Crofts (1897-1957), best known for breaking airtight alibis often involving English railroads, tries his hand at an inverted detective story whose killer is known from the beginning and never hops aboard a train.
Charles Swinburn is by no means a bad man. He wouldn’t dream of taking advantage of Una Mellor, the rather distant young lady he loves, or pinching from the till at Crowther Electromotor Works, the family firm he inherited from his late father years after his uncle retired. Now that he’s been beaten for a contract he expected by a firm with more updated machinery, though, he’d love to purchase the equipment that would make the works more competitive. He fears that the worldwide Depression, still raging in 1933, will bankrupt him first. And he feels unhappily certain that Una will never marry a pauper. His only hope for more funds is Andrew Crowther, the wealthy uncle who was once his father’s partner. But after Andrew twice resists his pleas for money, writing him a check for a mere 1,000 pounds, Charles, facing ruin, resolves to poison one of his uncle's digestive pills and claim the inheritance he expects. At first all goes well. Andrew obligingly dies in the opening chapter aboard a flight to France; Charles secures new financing on the strength of his financial prospects; and he’s able to purchase that coveted machinery. Inevitably, however, problems arise. Una isn’t nearly as buoyed by his prospects as he’d hoped; a blackmailer threatens his safety; and, worst of all, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Joseph French (Mystery in the Channel, 1931; reprinting in 2017) to look into the case. Can anyone doubt how all this will end?
An old-fashioned but steadily absorbing account of a decent man’s descent into corruption and murder. One of Crofts’ best.