Reviewed by JUERGEN LULL:

FREEMAN WILLS CROFTS – Anything to Declare?

Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1957. Reprint: House of Stratus, UK, softcover, 2000. No US edition.

CROFTS Anything to Declare?

   Anything to Declare is the last of Crofts’ detective novels and one of the least successful. One third of the book is taken up by giving a detailed account of the launching of a smuggling racket. The scheme involving pleasure cruises up the Rhine to Switzerland seems clever enough but is not really up to the standard of Croftsian gangsters.

   Take for instance the problem of getting the stuff aboard. This was done much better in the early Crofts The Pit-Prop Syndicate. In this late novel a blackmailer tumbles to it by accident and later the Swiss customs also have no problem finding out.

   The blackmailer has to be eliminated and the reader is fully aware of who does it and how it is done. Part 1 ends with a real surprise for both readers and murderers: a second blackmail attempt.

CROFTS Anything to Declare?

   In part 2 Inspector French is called in. Evidence is gathered and the right conclusions are immediately drawn. Through the interference of the customs officials the gang is arrested before sufficient evidence to convict them of the murder is collected.

   French deplores this but is able by luck and his usual ingenuity to supply the necessary evidence and by a typical tour de force even the body of the murdered blackmailer.

    I admire Crofts but couldn’t find much here of what I appreciate in him: the surprises, the dead ends, French’s moments of despair. All this is missing. Those who don’t like Crofts will find themselves confirmed. Those who do may find still enough to enjoy the book.