Freeman Wills Crofts was born in Dublin in 1879 and died in 1957. He worked for a Northern Irish railway company as an engineer until 1929, before turning to detective fiction His plots reveal his mathematical training and he specialised in the seemingly unbreakable alibi, laying layer upon layer within his stories. He loved ships and trains and the intricacies of transport timetables feature in many of his stories. Crofts best-known character is Inspector Joseph French. French appears for the first time in Inspector Frenchs Greatest Case. He is a detective who achieves his results through dogged persistence.
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A mystery that remains a mystery.Aug. 22 2004
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Having read all Freeman Wills Crofts's detective fiction at one time or another and reviewed most of it enthusiastically, I regret that there is not much to be said in favor of his short stories. The story that bears this book's title is a big disappointment. Famed for his knowledge of the ins and outs of early C20th trains, timetables, engineering, and plot structure in his novels, he might be expected to construct a brilliant little piece under the title "Mystery of the Sleeping Car Express". Instead he delivers a scrappy narrative, adds a sketch plan that beggars comprehension, and leaves at least one reader feeling that the mystery of the sleeping car express remains a mystery. This was Crofts' first short story, written in 1921. As with his first Inspector French novel, "Inspector French's Greatest Case", 1926, he unfortunately chose a title that in the event produced disappointment.
Crofts seemed to need a full length novel to display his powers best: the patient unraveling of the mystery, and the painstaking checking, theorizing and testing that led to the solution. There is one story in this collection, however, that is a total success. Written in 1933, it is titled "The Level Crossing". It, rather than the title story in this collection, well deserves inclusion in various "railway" story anthologies, and makes this book well worth the purchase price.
The things you like abour Crofts but in a short story formatApril 7 2015
John M Ballard
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THE MYSTERY OF THE SLEEPING CAR EXPRESS AND OTHER STORIES by Freeman Wills Crofts If you are a fan of Croft's old style detection with clues, alibis, impersonations and timetables but are not up for a full length novel of his typically 250 pages long then this set of ten short stories might be just what you are looking for as it is prime Crofts but in a condensed form. His favorite dour-but-fair detective Inspector French appears in several of the episodes.