Review: Death Makes a Prophet, 1947 (Superintendent William Meredith #11), by John Bude

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

British Library Publishing (2017). Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 2967 KB. Print Length: 280 pages. With an Introduction by Martin Edwards. Originally published in 194. ASIN: B073135562. eISBN: 978-0-7123-6436-2.

DeathMakesAProphet-Website-350x525Book Description: ‘Small hostilities were growing; vague jealousies were gaining strength; and far off, wasn’t there a nebulous hint of approaching tragedy in the air?’ Welworth Garden City in the 1940s is a forward-thinking town where free spirits find a home-vegetarians, socialists, and an array of exotic religious groups. Chief among these are the Children of Osiris, led by the eccentric High Prophet, Eustace K. Mildmann. The cult is a seething hotbed of petty resentment, jealousy and dark secrets—which eventually lead to murder. The stage is set for one of Inspector Meredith’s most bizarre and exacting cases. This witty crime novel by a writer on top form is a neglected classic of British crime fiction.

My take: The story takes place at the fictitious town of Walworth to which we are soon introduced as follows:

Welworth is not an ordinary town. It is that rarefied, mushroom-like, highly individualistic conglomeration of bricks and mortar known as a Garden City. There is no house in Welworth over thirty years old. There are no slums, monuments, garden-fences, bill-hoardings  or public-houses. There is a plethora of flowering shrubs, litter-baskets, broad avenues, Arty-Crafty Shoppes, mock-Tudor, mock-Georgian, mock-Italianate villas. There is, of course, a Health Food Store selling Brazil Nut Butter, cold spaghetti fritters, maté tea and a most comprehensive and staggering range of herbal pills and purgatives. Per head of the population, Welworth probably consumes more lettuce and raw carrot than any other community in the country. A very high percentage of the Welworth élite are not only vegetarians, but non-smokers, non-drinkers and non-pretty-well-everything-that-makes-life-worth-living for less high-minded citizens.

In a sense, the previous quote sets the tone for what will come next. The town, it is claimed, shelters some fifty-seven varieties of religious manifestations, which speaks very well of how tolerant it is. Some are orthodox. some unorthodox but well known, and finally there are also others that are unorthodox and unknown. Among the latter, probably the queer, least orthodox and most exclusive sect is that of the Children of Osiris, sometimes referred to as the Cult of Osiris, or Coo, taking the initials of their full title, or more simply, Cooism. Cooism was founded by Eustace K Mildmann, a former provincial bookseller, at the beginning of the nineteen hundred, who had the good fortune to come across Mrs. Hagge-Smith. In the nomenclature of the order, its founder, was the High Prophet, but the true driving force of the movement, its financial pillar, the true director of policy, was Alicia Hagge-Smith. She paid the piper and so, naturally, she called the tune.

But soon, underneath the crust of Cooism, begins to emerge significant changes; small hostilities were growing; vague jealousies were gaining strength; little intrigues swelling into obsessions.     Viewing events in retrospect there seems little doubt that the jumping-off point of this tragedy was Alicia Hagge-Smith’s “vision”. Without her “vision” circumstances favourable to a murder would never have materialised. And without a murder, Inspector Meredith would never have heard of the Children of Osiris. As it was, he always considered it to be one of the most interesting, bizarre and exacting of all his cases.

Martin Edwards points out in his Introduction:

Death Makes a Prophet was the fifteenth Bude book, and is written with the assurance of a seasoned professional. Rather than producing a corpse in the first chapter, the author defers the act of murder for more than half the length of the story, although at this point he offers his readers a double helping of homicide. Throughout the long build-up, he maintains interest with an amusing description of the misadventures of a group of people associated , in various ways, with the cult of Coo. Welworth Garden City proves to be a hot-bed of Cooism, which is “an obliging religion because one could find in it pretty well anything one looked for”. Yet for all their other-worldliness, it soon becomes clear that the cultists have more than their fair share of rivalries, jealousies, and dark secrets.

All in all, it is a very fun and entertaining book that makes you have a good time. But in any case it is quite a light reading even though Bude is able to display all his wit and good craft. I found it amazing that ,in certain aspects, the story has not lost some of its relevance with the passing of time.

