The Cask (Detective Club Crime Classics) ハードカバー – 2016/9/8
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From the Collins Crime Club archive, the seminal first novel by Freeman Wills Crofts, once dubbed `The King of Detective Story Writers' and recognised as one of the `big four' Golden Age crime authors. The unloading of a consignment of French wine from the steamship Bullfinch is interrupted by a gruesome discovery in a broken cask leaking sawdust and gold sovereigns. But when the shipping clerk returns with the police, the cask and its macabre contents have gone. Following the clues to Paris, Inspector Burnley of Scotland Yard enlists the help of the genial French detective M. Lefarge to check motives and alibis in their hunt for evidence of a particularly fiendish murder. This Detective Story Club classic is introduced by Freeman Wills Crofts himself in a unique preface from 1946 about The Cask's origins.
`The soundest builder of them all.' Raymond Chandler 'Deservedly a first favourite with all who want a real puzzle.' Times Literary Supplement `Probably unsurpassed in ingenuity.' The Queen商品の説明をすべて表示する
Crofts was an Irish railroad engineer and was successful and respected in his profession. But when he was 30 a severe illness forced him to be idle for an extended period and he wrote this book. It's rough in places and could use some chopping, but it's an impressive first book. Although it's not considered his best, it was popular enough to encourage him to keep writing and in less than ten years he was able to quit his day job and become a full-time author.
Like many of Croft's books, this one relies heavily on his knowledge of the railway industry and the reader must be prepared to pay strict attention to railroad time-tables and how they affect alibis. Low-key, but intelligent Inspector Burnley of Scotland Yard is the forerunner of Croft's Inspector French who's featured in his later, more famous books. It's the grand-daddy of police proceedurals, and shows the patient, often tedious work of the professionals who investigate murders for a living and who must provide not just the guilty party, but enough evidence to get a conviction.
Like Agatha Christie, Crofts left romance and character development to others. He constructed his elaborate plots like the pains-taking engineer that he was. If you like a good puzzle, you'll like this one. And if you're patient and give it a chance, there's some real excitement toward the end when a resourceful detective finally cracks the case. Crofts knew that there are few men more dangerous than a cornered murderer. They can only hang you once!
Crofts was a railroad engineer by profession, and railroad schedules tend to play an important role in his plots. He was clearly a detail man, and his ability to catalog and manipulate the details of this case is mind boggling. I was unable to keep it all straight. Ultimately I decided it didn't matter.
It's clear from the cover that he plot concerns a body in a cask. There's enough drama in this to capture the imagination. The murder happened either in France or England. So we get to observe the friendly partnership between a Scotland Yard detective and a French police detective.
The story falls into two sections. First the detectives track down every piece of evidence, check alibis with meticulous care, and make an arrest. Then the defense goes to work in the hope of proving them wrong. I found the first part tedious at times, but I really liked the second part, which was more tightly written.
Although The Cask is not quite as polished as Crofts' later books, it establishes his style, and fans of Golden Age Crime fiction should find it worth reading. The books in this series (Collins Crime Club Classics) are beautifully produced with vintage book jackets. They are a pleasure to hold in the hand and to own.
The author gives a very good detailed report of the analysis techniques used by the police to solve crimes in those days before web cameras, DNA, etc. The novel is about a murder that is examined by two Scotland Yard and Sûreté detectives who shared the investigation. There were so many twists and turns of the investigation that I was tempted draw line and block charts of the leads obtained and the results found. I do not recommend this and thankfully I did not do this. It would just consume too much time. I have read a lot of old murder mysteries like this but none had so many leads and red herrings as this one. The novel seems to drag on and on with the tedious work employed by both sleuths but I think most readers will persevere just to see how it ends. The end does come quickly but that is all I want say for fear of giving a “spoiler” to this outstanding novel.
One always appreciates a good mystery novel that has some added dimesionsion--for me that is when you learn something besides who did it.
The late Freeman Wills Crofts intrigued and informed in a novel which I was glad I read. It's up there with the best.
While the plot is complicated, it's reasonably credible. The detection is occasionally weak, with questions unasked that should be obvious, statements accepted that should require some corroboration even if not given by a suspected cold-blooded killer, and inconsistencies overlooked. But overall, a satisfying story mounting to a suspenseful conclusion.