The Hogs Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts

Published by Poison Pen Press for British Library Crime Classics
Trade PaperbackISBN: 9781464203817       336 Pages
eBook: ISBN 9781464203824
Genre: Mystery
Copyright 1933 and 2015 Estate of Freeman Wills Crofts

My source: Netgalley


  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..
A wonderful solid mystery! I love how Inspector French is so methodical, going over the points  of the case and clues in order, numerous times! His tenaciousness and need to make lists and tick off the boxes. It’s how I operate most times and I can really identify with him. Freeman Wills Crofts certainly plays fair, giving us mountains of clues and going over them numerous times and even listing the page numbers they are on towards the end when French is going over the whole case with his colleagues. Lots of solid suspects. I did figure it out,mostly, just not who the accomplish was or the completely how of it. Very satisfying read indeed!
A little bit of humor thrown in was nice touch to break up all the methodical thinking…
Asking to speak to the head engineer on a construction project, when French is introduced…
 ‘The engineer smiled when he read it. “what you want is an international conference,” he declared. “my name’s English and my assistant’s here is Welsh. Unfortunately this other gentleman is Bradbury and not Scott, as would be seemly.”  
“That’s a pity,” French returned. “We have a sergeant at the yard called German, and we get ragged. They call us ‘The Foreigners’ and pretend we can’t understand English.’
If you like Wills Crofts or any vintage mysteries you will for sure want to read this one! Thank you Poison Pen for bringing these vintage mysteries back to us here in America! The covers are gorgeous!
You can purchase this book at:

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The Pit Prop Syndicate by Freeman Wills Crofts

  from the back of book:

‘It seemed an innocent enough puzzle at first, a truck with one number plate when first seen, but another when seen a few hours later.  But Seymour Merriman and his friend, Claud Hilliard, soon become convinced that the Pit-Prop Syndicate is a front for some sort of illegal activity.  They just can’t figure out the what or how.  But when one of the members of the syndicate is found murdered in a taxi, it becomes a matter for the professional detectives of Scotland Yard who must solve the secret of The Pit-Prop Syndicate!’

This book was published in 1922.

This is a mystery/thriller book. The main premise is figuring out the ‘puzzle’ of the number plate change and what the Syndicate is up to. The murder is thrown in at the half-way mark almost as an aside. The Syndicate is building and shipping pit props for mines in a remote section of forest in France and shipping them out via boat. We move on from there to England, where the boat delivers the props and picks up illegal cargo. Very technical and drawn out. Detail, detail, detail.

The first half of the book you have boating details, the two friends take a boating holiday as a cover to ‘stop’ by the sawmill and snoop around. Merriman of course falls in love immediately with the ‘owner’s’ daughter and thus has to rescue her from whatever is going on. We spend what seems like hours discussing what they could be doing, how they could be doing it, and who could be doing it as well as descriptions of how they tie up to the wharf, what kinds of trees are along the river, the description of Hilliard’s boat from top to bottom. Of course the two friends spy on the operation and put themselves in much danger without going to the police to save Madeline, until the murder.

Now we have Scotland Yard investigating and more details, details, details! How the inspector hides and finds a secret phone line, the odd movings and lights going off and on at night on board. Descriptions in detail of all the out buildings and more theories and how to’s. Trains come into play towards the end of the book and the climax and chase to catch the murderer at last. Details of train cars, schedules, etc.  Lots of further-mores, secondlys and third points. The ‘facts’ of the case are laid out for us in detail at least 4 times!

Very intricate and well laid out plot with lots of mechanical ingenuity if you like that kind of thing, but very slow. Could have all been said in a novella instead of a novel. Not a lot of character development as the spotlight was on the mechanics of the story.

To quote a line from the book… reading this “the afternoon dragged slowly but not unpleasantly away,”. Hoping the next Crofts book I have lined up to read is a bit more intriguing!