My rating: B (I liked it)

About the author: John Bude was the pseudonym of Ernest Carpenter Elmore. Elmore was born in Maidstone, Kent in 1901. He attended Mill Hill School until 1919, where he was a boarder. He attended a secretarial college in Cheltenham before moving to Letchworth and becoming Games master at St Christopher School. While there he also assisted with the school’s dramatic activities. His interest in dramatics led him to join the Lena Ashwell Players as stage manager, touring the country. Much of Elmore’s early writing took place in dressing rooms during his spare time. In 1931 he is known to have been living in the village of Loose, Kent before returning to Maidstone where he produced plays for the local dramatic society, where he met his future wife Betty. They married in 1933 and moved to Beckley, Sussex, where he became a full-time author. Together Elmore and his wife had a daughter, Jennifer and son Richard. In December 2015, Elmore’s photo appeared in The Times along with a lengthy article detailing the success of the reprints of his books. Writing as John Bude, Elmore published thirty crime novels, with Inspector William Meredith appearing in most of them. The first two, both of which were published in 1935, were The Lake District Murder (Superintendent Meredith, #1 and The Cornish Coast Murder, followed the next year by The Sussex Downs Murder (Superintendent Meredith, #2). These three have since been reprinted by the British Library. Also published by the British Library, at the time of this writing, are: The Cheltenham Square Murder (Superintendent William Meredith #3), Death Makes a Prophet (Superintendent Meredith, #11) and Death on the Riviera (Superintendent Meredith, #16). Elmore was a founder member of the Norfolk-based Crime Writers’ Association in 1953. Fellow British crime author Martin Edwards commented: “Bude writes both readably and entertainingly. His work may not have been stunning enough to belong with the greats, but there is a smoothness and accomplishment about even his first mystery, The Cornish Coast Murder, which you don’t find in many début mysteries.” Elmore died in Hastings, Sussex on 8 November 1957. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Read more about Ernest Elmore at John Bude (1901-1957) by Carol Westron

The complete bibliography of Ernest Elmore writing as John Bude is available  at Fantastic Fiction and gadetection, among other web sites.

Death Makes a Prophet has been reviewed at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Crime Review, Mysteries Ahoy!, His Futile Preoccupations …., and Classic Mysteries, among others.

Poisoned Pen Press publicity page 


La muerte hace a un profeta, de John Bude

Descripción del libro: “Pequeños enfrentamientos iban en aumento; imorecisas envidias iban ganando fuerza; y a lo lejos, ¿no había acaso un indicio confuso de una tragedia inminente en el aire?”  Welworth Garden City en la década de 1940 es una ciudad de mentalidad progresista donde encuentran su hogar los espíritus libres: vegetarianos, socialistas y una variedad de´exóticos grupos religiosos. Entre los principales de éstos se encuentran los hijos de Osiris, liderados por el extravagante Sumo Profeta, Eustace K. Mildmann. El culto es un hervidero efervescente de insignifcantes rencores, envidias y oscuros secretos, que eventualmente conducen al asesinato. El escenario está preparado para uno de los casos más extraños y exigentes del inspector Meredith. Esta ingeniosa novela criminal escrita por un escritor en plena forma es un clásico olvidado de la novela de británica de detectives.

Mi opinión: La historia se desarrolla en la ciudad ficticia de Walworth que va a ser presentada de la siguiente manera:

Welworth no es una ciudad ordinaria. Es ese exclusivo aglomerado de ladrillo y cemento, en forma de hongo, extremadamente individualista conocido como Garden City. No hay casa en Welworth de más de treinta años. No hay barrios marginales, monumentos, cercas de jardín, vallas publicitarias o baress. Hay una gran cantidad de arbustos floridos, cubos de basura, amplias avenidas, tiendas con pretensiones artísticas, y villas imitando el estilo Tudor, el estilo georgiano o el estilo italiano. Hay, por supuesto, una tienda de alimentos saludables que vende mantequilla de nuez de Brasil, buñuelos fríos, mate, y la más completa y asombrosa gama de pastillas de hierbas y laxantes. Welworth probablemente consume por habitantes más lechuga y zanahoria cruda que cualquier otra comunidad en el país. Un porcentaje muy alto de la élite de Welworth no son solo vegetarianos, sino también no fumadores, no bebedores y contrarios a casi- todo-aquello-que-hace-que-la-vida-merezca-la-pena-vivirla a los ciudadanos menos moralistas.

