First published in 1925 Inspector French’s Greatest Case was written by Freeman Wills Crofts. He was one of the novelists who made the time between the world wars the “Golden Age” of mystery writing. I have to admit I had never heard of him until recently when I developed more of an interest in that time period.
Inspector French’s Greatest Case was his introduction of Crofts’ most famous detective. The novel is tightly and intricately plotted. It plays fair, but includes surprises and unexpected twists. It reminded me of the rigors of international travel in the 1920s.
I was also struck by the differences between depictions of the social classes. Crofts used members of the working class to introduce elements of humor to relieve the tension of French’s dogged pursuit of the criminals. Constables and sergeants lacked the quick intelligence of the inspector. The author contrasted their plodding style of investigation with the rapid response of the main character to new clues. I admit I may be noticing it more in this novel since I have been reading Golden Age mysteries.
Inspector French liked members of the lower ranks of the police. He did not embarrass them or hold them up for ridicule. He was described as a kind person. Evidently the author wrote for an educated audience who shared his mind set about class differences.
It makes me wonder what future readers will say about popular literature of today.
Pardon the aside.
I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and I recommend it. The author was able to add interest and color to what in less skilled hands would have been lengthy accounts of what clues did not did not help the investigation. He was able to show the failures and successes that added up to a successful result.