Review : The Hog ‘ s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts ( British Library Crime Classics #3 )

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads ) :

Dr . James Earle and his wife live in comfortable seclusion near the Hog’s Back , a ridge in the North Downs in the beautiful Surrey countryside . When Dr . Earle disappears from his cottage , Inspector French is called in to investigate . At first he suspects a simple domestic intrigue – and begins to uncover a web of romantic entanglements beneath the couple’s peaceful rural life .
The case soon takes a more complex turn . Other people vanish mysteriously, one of Dr . Earle’s house guests among them . What is the explanation for the disappearances ? If the missing people have been murdered , what can be the motive ? This fiendishly complicated puzzle is one that only Inspector French can solve .
Freeman Wills Crofts was a master of the intricately and ingeniously plotted detective novel , and The Hog’s Back Mystery shows him at the height of his powers .

This new edition of a classic mystery is introduced by the crime fiction expert Martin Edwards .

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Freeman Wills Crofts ‘ read . I picked up this one because I had read that he had been described as ” the soundest builder of them all ” . The chief complaint of several modern reviewers seems to be that the prose could have had some better editing . So , I went into this one determined to like this one – I know this sounds absurd but having read enough suspense trash , I just wanted a decent suspense read with a competent investigator at the helm and an author who plays fair by his or her readers . After reading some of the recent ” suspense ” or ” psychological thriller ” offerings where the story – telling cheats the poor reader to keep turning the pages expecting for something to happen only to find the final third that the book had NOTHING to recommend it as a suspense – no strong motive for the increasing bloody and slasher style crimes , no believable line – up of suspects and most importantly , no deduction to speak of ( or should it be that the author has no idea how to drop the clues that even the lead investigator is clueless and keeps running around ) , I had no great expectations as to Crofts ‘ story – telling abilities but I was looking for a solidly plotted mystery and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed . The man ‘ s solid plotting means that not a minute is unaccounted for ( literally !!!) and the reader is played fair regarding the clues and the narrative is pretty decent .

While Inspector French going over the minutiae repeatedly while taking us through his thought processes during the formulation of his theories can become a tad tedious , still managing to keep the reader guessing till the reveal is a feat by itself . The SOLID motives abound and the line – up of suspects is pretty good . I could excuse Inspector French ‘ s monologues mentally patting himself for his systematic approach to the problem when he gets too pleased with himself after a big break because he doesn ‘ t have a Dr . Watson or Capt . Hastings who would do that for him . With Inspector French , Freeman introduces a detective who is a refreshing change from the egotistic and eccentric eternally single detective(s) who often inhabit a bubble which is void of any human emotions – Inspector French is happily married and most importantly , when Inspector French presents his deductions , we know the thought processes which had led to that final conclusion – it is never so easy as Holmes or Poirot make it out to be ( but it should be mentioned that this does not work in favor of Inspector French ) . One aspect of this work which has NOT aged well is it ‘ s over – reliance on time – tables and alibi verification using ” X takes Y minutes to travel the distance of Z miles in car ” calculations . In this day and age , one cannot simply buy this – even without the traffic , trains running behind schedule and other modern day woes Inspector French ‘ s methods might not have helped much say if he were to work in a village like St . Mary Mead where everyone knows everybody else ‘ s business and frequently neighbors would stop by each other ‘ s house for an impromptu chit – chat . However it should be noted here that these kind of alibi verifications would work for the setting presented in this story . . .

Despite guessing one of the perpetrators about two – thirds into the novel , the climax had a few surprises for me – on the whole this book is a timely reminder why one can trust a Golden Age mystery to keep the reader guessing and rather than the some of the modern ” psychological thrillers ” . . . If you have an interesting recommendations from the recent releases , do share in the comments section . . .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

If you have already read the book , you can say in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . Until the next review then . . .

Review : Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

I love it when the post – Sherlock fictional detectives try to break off from the cerebral & egotistic tendencies which seem to have become a must have to qualify as an astute private eye . Still I was not prepared for someone like Kaga . He is not the super detective who creates a huge stir on his entrance – his interactions & investigations are too low key that he almost becomes yet another one in the host of characters ( !!! ) . There are no dramatic denouements or Holmesian / Herculean style dramatics with the discovery of some significant clue and yet Keigo manages to keep the reader turning the pages fast with yet another piece of the puzzle falling into place at the end of every section . In short , Kaga might be a wonder in the detective universe . . .