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Mystery on Southampton Water

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 1 month ago

Crofts, Freeman Wills - Mystery on Southampton Water (1934)


A classic Crofts, featuring Joseph French - now Chief Inspector -- as busy as a bee and as unrepentantly colourless as ever. Buses, trains and launches all feature in this carefully constructed tale of death and detection on the narrow stretch of water separating southern England from the Isle of Wight.


Joymount Cement Works is in trouble. Their customers are defecting to the new cement supplied by the Chayle works on the Isle of Wight. It's better -- and cheaper. Their own attempts to duplicate the new formula come to naught, and so the chief scientist, King, decides to break into the Chayle works and see what he can find. Taking along Brand, a Joymount director, he plans and executes a skilful raid; but lacking keys to the office, he is unable to secure what he needs.


The felonies multiply; having obtained the keys through a trick, King and Brand return to the Chayle works but are surprised by the watchman, Clay. By an unlucky accident, Clay meets his demise; but the resourceful King sees a way to avoid suspicion by making it look like suicide. An elaborate plan is carried out, and by the end of the following day the two young men are assured of their safety.


Enter Chief Inspector French, who doggedly commences to pick holes in the plan. He soon demolishes the suicide theory; but though he has his suspicions the case bogs down through lack of evidence.


The two Chayle directors, Mairs and de Haviland, have suspicions too, and decide to try a little blackmail. Joymount, it appears, is over a barrel; but an explosion in their launch kills both Mairs and de Haviland, and once again the Joymount crew appear to be safe. Their safety is short-lived, though; French triumphantly reels in the loose ends of the case and ties them in a most conclusive knot.


Mystery on Southampton Water has no romance, no hysteria, very little violence and no domestic scenes whatsoever. The hero has no visible family, friends or pets, and no distinguishing characteristics except a mild fondness for boating. The only drama in the book comes from the steadily tightening noose of detection. And it's brilliant.


This is detective fiction as it ought to be written.



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