#417: The Ponson Case (1921) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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Freeman Wills Crofts’ second novel The Ponson Case (1921) recently enjoyed a reissue thanks to the superlative efforts of HarperCollins and their revived Detective Club imprint.  Nevertheless, I’m not passing up the opportunity to flaunt my pristine House of Stratus edition, with a cover so fabulous that it was recently reused for Martin Edwards’ genre-sweeping study The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (2017).  Since Crofts himself spoiled his debut The Cask (1920) in The Sea Mystery (1928), I’m skipping that for now but shall otherwise read him chronologically until I run out of books, and hope HarperCollins seize the chance for a full reprint in the meantime…

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#400: The Rynox Mystery (1930) by Philip MacDonald

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Well, who’d’ve thought it, eh?  Philip MacDonald first featured in my reading life in 1-star ignominy, and here he is not just beating all-comers to feature my 400th blog post, but doing so with a book that I — against my better judgement, nature, and previous standards — unabashedly loved with every fibre of my being.  Quite the turnaround, and part of why I persevere with intially-disappointing authors.  Just to clear something up from the off: no, I would not classify this as an impossible crime, despite its inclusion on the Ronald Lacourbe list being what brought it to my attention in the first place, but that’s hardly the first time this has happened….

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#388: Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery (1926) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive into another complex alibi problem so soon after Cut Throat (1932) by Christopher Bush.  But if anyone can convince me of the joys of alibi-breaking it’s Freeman Wills Crofts, and so off I went in hope of some fiendish minutiae to get the brain cogitating with possibilities.  As it happens, I need not have worried — there is no complex alibi-breaking here.  Sure, there’s a grand mix of ratiocination and weighing the odds on the way to intelligent deductive work, but this is decidedly a ‘wrong man on the run’-style thriller before it’s a novel of routine.  Were pithiness my forte, I’d probably make an ‘Alfred Hitchcrofts’ reference.

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#374: Spoiler Warning 6 – Invisible Weapons (1938) by John Rhode

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Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to talk about the 1938 impossible crime novel Invisible Weapons by John Rhode, one of the many noms de plume of Cecil John Charles Street.  We — and by “we” I mean myself and Aidan, who blogs at a frankly prodigious rate over at Mysteries Ahoy! — shall be doing this with many and much spoilers, and from this point on will give away, like, everything.

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#328: Sir John Magill’s Last Journey (1930) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Sir John Magill's Last JourneyThis 2017 HarperCollins reprint — under the title Inspector French and Sir John Magill’s Last Journey — is 309 pages long and took me, almost to the hour, two full weeks to read.  Ordinarily this would be the sign of a very bad book indeed, but, with the end of term and then Christmas to negotiate, had it been any less good — honestly, now — I probably wouldn’t have finished it.  The fractured, disrupted natured of such a reading experience requires the mind to keep plot details fresh while also contending with the busiest time of a busy year, and the clarity amidst complexity of Crofts’ plotting here is joy unconfined to my puzzle-fixated mind.  And with the Nativity headed back into its box, here’s why.

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#321: The Maze, a.k.a. Persons Unknown (1932) by Philip MacDonald

The Maze Much like in one of those hilarious romantic comedies from the early 2000s starring Ben Stiller or Jennifer Lopez, Philip MacDonald and I got off to a rocky start that seemed to be improving, on the way to falling lovingly into each other’s arms by the end credits.  It began badly with X v. Rex (1933), showed signs of improvement with Murder Gone Mad (1931), and so by now we’re at the montage stage — I’m the aggressive go-getter, he won’t compromise where his family’s concerned…how can two such different souls ever hope to find common ground?  Can’t I see that his brand of innovation is made for me?  Won’t he just do the decent thing and write a novel of detection with actual clues?  Hairy Aaron, we’re so stubborn…

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