong, but if so, he simply tries again until he thinks of something better.

French I made an inspector of the Yard rather than a private detective because I hoped in this way to gain realism. But at once a horrible difficulty loomed up: I knew nothing about Scotland Yard or the C.I.D. What was to be done? The answer was simple. I built on the great rock which sustain so many in my profession: if I knew nothing of my subject, well, few of my readers will know any more.

As a matter of fact I found this rock not quite so steadfast as I had hoped. It has been pointed out to me that French has at times done things which would make a real inspector of the Yard shudder. He has consistently travelled first-class on railways, particularly in sleeping-cars. He has borrowed bicycles from local police-officers without paying for their hire. He has undertaken country inquires without his attendant sergeant. And many other evil things has he done. Fortunately, now that he has become chief-inspector he is seeing the error of at least some of his ways and being more careful to live up to his great traditions.  

French is a home bird, and nothing pleases him more than to get into his slippers before the fire and bury himself in some novel of sea adventure. He is married, but unlike Dr Watson he is the husband of only one wife. On occasion his Emily helps him with his cases. But this is only when he is more utterly stuck than usual. Otherwise he doesn’t think it decent –or perhaps worthwhile– to worry her with shop. I have been wondering whether he has children. It’s like a dream to me that in one book children were mentioned, and that in another their exitance was denied. But I can’t find either reference, I can only note the point as one to be avoided.

A child could guess that, Watson!”

947A lovely quote from Inspector French’s Greatest Case, by Freeman Wills Crofts.

‘When Mrs. French called her husband by the name of the companion of the great Holmes, it signified two things, first, than she was in what he always referred to as “a good twist,” and secondly, that she felt pleasantly superior, having seen something –which he has missed. He was therefore always delighted when a conversation reached this stage, believing that something helpful was about to materialise.’