Sunday, April 12, 2009

Freeman Wills Crofts - question

Unfortunately I haven't read much classic crime fiction other than Dame Agatha so cannot answer the question posed to me by a student about Freeman Wills Croft. She asks:
...have you read a lot of this author, which stories or novels you consider the best, what is the most special about his fiction?
Please do chip in with opinions and suggestions in the comments.


Martin Edwards said...

I'm not an expert on Crofts, though I do have a number of his books on my TBR pile, but his first book, The Cask, was much admired. And Sir John Magill's Last Journey, and Inspector French's Greatest Case, also have their fans. Crofts specialised in breaking down seemingly unbreakable alibis.

Uriah Robinson said...

I have only read one Freeman Wills Croft; Inspector French's Greatest Case. I posted about it at

He made his hero a policeman at a time when most detectives were rich amateurs, and he was the master of the complicated railway timetable alibi.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Well, somebody has to recommend Crofts' The 12:30 from Croydon (1934), so let it be me. More on that novel here:


vegetableduck said...

I personally feel his best work dates from about 1928 to 1936. Before that, his work has some to me quite distracting, leaden Victorian-style melodrama. Crofts is at his best when concentrating on plots over people. What I call travelogue interludes are another thing to watch out for with Crofts: he loved travel and when his detectives go abroad he tends to give readers guided lecture tours. Watch out when French goes to France, for example! Many of the books from 28-36 have good plots with a bit more modern writing. After that period, I think he loses plotting ingenuity and starts to fall back more on characters. Sayers could do this, Crofts couldn't.

My personal favorites by Crofts:

The Sea Mystery, The Box Office Murders (a "thriller"), Sir John Magill's Last Journey, Death on the Way, The Hog's Back Mystery, Mystery at Souhthampton Water, Crime at Guildford, The Loss of the Jane Vosper.

Some of the earlier ones have some appealing plotting ingenuity if you can abide what I find to be period faults. Tastes on such matters differ.

Magill and Hog's Back are very alibi-intensive, which most people don't seem to like these days, but many found them fascinating back then and Crofts for a while was considered by many to be one of the great detective novelists.

12.30 from Croydon, an inverted, is one his most admired books, but, again, there's more about human relationships in there and I never find Crofts convincing on that subject!