Tongues had been wagging in Surrey, England, near the geological formation known as the Hog's Back - wagging about Dr. James Earle and his wife, Julia. According to the gossip, Julia Earle had become involved with another man - and there were reports that her husband may have been seen with another woman. Still, when Dr. Earle suddenly disappeared from their home, nobody could quite figure out whether the disappearance was simply a part of the tangled involvements of the doctor and the others - or whether something more sinister was going on. That's when the local authorities turned to Scotland Yard for help, which brought Inspector French to the Hog's Back and to a mystery that quickly grew more complex and would ultimately end in murder. The full story may be found in The Hog's Back Mystery, by Freeman Wills Crofts. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries Podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Freeman Wills Crofts was one of the leading authors of Britain's Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Often dismissed by some literary critics - wrongly, I think - as a writer of "humdrum" mysteries, Crofts really was the master of the so-called "timetable" mystery, in which intricate alibis and time schedules often played critical roles in determining a suspect's guilt or innocence. The Hog's Back Mystery, published in 1933, is one of the finest examples of that kind of mystery. The reader is given plenty of clues - in fact, near the end of the book, when Inspector French explains to his superiors what really happened, each clue is footnoted with the number of the page upon which that clue was given to the reader.
In his study of Golden Age authors called Masters of the 'Humdrum' Mystery, Curtis Evans points out that no less a literary figure than T. S. Eliot thought of Crofts as one of the two greatest living detective novelists. (Eliot's other choice was R. Austin Freeman, creator of Dr. Thorndyke.) Crofts's reputation, certainly, is based on such ingenious books as The Hog’s Back Mystery, and it stands today, in all its complexity and intricate plotting, as a classic very much worth reading. It is being brought back as one of the British Library’s series of Crime Classics, released in the U. S. by the Poisoned Pen Press, which made a copy available to me for review, and it will be published officially on July seventh. This new edition boasts an informative introduction by British mystery author and critic Martin Edwards, who calls The Hog’s Back Mystery “the work of a skilled craftsman at the height of his powers.” I recommend it to you.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader's Block blog, The Hog's Back Mystery is my entry for the square (sixth row, first column) calling for one book with a professional detective.