Inspector French and the Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts (1928)

The fishing wasn’t good off Burry Port. It’s so bad that all a man and his son caught was a waterlogged crate which they decide to float onto the beach. Inside is a decomposing body of a man. He has obviously been murdered, the face battered and any means of identification removed. It will take a lot of resourcefulness for Inspector French’s to solve this one.

I love a good Inspector French, and his Sea Mystery investigation definitely hit the spot. This is pure police procedural. Call it plodding, call it humdrum, call it whatever you like, it is still brilliant. Working with little to no information, French ingeniously reverse engineers the crime in order to find the culprit. Analyzing one clue at a time, formulating a theory regarding its significance in the crime, then ticking off problems by thoroughly testing each hypothesis. French inks one clue to the next until he has a chain of evidence in which to wrap his suspect. 

Crofts’ plotting is beautiful. By gradually doling out clues, and inserting a red herring or two along the way, he not only enables the reader to play along, but builds up a fair amount of suspense and morphs the case into something quite different from what the reader expected when that crate is pulled from the water. 

An absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable procedural, with a complex mystery that leaves you guessing to the end.

My Judgment – 4.5/5

Prior Rulings – The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, JJ @ The Invisible Event, Nick @ The Grandest Game, Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories – #18 Murder on the High Seas

Calendar of Crime – November #6 Original publication month

4 thoughts on “Inspector French and the Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts (1928)

  1. I love this one — when French had only a naked body and a plain crate with three holes drilled it to go on, and Crofts turned that into a forensically amazing recreation of the crime, I fell in love with this author and have never looked back. Delighted to see someone else seeing the joy of Crofts’ meticulous plotting, it’s wonderful to have these back in print so that another bunch of us get to enjoy them. And more are on the way soon…!

    1. My appreciation for Croft’s skill grows with each book. But it seems that the FWC Appreciation Society is a small one though, since it’s so hard to find copies of the books (outside of the reprints that is), especially here in the US.

      1. Well, he’s not been in print from 20-some years, the last time being the House of Stratus editions from the early 2000s…and everyone who has those is either a) hoarding them lovingly or b) selling them online for vastly inflated prices.

        Still, of his 37 books, 20 are ether currently in print or about to be so in the next couple of months, so it’s to be hoped that he gets coverage, they sell, and more reprints follow. Just be thankful that he doesn’t seem to be caught up in a hideously complex rights fandango like Carr!

  2. Pingback: My Book Notes: Inspector French and the Sea Mystery, 1928 (Inspector French # 4) by Freeman Wills Crofts – A Crime is Afoot

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