Inspector French: Sudden Death by Freeman Wills Crofts

More how than why…

😀 😀 😀 🙂

Anne Day is delighted to be offered the job of housekeeper at Frayle, the home of the Grinsmead family. However, she soon discovers there are tensions in the household. Mrs Grinsmead seems mistrustful and suspicious of everyone. At first, Anne puts this down to a persecution complex but gradually she begins to wonder if perhaps Mrs Grinsmead has some cause for her worries. But Anne’s still not prepared for the tragedy that will soon strike. Enter Inspector French of Scotland Yard!

It’s a fairly small group of suspects who might have committed the crime – if crime, indeed, there were. (I’ve not said what happened because quite a big proportion of the book happens before the actual crime, and a lot of the suspense in the book is in wondering who the victim will be.) There are Mr and Mrs Grinsmead – she nervy and paranoid, as I’ve said, he attractive and superficially quite kind but really rather cold and selfish. Anne herself is something of an innocent, willing to accept people at face value but with an occasional flash of insight. Anne feels sorry for Mrs Grinsmead and soon becomes her confidante. Then there’s Edith Cheame, the governess of the couple’s little children, who, Anne soon realises, has very little concern for anyone but herself. The cook, the maid and the chauffeur round out what seems like a huge staff for a country solicitor, but of course they’re not important enough to play any role other than as witnesses. There are also various friends and neighbours who play their part, as well as old Mrs Grinsmead, Mr Grinsmead’s mother. (Lots of Grinsmeads and my spellchecker hates them all… 😉 )

Freeman Wills Croft

This novel contains not one but two locked room mysteries – one that is way too fiendish and technical for my poor mind to have had any hope of solving, and the other which seemed to me to be rather blindingly obvious; so much so, that I felt I must be missing something since I almost never work out how locked room mysteries are done. The perspective alternates between Anne and Inspector French, although all told in the third person. I enjoyed the Anne bits very much, since it’s through her we learn about all the various residents in the house and their possible motives. The French bits didn’t work so well for me, as they involve him painstakingly going over and over the technicalities of how the locked room bits were worked. That’s a subjective complaint, though – I’m always more interested in the why than the how in crime fiction. For people who enjoy the puzzle aspect of impossible crimes, I’m sure this would work much better. However, despite that, the book held my attention and, although I had my suspicions from about halfway through which eventually turned out to be right, I was unsure enough about it to still be in suspense until all was revealed. I must say I don’t think French covered himself in glory in this one, though – he seemed to take an awful long time to get there.

This is my second Inspector French novel and I enjoyed the other one considerably more. This is just as well written, but I simply didn’t find the story as interesting. I’m still keen to read others in the series though, and meantime recommend this one to the puzzle-solving enthusiasts out there.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Collins Crime Club.

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34 thoughts on “Inspector French: Sudden Death by Freeman Wills Crofts

  1. I think the ‘why’ of a crime novel is really interesting, too, FictionFan. I think it’s interesting that so much of the beginning of the story has to do with building the background. I can see how that might ramp up the suspense. I like the Inspector French stories I’ve read, but I know what you mean about the parts of the story told from his perspective. They just don’t capture the attention the way the other parts do. I wonder if that’s because we don’t learn a lot about French as a person? I hope that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think you’re right – he really doesn’t develop much personality, does he? In this one especially he seemed to go over and over the possible ways it could have been done till I was even more confused than I was at the beginning! I think it was fair play in the sense that we were given all the information, but really these locked room puzzles always leave me wondering why a murderer would go to such extraordinary lengths. It would be so much easier just to hit the victim over the head with a brick… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, me neither, which was why I was sure I must be missing something with this one! Maybe he felt bad about making the main puzzle too hard so threw in an easy one for the… ahem… less gifted of his readers… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done for guessing one of the mysteries. I see what you mean about the why versus how, I find motivation much easier to understand as well, I don’t have a scientific mind at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The whole idea of locked room mysteries baffles me – I can never understand why a murderer would go to such extraordinary lengths when it would be much easier just to hit the victim over the head with a brick… 😉


  3. I haven’t read either of these, but this one sounds interesting. I rarely work out the solutions to locked room mysteries, but I haven’t given up hope that one day I will. Maybe I should try this one (but something tells me I might still be unsuccessful!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found this one relied on technical know-how I simply don’t have, so there was no way in the world I could have worked it out! Personally I think murderers should stick to poisoning their victims, or coshing them from behind with something heavy… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was swaying back and forth as to whether this really interested me as I read your review, but I think in the end, I’ll let it pass. Your spellcheck comment made me laugh! At least spellcheck is less frustrating than autocorrect. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, yes, I do my best to ensure that autocorrect is always switched off! I also had a go at one of these dictating programmes once, but it didn’t like my Scottish accent at all, and some of the stuff it came up with was hilarious… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Too bad, it couldn’t live up to the other Inspector French novel, you read. But it still sounds fairly entertaining. Actually, I quite like when the crime / incident happens quite late in the book and readers get a chance to get to know all the involved properly, before anything happens. I am the same, I rarely work out the solution to locked room mysteries. It is kind of weird, since in real life, I am quite good at logic and deduction. At some point, I might look into Inspector French, but perhaps I should start with one of the other books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This particular locked room mystery relied on technical know-how that I simply don’t have, so there was no way that I’d ever have been able to work it out! I like getting to know the characters before the murder too – in fact, I’ve just been writing a review of another book where the murder happened so quickly I never felt we knew the victim at all, so didn’t much care who had murdered him. I enjoyed the other Inspector French novel I’ve read considerably more than this one, and have one more on my shelf so this wouldn’t be the one I’d recommend to start with…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think locked room mysteries are at their best when the locked room in question is in a big old, fusty country home that’s isolated, then there is always the question of the supernatural potentially coming into play, because aren’t those houses all haunted anyway? I think I’d like this one too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have ordered ‘Inspector French: Sudden Death’. Sounds just the thing for lockdown. Btw, I’m thinking of reopening my Dear Reader blog to review my reads on there. I left off a few years ago because no one was reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • These vintage crime books have been great comfort reading for me during the lockdown! Yes, it’s very time-consuming to build up a readership, isn’t it? Let me know if you do decide to start afresh. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Like you FF, I am more interested in the why than the how of mysteries… actually in life in general. Probably why I am a Christian and not a scientist. 😉 I hope you will enjoy the next Inspector French mystery you read more. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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