The Groote Park Murder by Freeman Wills Crofts, First published: UK, Collins, 1923, my edition 2018 trade paper.
“From a murder in South Africa to the tracking down of a master criminal in northern Scotland, this is a true classic of Golden Age detective fiction by one of its most accomplished champions.
When a signalman discovers a mutilated body inside a railway tunnel near Groote Park, it seems to be a straightforward case of a man struck by a passing train. But Inspector Vandam of the Middeldorp police isn’t satisfied that Albert Smith’s death was accidental, and he sets out to prove foul play in a baffling mystery which crosses continents from deepest South Africa to the wilds of northern Scotland, where an almost identical crime appears to have been perpetrated.
The Groote Park Murder was the last of Freeman Wills Crofts’ standalone crime novels, foreshadowing his iconic Inspector French series and helping to cement his reputation (according to his publishers) as ‘the greatest and most popular detective writer in the world’. Like The Cask, The Ponson Case and The Pit-Prop Syndicate before it, here were a delightfully ingenious plot, impeccable handling of detail, and an overwhelming surprise ‘curtain’ from a masterful crime writer on the cusp of global success.”
– Harper/Collins website
While I had read very little Crofts in the past, I was eager to try this one, which has been highly praised in review after review.
I’m glad I read it, and I enjoyed it, but at times it felt plodding and is very much a product of it’s time. The clever plot is split between the murder and discovery in South Africa and the investigation and final arrest in Scotland.
I enjoyed this split of locations, and though I’m not familiar with either, I just accept that when a character goes from point A to point B it makes sense and the reliance on railway schedules and driving times makes sense.
The top cover is the one I have, the bottom Crime Club one depicts the penultimate scene in the book.
“at times it felt plodding”
That describes much of Crofts work, Rick, but as you said, his books can be very enjoyable if you stick with them. For myself, I find his short stories more accessible.
Thanks, Jerry, I’m not going to be in a hurry to read another of his books, but I’m glad I read this classic.
I agree with you. I read his first book, THE CASK, and this one, among his non-series books. It was definitely plodding, but I didn’t have any trouble getting through them, even the long CASK. I do agree with Jerry about the short stories.
I didn’t have any interest in THE CASK, but this intrigued me.
I agree with Jerry and Jeff. I find Crofts’ novels plodding, but worth reading. The short stories are much better and less of a slog.
I’m going to find a few short stories, one of these days. Maybe.
Jerry and Jeff are right: Crofts’ novels can be plodding. The short stories are more accessible and less of a slog.
I still haven’t read any books (or short stories) by Crofts, but I have a couple of them to try, THE CASK and THE HOG’S BACK MYSTERY. This one sounds good because of the setting. Very nice and helpful review.
Thank you, Tracy. I’d forgotten about Hogs Back, I have that pb somewhere here.