Freeman Wills Crofts – The Hog’s Back Mystery

Author: Freeman Wills Crofts
Title: The Hog’s Back Mystery
Series: Inspector French #10

Dr James Earle and his wife live in comfortable seclusion near the Hog’s Back, a ridge in the North Downs in the beautiful Surrey countryside. When Dr Earle disappears from his cottage, Inspector French is called in to investigate. At first he suspects a simple domestic intrigue – and begins to uncover a web of romantic entanglements beneath the couple’s peaceful rural life.
The case soon takes a more complex turn. Other people vanish mysteriously, one of Dr Earle’s house guests among them. What is the explanation for the disappearances? If the missing people have been murdered, what can be the motive? This fiendishly complicated puzzle is one that only Inspector French can solve.

This mystery starts like so many at a country house gathering but it’s one that leads only to a disappearance. Which of course means there are more possibilities as to what could have happened. Is it really only a disappearance or is the body just very well hidden? And if the person really disappeared was it voluntarily or not? And anyway why and how? Now, I did go into this with the expectation that this wasn’t so genre-breaking that it would turn out no crime had been committed at all but that still left enough possibilities to have some fun guessing. Admittedly, a seasoned mystery-reader will probably be able to make a good guess as to the motive but that still leaves enough questions about the how (and who exactly) to guess at. I definitely had fun trying to figure those out. However, towards the end, the book drags a bit. Because French has also figured out the why and needs the who and the how and so…he keeps repeating the same information over and over again. X can’t have done it because he has an alibi. Y has no alibi but also no motive…and when he finally has figured it out he only tells his colleagues and not the reader so there’s another chapter where they only talk about what a genius French is for figuring it out without giving away anything. By that point, I was very impatient and slightly annoyed. But not so much that it made me dislike the book. It was still a fun read.

3 thoughts on “Freeman Wills Crofts – The Hog’s Back Mystery

  1. The „plodding“ bit that comes to the fore more and more the further the novel progresses is a hallmark of Crofts‘s work — he *wanted* the reader to be on an equal footing with the inspector (French) so as to „play fair“ and give us every chance to solve the mystery ahead of or at the same time as French does.

    The result of being given this amount of excruciating investigative detail, to me, is invariably the same as it was for you: I get bored and restless and keep thinking, „Come ON … MOVE IT!“ I don‘t mind a solution coming from left field, as long as I‘ve been well entertained all along the way (and the detective / author ties it up to the clues concealed in the plot throughout when presenting the solution). Christie had this down pat, and it‘s one of the reasons why I love her books … and why I don‘t think I‘ll ever be one of Crofts‘s. (Though he did write a number of entertaining short stories — seems a literary form that forced him to forego his excessive reliance on the minutiae of investigation was beneficial to his plot construction overall.

    1. Yeah that whole fair play gets often mentioned about Croft… frequently with people noting how boring they find it so we’re not alone 🙂 (I am very much with you: I want to be entertained first. If I can then guess along it’s nice but not a must). I did quite like his Antidote to Venom which is unusual for me because I am not the biggest fan of reverse mysteries but there I was very entertained by guessing which of the murderer’s actions would get him caught. But I also don’t think I will ever be a fan of him.

      1. Yes, reverse mysteries seem to be another thing he did better … maybe at least in part because the plot structure as such obviates the necessity to bombard the reader with clues and details down to the most minute level. Which might also explain why one of his works that I like best is … a reverse mystery short story. 😀 (The one included in the BLCC railway mystery anthology, „Blood on the Tracks“ — have to look up the story‘s title.)

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