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Inspector French's Greatest Case by Freeman…
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Inspector French's Greatest Case (1924)

by Freeman Wills Crofts

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This is Inspector French’s debut mystery story, written in 1925 or so. French investigates a robbery and murder of a diamond merchant in London’s Hatton Garden. His investigation takes him all around London and also to Europe: Switzerland, Spain, France and Portugal. The exciting capture of the villain takes place in Oporto, Portugal. So in addition to the whodunit, there’s also the adventure of train and ship travel to entertain the reader.

French is the narrator and star of the story. He has no “sidekick” like Holmes had Dr. Watson. His sounding boards are his wife and his superior officer back at Scotland Yard. Readers see the various suspects through French’s eyes and experiences.

The plot is engaging – not overly complicated – and moves along at a good clip. Several times French thinks he has his culprit, only to have them slip away. He is frustrated but keeps going. The resolution comes in the last chapter , with the howdunit details revealed in the following Epilogue. A satisfying conclusion to an interesting murder mystery.

Note: The eBook I read was not a British Library Crime Classic edition, so there was no Martin Edwards’ Introduction which usually appears in them. I enjoy those essays and missed having one here. ( )
  BrianEWilliams | Jun 8, 2017 |
This is called "inspector French's Greatest Case" but it was also the first Inspector French case, so it did not have much competition at the time. My recollection is that there are laterFrench cases I liked better. This one involves a clerk reporting finding an open safe at a diamond merchant's office --and the body of the merchant's chief clerk. ( )
  antiquary | Dec 6, 2014 |
This is truly a police procedural because the case is solved by shoe leather and following up each clue over period of weeks. ( )
  Condorena | Apr 2, 2013 |
I think I would have rated this much higher if it weren't for the title. If this was Inspector French's Greatest Case, then it's no wonder that his books are virtually forgotten today.

A man goes to work at a jewelry shop only to find the dead body of a senior clerk and an empty safe. French takes over the case. The investigation is described in mind-numbing detail, along with his frequent trips to Europe - the Netherlands, Spain, France, etc, which are either by rail (with the entire route carefully described, including a time table) or by sea. At this point, I had all but given up. So when I temporarily misplaced this book, I wasn't exactly heartbroken. And when I got it back, I finished more because I wanted to get it over with than because I really cared how it ended.

It ended with a big climax aboard another ocean-going ship, complete route included (just in case you wanted to book passage) and Inspector French being surprised by the identity of the murderer.

This was a classic example of "tell, don't show." Not recommended for anyone. If you want to try another book by this author (this was his first book, and it really shows) Inspector French and Cheyne Mystery is better. Although even then, the ending could have been much better. Crofts seems to go for the very conventional story.

To be fair, this might have been a much better read at the time. But as a modern reader, I kept thinking that if he had taken a plane ride, it would have sped up the plot a lot. And where was Scotland Yard getting all this money to pay for his fares? Never once does French end up short on cash or miss his connection. Silly read, all around. ( )
  cmbohn | Nov 12, 2009 |
The first book about Crofts' best-known sleuth still makes for good reading, if you can overlook his flaws (in terms of writing style he makes Agatha Christie look like Henry James). The plot here involves a robbery at a Hatton Garden jewellers' firm, in which the chief clerk is murdered, and French's dogged pursuit of the criminals. Some red herrings are not developed very well, and an astute reader will probably spot the plot twist rather easily, but it's still worth your time if you like Golden Age mysteries. ( )
1 vote JonRob | Jun 24, 2008 |
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The back streets surrounding Hatton Garden, in the City of London, do not form at the best of times a cheerful or inspiring prospect.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0881842664, Paperback)

Inspector French is the central figure in many books by Mr. Crofts. This, his greatest case, opens with the discovery beside the open safe of a diamond merchant in Hatton Garden of the dead body of his head clerk, and valuable diamonds are missing. There are many people to suspect, and before Inspector French solves it, he has to unravel many mysteries and follow up many false clues.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:18 -0400)

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