Sir John Magill’s Last Journey by Freeman Wills Crofts (1930)

When Inspector French meets with Detective Sergeant M’Clung to be briefed on the investigation into the disappearance of Sir John Magill, he has no idea just how complicated the case will become. Seven years previous, Sir John quit Belfast for a retirement in London, leaving his very profitable linen business to his son Malcolm. A meeting in Belfast to discuss the plans for an invention that will revolutionize the linen industry drew him back. Sir John was to meet Malcolm after this meeting, but never turned up. And when Sir John’s bloody hat is found along a roadway the police begin to suspect the worst. The Royal Ulster Constabulary is convinced the answer lies in London, but French has other ideas.

Croft knows how to write a mystery and this is a great example of everything he is so good at. It’s an ingenious puzzle, that can only be solved with routine, detailed police work. The emphasis is on the gathering of facts and evidence. And as usual, no fact or statement is taken at face value. Everything is evaluated, and re-evaluated for weaknesses. Witnesses are questioned, and re-questioned, sometimes in an attempt to jog their memory, sometimes to trip them up. 

The investigation takes place across England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, involving multiple trips by train and boat. This gives French the opportunity to pore over maps, making calculations of speeds, times and chronologies. Yes, I know, sounds like dull work doesn’t it? But Crofts has a talent for conveying French’s enthusiasm for it. And it also gives Crofts the opportunity to indulge in something else he is good at—as French treks across Scotland and Northern Ireland, through Crofts beautiful descriptions of the passing countryside, we are right there with him.

“…it was the colouring that appealed to him, the dark greens of grass and leaves, shaded here and there to greys and russets, the golden browns of heather and bracken, the darker tints of rock, turning almost to black at the base of the cliffs, the thin blue of the sky and the steel grey of the water, all there were presented with the soft tones of the western atmosphere. Then out into the open sea, with the sugar loaf of Ailsa Craig standing blue and sharp on the northern horizon and the Irish coast a faint line right ahead.”

It’s a pleasure to travel along with French, wherever Crofts decides to take him.

My Judgment –  4/5

Previous Rulings – JJ @ The Invisible Event, Nick @ The Grandest Game in the WorldMike Grost’s Website,  

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza –  2012 – Vintage Themes Cherchez l’Homme – Book 8 of 8 with male detectives. Challenge complete!!!

Calendar of Crime – July #7 Book title has word starting with “J.”

4 thoughts on “Sir John Magill’s Last Journey by Freeman Wills Crofts (1930)

  1. The complexity of this one was pretty staggering — and it’s so brilliantly managed, and so ingeniously put together. It was the first book Crofts published after giving up working as an engineer to concentrate full time on writing, and it fully justifies that decision in my opinion.

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