Book review: ‘Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy’ by Freeman Wills Crofts

This writer was introduced to me when I expressed an interest in writing crime novels. Freeman Wills Crofts wrote his novels in a previous century. His writing style is antiquated yet charming. No copy-editor would allow me to write such supposedly ‘awkward’ turns of phrase but it is this very writing style and the carefully plotted events with the gradual revelation of the dastardly criminal at work that make this book attractive and certainly well worth reading.

You can easily empathize with the main character, Inspector French, the puzzles he has to unravel and his unease about his own career development in the police force. While reading you also feel that you know and understand the author and his intentions. Inspector often catches specific trains, so it is no surprise that the author was previously an engineer and the ease with which Inspector French moves about the country a refreshing contrast to our train cancellations, strikes and leaves on the line.

This charming tale stems from an old house at Starvel Hollow that is burnt to the ground along with its introverted miserly owner and staff. The story of the missing fortune stashed by the owner and of his much restricted ward and her thwarted love unfolds graciously until we are finally brought to a surprising conclusion.  This book epitomizes my preferences exactly – there’s nothing like a bit of a murder, as long as it is encapsulated in a world of fiction and in this book especially, enchanting fiction at that.

Rosemary Westwell

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