I had wanted to read Freeman Wills Crofts since I read Peggy Ann’s post on the author. To my delight, a library I frequent, had a few books of his. I picked up Sir John Macgill’s Last Journey because the publishing history showed it being republished a number of times in a pretty short span of time. Unfortunately the book didn’t really live up to my expectations.
Major Malcolm Macgill receives a letter from his father, John Macgill, stating that he’d be paying a visit to him at his home-town in Ireland. Malcolm waits for him expectantly but the old man doesn’t turn up. Then the Major receives a call from his father from another town asking him to come and pick him up. Again the former draws a blank. Concerned about his father’s disappearance, Malcolm consults the police. As the police search for Sir John, they discover his hat stained with blood. Fearing the worst, the Scotland Yard is called in to help the Irish Police. Crofts’ hero Inspector French is naturally chosen for the task. French travels frequently between Northern Ireland and England to solve this baffling mystery. As Crofts was a railway engineer, his understanding of the railways is on full display in this novel which depends a lot on train schedules, time-tables, compartments. However, I found it difficult to bear in mind all the different places, the different modes of transport, the measuring of distances, the calculation of speed etc.
Where Crofts excels, is in the detailing of the police work. ” Use your grey cells, as that Belgian would say,” French exclaims at one point. But as the novel demonstrates, though the grey cells do come in handy, investigation also requires a lot of leg-work, running around in circles, following leads which reach nowhere, overcoming despondency when there is no even a glimmer of a clue, paper-work, extracting information from unwilling witnesses… all in all a lot of sweat and hard work.
What I found interesting was the historical references peppered through-out the book.
The book, first published in 1930, is dedicated to ‘To my many good friends in Northern Ireland’. French’s senior, Superintendent Mitchell, reminiscences: “I know Dublin well… Used to be there often before the troubles.” One of the leads the police follow is that Sir John might have been attacked by somebody opposed to him politically since he was a Unionist. And when one of the police-officers from Belfast is dismissive of the policy of changing the names of towns by the leadership of the Free State, French enjoys the note of superiority of the northern speaking of Free State activities.
Despite not enjoying this particular book, I’ll like to read more of Crofts.
First Line: It was on Monday Morning, the 7th of October, that Inspector French first heard the name of Sir John Macgill.
Title: Sir John Macgill’s Last Journey.
Author: Freeman Wills Crofts
Publication Details: London: Collins, 1935 (Classic Crime Club)
First Published: 1930
The book might be available in libraries since I borrowed from one myself.
Submitted for the Vintage Mystery Challenge
Also submitted for the following challenges: British Books, Find the Cover, Mystery and suspense, New Authors, Support Your Local Library
Submitted for Pattinase‘s Friday Forgotten Books.