#755: Mystery on Southampton Water, a.k.a. Crime on the Solent (1934) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Mystery on Southampton Water

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For evidence of the restless enthusiasm Freeman Wills Crofts brought to the writing of detective fiction, look no further than the two books he published in 1934. The first — The 12.30 from Croydon, a.k.a. Wilful and Premeditated — was his first inverted mystery, a fairly standard affair in which we are wise to the killer’s reasons, actions, and thoughts from the beginning and which Inspector Joseph French then unpicks quickly in the closing chapters. No doubt Crofts was interested in this new form, but simply repeating a formula which, if we’re honest, gets a little bit long-winded in the closing stages did not appeal. And so changes were wrought for a second stab.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 14: The Island of Coffins (2021) by John Dickson Carr + The 9.50 Up Express (2021) by Freeman Wills Crofts [w’ Tony Medawar]

We’re all prone to speculate at times about how wonderful it would be to discover a previously-unpublished work by a beloved Golden Age author, and for today’s podcast episode Tony Medawar rejoins me to tempt you with two forthcoming collections of hard-to-find material from two of the genre’s titans — John Dickson Carr and Freeman Wills Crofts.

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#724: The 12.30 from Croydon, a.k.a. Wilful and Premeditated (1934) by Freeman Wills Crofts

12.30 from Croydon

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The writing of an inverted mystery must surely bring with it a certain amount of release.  Your typical detective novel, after all, keeps the villain, their motives, their opportunity, and oftentimes their method occluded from the reader whilst ideally also dropping all manner of subtle hints about them, where the inverted mystery — in which we know the criminal and their motivation from the off, see the crime committed, and must then watch the detective figure it out — removes every single one of these difficulties, requiring only the investigation which would have happened in a ‘straight’ novel of detection anyway.

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#701: Death on the Way, a.k.a. Double Death (1932) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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No, I’m not back from hiatus.  But if you think I’m going to let today’s reissue of three more Freeman Wills Crofts novels — Sudden Death (1932), Mystery on Southampton Water (1934), and Crime at Guildford (1935) — pass without comment, you’re mad.  Plus, in my absence WordPress has foisted a new post-writing setup upon us all, and I need some practice because I hate change.  But the world’s a negative enough place right now, so let’s dwell on the exemplary work done by HarperCollins in bringing Crofts back for us to enjoy; some people have been waiting years to be able to afford some of these titles, and it’s a wonderful thing to have them in general circulation.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 8: Uncovering Long-Forgotten Short Stories + Bodies from the Library 3 (2020) ed. Tony Medawar [w’ Tony Medawar]

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Today was due to have been the sixth (sixth!) Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library but, for obvious reasons, it’s not.  I can’t, alas, give you a whole day of GAD-based discussion, but I can at least fill an hour with someone from that line-up of exceptionally knowledgable people, Tony Medawar.

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#688: Sudden Death (1932) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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Today, three previously very hard to find novels by Freeman Wills Crofts are republished by HarperCollins: Death on the Way (1932), The Loss of the ‘Jane Vosper’ (1936), and Man Overboard! (1936).  September will add Mystery on Southampton Water (1934), Crime at Guildford (1935), and Sudden Death (1932) to that, bringing the total of Crofts’ works in ready circulation up to twenty.  I have no idea why they’re being published out of order, and frankly I don’t really care — it’s mainly just delightful to see him getting some traction — and I wanted to celebrate by continuing my broadly chronological reading of Crofts with this, the first of his which ever came to my attention.

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#655: Mystery in the Channel, a.k.a. Mystery in the English Channel (1931) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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Since the British Library’s reissues of The Hog’s Back Mystery (1933) and Antidote to Venom (1938) are what got me reading Freeman Wills Crofts in the first place, it was with some excitement that I, now a fully signed-up Croftian reading his work chronologically, approached another of his titles selected for the BL’s Crime Classics range.  Possibly on account of a certain perturbation at current world events, I’ve been really struggling of late to persevere with books I’ve not been enjoying, so I suspect that a dive into some comfort reading is what’s needed.  And Crofts fits that bill like a glove…if you’ll forgive my, er, mixing of metaphors.

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