En cierto sentido el párrafo anterior marca la pauta de lo que vendrá a continuación. La ciudad, según se afirma, da cobijo a unas cincuenta y siete variedades de manifestaciones religioosas, lo que habla muy bien de lo tolerante que es. Unas son ortodoxas. algunas poco ortodoxas pero muy conocidas, y finalmente hay tambien otras que son poco ortodoxas y desconocidas. Entre estas últimas, probablemente la secta más rara, menos ortodoxa y más exclusiva es la de Los Hijos de Osiris, a veces conocida como Culto de Osiris, o Coo, tomando las iniciales de su título completo en inglés , o más simplemente, Cooismo. El Cooismo fue fundado por Eustace K Mildmann, un antiguo librero de provicinicas, a principios del mil novecientos, que tuvo la suerte de encontrarse con la señora Hagge-Smith. En la nomenclatura de la orden, su fundador, era el Sumo Profeta, pero la verdadera fuerza impulsora del movimiento, su pilar financiero, el verdadero director de su política, era Alicia Hagge-Smith. Ella era la que pagaba la música y, naturalmente, era la que elegía la canción.

Pero pronto, debajo de la corteza del Cooismo, comienzan a surgir cambios significativos; pequeñas hostilidades empiezan a crecer, vagos celos empiezan a tomar fuerza; pequeñas intrigas se transforman en obsesiones. Viendo los acontecimientos a posteriori, hay pocas dudas de que el inicio de esta tragedia fue la “visión” de Alicia Hagge-Smith. Sin su “visión”, no se habrían materializado las circunstancias que favorecieron la comisión del asesinato. Y sin un asesinato, el inspector Meredith nunca habría oído hablar de los Hijos de Osiris. Como sucedió, el siempre consideró que iba a ser uno de sus casos más interesantes, extraños y exigentes.

Martin Edwards señala en su Introducción:

La muerte hace a un profeta es el decimoquinto libro de Bude, y está escrito con la seguridad de un profesional experimentado. En lugar de producir un cadáver en el primer capítulo, el autor difiere el acto del asesinato hasta más de la mitad de la historia, aunque llegado a ese punto ofrece a sus lectores una doble ración de asesinato. A lo largo del prolongando desarrollo, mantiene el interés con una divertida descripción de las desventuras de un grupo de personas asociadas, de diversas maneras, con el culto a Coo. Welworth Garden City resulta ser un hervidero de Cooismo, que es “una religión complaciente porque uno puede encontrar en ella bastante bien cualquier cosa que sea lo que uno busque”. Sin embargo, a pesar de todo su intento por alejarse de este mundo, pronto resulta evidente que sus miembros tienen más que su justa ración de rivalidades, envidias y oscuros secretos.

