When a man’s mutilated body is found in a railway tunnel in Middeldorp South Africa, it is assumed to be an unfortunate accident, or possibly suicide. Identified as Albert Smith, his movements prior to death are traced to a shed in Groote Park where Inspector Vandam uncovers evidence that points to murder. Vandam’s investigation results in the arrest of Stewart Crawley, a trial, and an acquittal. Then when everyone, including his fiancé Marion Hope, turn their backs on him, with nowhere to turn, Crawley vanishes from town.
Events then shift to Scotland two years later. Crawley’s chance encounter with Marion rekindles their relationship. And then, a former acquaintance from Middeldorp claims to have information that may prove his innocence. On the brink of discovering new evidence, Crawley is attacked and left for dead, in much the same way as Albert Smith had been.
Okay…there’s much too much that goes on from here for me to continue without spoilers. Just know that this is a story of two separate investigations, separated by years and miles, but tied together by Smith and Crawley. And it’s all tied together by Crofts style of writing and his extraordinarily detailed plots. Vandam, in South Africa, and Inspector Ross in Scotland, are meticulous in following leads, and eliminating suspects. And of course this would not be Crofts without timetables and false alibis.
All that detail may seem useless and boring, but Crofts is very good at keeping you interested. I will admit that the first half, set in South Africa, after a very promising start, became a bit monotonous. It is all about gathering facts, and only the beginning and latter portions have any true action. But it is the second half which grabbed my attention. Once the story moves to Scotland, events occur in rapid succession. From Marion racing across Scotland to find Crawley, to Ross following a suspect like a bloodhound, it felt like one chase after another. And the end, with its unexpected twist, came as a complete surprise.
So yes, this is a book of two halves and you may feel a bit let down by the first half, but don’t give up on it too early! It may not be top level Crofts, but this book is well worth reading,
My Judgment – 3.75/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – Vintage Mystery Challenge 2013 – Scattergories – #7 World Traveler: one mystery set in any country except the US or Britain (South Africa)
Murder Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge – Crime scene: Park
Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – February #9: Couple/romance/love triangle major role