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Freeman Wills Crofts Biography

(1879–1957), The Cask, Inspector French's Greatest Case, Sir John Magill's Last Journey

french railway inspector death

British detective novelist, born in Dublin; he worked for a Northern Irish railway company as an engineer until 1929. His first book, The Cask (1920), is perhaps his masterpiece, but his best-known character is Inspector Joseph French, who appears in all his novels from Inspector French's Greatest Case (1925) onwards. Middle-aged and avuncular, French achieves his results through dogged persistence, rather than brilliant feats of deduction, and became the model for a number of similar fictional policemen. Though the writing is pedestrian, Crofts's plots are complex and solid— Raymond Chandler called him ‘the soundest builder of them all’—and often turn on the cunning manipulation of a railway timetable, as in Sir John Magill's Last Journey (1930). Also to be recommended are The Sea Mystery (1928), Death on the Way (1932; US title Double Death), and The Loss of the ‘Jane Vosper’ (1936).

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