En general, se trata de un libro muy divertido y entretenido que te hace pasar un buen rato. Pero en cualquier caso es una lectura bastante ligera a pesar de que Bude es capaz de mostrar todo su ingenio y buen oficio. Me pareció sorprendente que, en ciertos aspectos, la historia no haya perdido parte de su relevancia con el paso del tiempo.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: John Bude era el seudónimo de Ernest Carpenter Elmore. Elmore nació en Maidstone, Kent en 1901. Asistió a la escuela Mill Hill hasta 1919, donde estuvo interno. Asistió a una facultad de administración en Cheltenham antes de trasladarse a Letchworth y convertirse en el Director de juegos de la escuela St Christopher. Mientras estuvo allí, también colaboró en las actividades dramáticas de la escuela. Su interés por el teatro lo llevó a unirse a Lena Ashwell Players como director de escena, recorriendo el país. Muchos de los primeros escritos de Elmore fueron escritos en vestuarios durante su tiempo libre. En 1931 es conocido por haber estado viviendo en la aldea de Loose, Kent antes de regresar a Maidstone, donde produjo obras de teatro para la sociedad dramática local, donde conoció a su futura esposa Betty. Se casaron en 1933 y se mudaron a Beckley, Sussex, donde se convirtió en autor a tiempo completo. Juntos, Elmore y su esposa tuvieron una hija, Jennifer y un hijo Richard. En diciembre de 2015, la foto de Elmore apareció en The Times junto con un extenso artículo que detalla el éxito de las reimpresiones de sus libros. Escribiendo como John Bude, Elmore publicó treinta novelas de detectives protagonizadas en su mayoría por el inspector William Meredith. Las dos primeras, ambas publicadas en 1935, fueron The Lake District Murder (Superintendente Meredith, # 1 y The Cornish Coast Murder, seguidas al año siguiente por The Sussex Downs Murder (Superintendente Meredith, # 2). Las tres han sido publicadas nuevamente por la British Library. También han sido publicadas por la British Library, al momento de escribir estas líneas: The Cheltenham Square Murder (Superintendente William Meredith # 3), Death Makes a Prophet (Superintendente Meredith, # 11) y Death on the Riviera (Superintendente Meredith, # 16) Elmore fue un miembro fundador de la Crime Writers’ Association con base en Norfolk en 1953. El también compañero y escritor de novelas británica de detectives Martin Edwards ha dicho: “Bude escribe de forma amena y entretenida Su trabajo puede no haber sido lo suficientemente impresionante. para formar paste de los grandes, pero hay una fluidez y un talento incluso en su primera novela, The Cornish Coast Murder, que no se encuentran en muchas primeras novelas”. Elmore murió en Hastings, Sussex el 8 de noviembre de 1957. (Cortesía de Wikipedia).


Review: This is How It Ends (2018) by Eva Dolan

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

Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018. Format: Kindle Edition. File size: 726 KB. Print Length: 336 pages. ASIN: B0744RRHP8. eISBN: 978-1-4088-8662-5.

9781408886625 (1)Book description: Ella Riordan is a community activist who became famous when she was beaten by police during a social protest. Now Ella is a squatter in a building where the owners are evicting tenants so they can convert it into luxury condos, and she’s determined to stay and defend the few holdout tenants, despite death threats. One night after a rooftop party with her fellow holdouts, Ella finds a horrible scene awaiting her in her apartment. In a panic, she calls her neighbour Molly, who convinces her that the police won’t believe she’s innocent. Together the two women concoct a gruesome plan to hide the body down the building’s elevator shaft. But the secret won’t stay buried for long. As truth hangs in the balance, a neighbour tells Molly he had heard Ella arguing with a man in the hallway and mistrust grows between Ella and Molly, as repercussions of that night threaten to change both women’s lives forever. (Source: Goodreads)

My take: Eva Dolan, in her fifth book, leaves momentarily, I hope, her series featuring DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, to offer us a standalone psychological thriller, written with her usual mastery. And I’m very glad to have read it. I will not add any more to what has already been mentioned before in the description taken from Goodreads, not to spoil one of the great attractions of this novel. The story is told by its two main characters, in two well differentiated voices (Molly using the first-person, and Ella the third one). Besides, the narrative does not follows a chronological order and it has frequent backward leaps on its time line. The reader should pay special attention to each of the chapters headings to avoid getting all mixed up. To be honest I often wondered, during the course of my reading, where was the story heading towards and, occasionally, this uncertainty was what was encouraging me to keep on reading. But my perseverance was ultimately rewarded. And upon completion, I had no doubt This is How It Ends is a brilliant novel, perfectly crafted and a truly captivating read that I’ve very much enjoyed. In my view Eva Dolan is one of the most interesting writers that can be find nowadays. As Paul D. Brazill has written: “This Is How It Ends is a gripping, rich, inventive and powerful 21st century crime thriller that will keep you on your toes”. Wonderfully written and with an exceptional characterization, I strongly recommend it.

My review of Long Way Home, the first instalment in the Zigic and Ferreira book series is available here.

