#590: Mystery at Olympia, a.k.a. Murder at the Motor Show (1935) by John Rhode

Mystery at Olympiastar filledstar filledstar filledstarsstars
While Freeman Wills Crofts’ work has caused me much delight over the last few years, that of his fellow ‘Humdrum’ John Rhode/Miles Burton doesn’t inspire in me quite the same raptures.  Rhode (as I’ll call him here) writes swift, events-focussed novels, and constructs plots with the same deliberation and consideration from multiple sides…so maybe it’s that his plots always feel like a single idea with some people bolted onto it.  Here as in Death Leaves No Card (1944) or Invisible Weapons (1938) I come away with the impression that he read about a single obscure murder method and thought “Yeah, I can get 60,000 words out of that”.

Continue reading

#584: Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy (1927) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Starvel Hollow Tragedystar filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filled
As his seventh published novel, Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy (1927) shows Freeman Wills Crofts again subtly altering his approach to take us through the minutiae of crime and detection, introducing a structural change which addresses the issue of “whodunnit” that these early GAD trendsetters sometimes struggled with.  While you may well be aware of the guilty party from about chapter 4, rest assured that Inspector Joseph French eventually cottons onto his target at around the halfway stage, and the final third of the book is then devoted to tracing the criminal.  And a lot of fun is to be had along the way.

Continue reading

#569: A Killing Kindness (1980) by Reginald Hill

Killing Kindnessstar filledstar filledstarsstarsstars
At some point in the 1980s, Britain started pumping out crime fiction by authors who literary darlings could feel smug about admitting they slum it with: Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and today’s experiment, Reginald Hill, among others — authors I’ve sampled here and there and who generally leave me cold.  My precise objection to them is difficult to pin down, but they seem to me to be forcing upon the genre a staid acceptability it neither needed nor flourishes under, and that’s something I can’t get further into without reading more of it…and, well, I’m reluctant to do that.  A Killing Kindness (1980) perfectly exemplifies why.

Continue reading

#560: Inspector French’s Greatest Case (1924) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Inspector French's Greatest Casestar filledstar filledstar filledstarsstars
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.  After a debut that laid the cornerstone of a new genre and three succeeding works exploring the principles of that genre from varying perspectives, now begins Freeman Wills Crofts’ 30-novel (plus however-many short stories) relationship with Inspector Joseph French.  At this stage it’s difficult to judge how French differs from his antecedents Burnley, Lafarge, Tanner, Willis, Vandam, and Ross, but I guess we’ll never know whether French was ever initially conceived as more than a one-book man like those others.  The title certainly suggests so, but history shows otherwise.

Continue reading