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Inspector French: Sir John Magill's Last Journey - Freeman Wills Crofts

there are a lot of place names--cities and towns--to keep track of here. Crofts is not shy about having suspects and witnesses being spread all over the place--often in motion, and needing to account for boarding a train here, making a weird pit-stop there, proceeding on to place number three, detouring unexpectedly yet again...to say nothing of maybe finally being caught in a lie, and really being in two different places on the night of the murder! apply that sort of whirlwind tour of, in this case, Northern Ireland, points nearby in England, and even into Scotland, to a group of scattered characters, and I'm glad there's a map. Inspector French has been a busy little bee, on this case.


I'm following it all, and I kind of enjoy these trails and detours French has to make on cases like this--but yes, Crofts may not be for everyone, especially if you don't like a novel that glues the reader to the detective more than most; the beginning of an Inspector French novel may have scenes and drama, and even a bit of humor burbling out of the mouths of folks who will soon be snarled up in a murder investigation (although this book basically attaches the reader to Inspector French with the first paragraph), but the plot is very one-track-minded in terms of presenting the whodunit purely as a tricky trail the detective must follow to the end. it's a bit limiting, if you prefer suddenly being at a garden party, or watching a romance subplot blossoming, or just taking a break from scenes that don't involve police doing their jobs. it kind of reminds me of TV shows--very successful ones, mind you--from Columbo, to Law & Order, that basically rely on the same techniqiue: you will get some character traits of the detectives, they will be made human enough...but once Columbo shows up, or once the cops and lawyers start doing interviews around a big city and then wind up in a courtroom, it's all very linear. I think these Inspector French novels are the precursor to "when in doubt, follow the cops and let the case unravel through their eyes with the audience piggybacking along".


I don't regret not having another Freeman Wills Crofts novel handy--his bag of tricks is very familiar to me now--but I have enjoyed seeing how different his approach is compared to authors (you know who the Queens of Crime are!) who have, probably for understandable reasons--like keeping the lens wider so that it allows for a better look at more-fully realized characters, and cop-free scenes that remind us more of our own regular lives--remained vastly more popular than Crofts.


and I did read, plus think very highly of, Antidote to Venom--Crofts' intriguing version of breaking away from his own formula. that was cool.