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

About the author: Eva Dolan was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger for unpublished authors when only a teenager. The four novels in her Zigic and Ferreira series have been published to widespread critical acclaim: Tell No Tales and After You Die were shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award and After You Die was also longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. She lives in Cambridge. (Source: Goodreads)

This is How It Ends has been reviewed at Crime Fiction Lover, Crime Thriller Girl, Crime Review, Crime Squad, Thriller Books Journal  and Crime Time, among others.

Bloomsbury Publishing publicity page


Countdown with … Eva Dolan

Así es como acaba, de Eva Dolan

Descripción del libro: Ella Riordan es una activista comunitaria que se hizo famosa cuando fue golpeada por la policía durante una protesta social. Ahora Ella es una okupa en un edificio donde los propietarios están desalojando a los inquilinos para poderl convertirlo en apartamentos de lujo, y ella está decidida a quedarse y defender a los pocos inquilinos que se quedan, a pesar de las amenazas de muerte. Una noche después de una fiesta en la azotea con sus compañeros resistentes, encuentra una escena horrible que la está espera en su departamento. Presa del pánico, llama a su vecina Molly, quien la convence de que la policía no creerá que es inocente. Juntas, las dos mujeres inventan un plan espantoso para esconder el cuerpo por el hueco del ascensor del edificio. Pero el secreto no permanecerá enterrado por mucho tiempo. Mientras la verdad pende de un hilo, un vecino le dice a Molly que escuchó a Ella discutiendo con un hombre en el pasillo y la desconfianza crece entre Ella y Molly, ya que las repercusiones de esa noche amenazan con cambiar las vidas de ambas mujeres para siempre. (Fuente: Goodreads)

Mi opinión: Eva Dolan, en su quinto libro, abandona momentáneamente, eso espero, su serie protagonizada por DI Zigic y DS Ferreira, para ofrecernos un thriller psicológico independiente, escrito con su dominio habitual. Y estoy muy contento de haberlo leído. No agregaré más a lo que ya se ha mencionado antes en la descripción tomada de Goodreads, para no estropear una de las grandes atracciones de esta novela. La historia está contada por sus dos personajes principales, en dos voces bien diferenciadas (Molly usando la primera persona, y Ella la tercera). Además, la narración no sigue un orden cronológico y tiene frecuentes saltos hacia atrás en su línea del tiempo. El lector debe prestar especial atención a cada uno de los títulos de los capítulos para evitar confundirse. Para ser honesto, a menudo me preguntaba, en el curso de mi lectura, hacia dónde se dirigía la historia y, de vez en cuando, esta incertidumbre era lo que me alentaba a seguir leyendo. Pero mi perseverancia se vió finalmente recompensada. Y al finalizar, no tuve dudas de que This is How It Ends es una novela brillante, perfectamente elaborada y una lectura verdaderamente cautivadora que he disfrutado mucho. En mi opinión, Eva Dolan es una de las escritoras más interesantes que se pueden encontrar hoy en día. Como escribió Paul D. Brazill: “This Is How It Ends es una novela negra de suspense del siglo XXI apasionante, rica, ingeniosa y poderosa que mantendrá su atención”. Maravillosamente escrita y con una caracterización excepcional. la recomiendo encarecidamente.

Mi reseña de Long Way Home, la primera entrega de la serie Zigic y Ferreira, está disponible aquí.

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

Sobre el autor: Eva Dolan fue finalista al Premio Dagger de la CWA para autores noveles cuando era solo una adolescente. Las cuatro novelas de su serie Zigic y Ferreira han sido publicadas con un gran éxito de crítica: Tell No Tales y After You Die fueron finalistas al premio Theakston’s a la mejor novela negra del año y After You Die también fue seleccionada para optar al Premio Gold Dagger de la CWA. Vive en Cambridge. (Fuente: Goodreads)


Thanks to Rob Kitchin who blogs at The View from the Blue House, I found yesterday Bernadette’s obituary, published in The Advertiser on 28/02/2018. And I thought it might be a good idea to reproduce it here, just in case some of her Internet friends would wanted to get to know it.

