Mystery In The Channel by Freeman Wills Crofts

The Nymph, a small yacht, lies bobbing about in the English Channel when the Chichester comes across it. When what seems to be a body is spotted on the deck, the yacht is boarded and a second body is discovered below deck. Both of the victims have been shot but there is no sign of the gun. But why would someone kill people in such a location? And where did the killer go?

Soon it is discovered that both the victims were partners in a major financial company, a company whose coffers are now empty, leading to a potential financial crisis. Inspector French is on the case, on the hunt for the third missing partner who was also expected to be on the yacht. But a surprising discovery leads to French discovering that there is far more to the case than he ever expected.

I can review this pretty quickly – a good thing as there are seven more holiday reads to go. Basically if you liked The Sea Mystery (which you really should read, by the way) then you’ll like this one. Because structurally, at least, these are very similar tales. In here review of The 12:30 From Croydon, Sayers praised Crofts attempt to break away from his formula. Well, here is his formula in full effect and he’s very good at it.

Basically, once the crime set-up is over – and there’s a nice touch with one of the ship’s crew providing the point of view, almost so that you hope he’s going to be the sleuth – French takes over and we follow the investigation from suspect to suspect. It sounds like it’s going to be a little on the dull side – I’ll be honest, that was my assumption before trying Crofts – but his style of writing pulls the reader along and there are some interesting twists along the way, with a strong finale. The harsh critic will point out that the crucial clue is left verrrry late in the day, but it’s not really that sort of mystery.

Anyway, this is another strong book from Crofts. I’m looking forward to taking a look at some of his titles where he moves away from the formula, but in the meantime, this is Highly Recommended.

For more on Crofts, do check out Masters Of The Humdrum Mystery by Curtis Evans.

7 comments

  1. The four Inspector French mysteries published in the British Library Crime Classics series are definitely better than the six published as Collins Crime Club paperbacks. Mystery in the Channel is textbook Crofts, and doesn’t contain an element that I feel maybe a reason why his work fell out of favour.

    In terms of his inverted mysteries, I would rate “Antidote to Venom” ahead of “The 12:30 from Croydon”, but I wouldn’t want to say why for fear of spoilers.

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    • Thanks. It’s interesting that Collins Crime Club seems to have the rights to the first ten Crofts (six French, four others, including the dreadful Pit-Prop Syndicate). I enjoyed The Sea Mystery as much as this one, probably because they are so similar in structure, but I’m wary of Hog’s Back due to the railway timetables mentioned in some reviews. I’ll take a look at Antidote To Venom next time I look at Crofts.

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  2. This goes on the TBR pile but I must say … when I went to Golden Age School headmaster Symons was very insistent. I wrote 100 Times on the blackboard, No humdrums!

    His book has had an enormous effect on what I chose to read, and I think it’s a wonderful book, even if I often didn’t agree with him. It will feel a bit like lèse-majesté to actually read a Crofts.

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    • So I read it. It’s good humdrum but it’s still humdrum. As I mentioned to JJ, if you like this you should look into some of Rendell’s Wexford books. They feel to me like humdrums, but with stronger characters and crisper writing.

      3/5 for Channel from me, and an apology to the ghost of Julian Symons for doubting him! 😉

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