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Inspector French's Greatest Case

Page history last edited by Jon 12 years, 6 months ago

Crofts, Freeman Wills - Inspector French's Greatest Case (1925)


Inspector French's Greatest Case (1925), the novel that introduces Crofts' series detective French, is a return to the style, if not the quality of The Cask. This book is just plain terrible. It is not in any way offensive, but it is remarkably mediocre. The endless travels around Europe tracking down suspects are pointless and boring, the puzzle plot is nearly non-existent, and the characters are ciphers. French himself comes across as the least interesting sleuth in mystery history. He is a deliberately personalityless character, perhaps intended as a corrective against The Eccentric Sleuth, but one which has gone way too far.


Mike Grost

I wouldn't go as far as Mike. The book is excellent for its period, and it does introduce the first popular and reasonably authentic police detective. We learn more about 'Soapy Joe' French here than in all his other books combined -- about his eldest son, lost in WWI, and his colloquies with his wife when the case grows too difficult. There is a good deal of quiet dogged detection in tracking down the mysterious woman and cracking the stock-exchange cipher. A reasonably good start to a series that improved with time.



I agree here much more with Jon than with Mike. It's perhaps not really Inspector French's "greatest case", but I found plenty in it to puzzle me. And what hasn't been mentioned is that there is also a good surprise ending.


"Endless travels ... pointless and boring": I suggest it's only fair to take this story in the context of 1925, when, like French, the ordinary reader would have regarded a train journey from England to Switzerland and Spain, or from France to Spain and Portugal, as something of an adventure.


"Not in any way offensive": No, indeed. Crofts was so gentle and Christian a man that one would have to be sensitive indeed to be offended by anything he wrote. You may disagree with him — about gambling, say, or capital punishment — but that would be another matter. On the other hand he for his part would certainly have been offended by much that is written today, considering it vulgar or obscene.


Richard Wells 

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