BEAN, Bernadette. Bernadette left us suddenly on Saturday, February 17, 2018. Beloved daughter of Bill and Maureen, sister of Damien and his wife Karen and doting aunt of Celeste and Alyssa. She also graced and impacted the lives of so many and will be missed by dear friends Trish and Fran. There will be a Celebration of Bernadette’s Life at her home on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 2:00pm. In lieu of flowers Bernadette would appreciate support of the Norwood Public Library.

bbinturkeyI met Bernadette on the blogosphere some eight years ago, shortly after I started blogging and I consider her a friend, even if we have never had the chance to meet each other face to face. I loved her book reviews and I always though she was quite a character, in the best sense of the word. She was a woman of strong convictions, who argued passionately, but always with respect. She was very zealous of her privacy, up to such an extent that few of us got to know her real surname. For many she was Bernadette in Oz (@BSquaredInOz‏) in tweeter and Bernadette Squared (Bsquaredinoz) in Facebook. Our meeting points were her own personal blog  Reactions to Reading and Fair Dinkum Crime, a blog she co-hosted together with another Adelaide-based crime fiction fan Kerrie Smith, who blogs at Mysteries in Paradise.  

I always loved her first profile picture, here attached, because as the saying goes, and image is worth a thousand words.

Rest in peace my dear friend, I’ll always remember you.

Read more about Bernadette:

Vale Bernadette at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist….

A Tip of the Hat to a Revered Blogger at ahsweetmysteryblog

A Sad Loss at Euro Crime

A Tribute to Bernadette in Oz at Fair Dinkum Crime

RIP Bernadette at Reactions to Reading at Clothes in Books

Why’d You Go, Bernadette? at The Rap Sheet

RIP Bernadette Bean, blogger at REACTIONS TO READING by Patricia Abbot (pattinase)

A tribute to Bernadette in Oz at Mrs. Peabody Investigates

A tribute to Bernadette at The View from the Blue House

My latest reads: The Feed, An Anatomy of a Scandal and A Fatal Drug at Crimepieces

Remembering Bernadette Bean at Australian Crime Writers Association

Vale Bernadette Bean by Sulari Gentill

Please let me know if you have written a blog entry about Bernadette and you would like it to be included here.

Read also

2012 AWW Challenge Wrap-up: Crime, Mystery, Thriller and Suspense by bernadetteinoz

Sleuthing and Sexuality by bernadetteinoz

Book Versus Adaptation: A Clubbable Woman – Reginald Hill by Bernadette Bean of Reactions to Reading from Australia

A Crime is Afoot: February 2018 Leisure Reading

leisure_readingFirst, books I read last January, whose reviews I posted later on:

The Case Of The April Fools (1933) by Christopher Bush (#9 in Ludovic Travers) (A)

Have Mercy on Us All, 2001 (Adamsberg #3) by Ferd Vargas (Tran: David Bellos) (A)

Secondly, books I read and reviewed during this month of February 2018:

Maigret’s Doubts, 1958 (Inspector Maigret #52) by Georges Simenon (Trans: Shaun Whiteside) (A+)

Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961, by Curtis Evans (Highly recommended)

Mystery in the Channel, 1931 (Inspector French #7) by Freeman Wills Crofts (A)

Maigret’s Mistake, 1953 (Inspector Maigret #43) by Georges Simenon (Trans: Howard Curtis) (A+)

And finally, books I’ve read or that I’m presently reading whose reviews I’ll be posting soon:

Death Makes a Prophet, 1947 (Superintendent William Meredith #11), by John Bude

This is How it Ends (2018) by Eva Dolan

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, 1940 (Hercule Poirot # 19) by Agatha Christie

Fortunately, the weather forecast for the coming days announces rains, the much needed rains, which will certainly help me finish the readings and reviews I still have  pending. Stay tuned.

Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957)

This entry was intended as a private note, but I thought it might be of interest to some regular or sporadic readers of A Crime is Afoot.

