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
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