Freeman Wills Crofts, FRSA –Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, (1879 – 1957) was an Anglo-Irish mystery author during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Freeman-Wills-CroftsCrofts was born in Dublin, Ireland. His father, also named Freeman Wills Crofts, was a surgeon-lieutenant in the Army Medical Service, but he died of fever in Honduras before the young Freeman Wills Crofts was born. His mother, née Celia Frances Wise, remarried the Venerable Jonathan Harding, Vicar of Gilford, County Down, and Archdeacon of Dromore, and Crofts was brought up in the Gilford vicarage. He attended Methodist College and Campbell College in Belfast. In 1912 he married Mary Bellas Canning, daughter of the manager of a local bank in Coleraine.

In 1896, at the age of seventeen, Crofts was apprenticed to his maternal uncle, Berkeley Deane Wise, who was chief engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. In 1899 Crofts was appointed Junior Assistant on the construction of the Londonderry and Strabane Extension of the Donegal Railway. In 1900 he became District Engineer at Coleraine for the L.M.S. Northern Counties Committee at a salary of £100 per year. In 1922 Crofts was promoted to Chief Assistant Engineer of the railway, based in Belfast. He lived at ‘Grianon’ in Jordanstown, a quiet village some 6 miles north of Belfast, where it was convenient for Crofts to travel by train each day to the railway’s offices at York Road. Croft continued his engineering career until 1929. In his last task as an engineer, he was commissioned by the Government of Northern Ireland to chair an inquiry into the Bann and Lough Neagh Drainage Scheme.

In 1919, during an absence from work due to a long illness, Crofts wrote his first novel, The Cask (1920), which established him as a new master of detective fiction. Crofts continued to write steadily, producing a book almost every year for thirty years, in addition to a number of short stories and plays.

He is best remembered for his favourite detective, Inspector Joseph French, who was introduced in his fifth book, Inspector French’s Greatest Case (1924). Inspector French always set about unravelling each of the mysteries presented him in a workmanlike, exacting manner – this approach set him apart from most other fictional sleuths.

In 1929, he abandoned his railway engineering career and became a full-time writer. He settled in the village of Blackheath, near Guildford, in Surrey, and a number of his books are set in the Guildford area, including The Hog’s Back Mystery (1933) and Crime at Guildford (1935). Many of his stories have a railway theme, and his particular interest in the apparently unbreakable alibi often focussed on the intricacies of railway timetables. At the end of his life, he and his wife moved to Worthing, Sussex in 1953, where they lived until his death in 1957, the year in which his last book was published.

He was a member, with Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, of the Detection Club which met in Gerrard Street. In 1939 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Crofts was esteemed, not only by his regular readers, but also by his fellow writers of the so-called Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Agatha Christie included parodies of Inspector French alongside Sherlock Holmes and her own Hercule Poirot in Partners in Crime (1929). Raymond Chandler described him as “the soundest builder of them all when he doesn’t get too fancy” (in The Simple Art of Murder). His attention to detail and his concentration on the mechanics of detection makes him the forerunner of the “police procedural” school of crime fiction.

However, it has also given rise to a suggestion of a certain lack of flair – Julian Symons describing him as of “the humdrum school”. This may explain why his name has not remained as familiar as other more colourful and imaginative Golden Age writers, although he had 15 books included in the Penguin Books “green” series of the best detective novels and 36 of his books were in print in paperback in 2000.

Edited from Wikipedia: Freeman Wills Crofts

Note: Freeman Wills Crofts writes exacting mysteries that are incredibly detailed, and Inspector French loves to break unbreakable alibis and chase after obscure technical points. Many are inverted mysteries, rather than whodunnits, so think of them as more police procedurals. Not everyone will enjoy Crofts style, but if you like one, you will probably like most of them! These are very unique mysteries and every fan should at least try one to discover if this is an author they want to read!

Selected bibliography: Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy (1927), The Sea Mystery (1928), Sir John Magill’s Last Journey(1930), Mystery in the Channel (1931), The Hog’s Back Mystery (1933), Mystery on Southampton Water (1934), Crime at Guildford (1935) and The Loss of the “Jane Vosper” (1936) (Source: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery (McFarland & Company Inc. 2012) by Curtis Evans).

Read more about Freeman Wills Crofts at Gadetection

Freeman Wills Crofts by Bassano Ltd half-plate film negative, 13 June 1939. Given by Bassano & Vandyk Studios, 1974. Photographs Collection. NPG x156451.

Licence details at