A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by George Kelley & Marcia Muller:


FREEMAN WILLS CROFTS – The Loss of the “Jane Vosper.”

Collins, UK, hardcover, 1936. Dodd Mead, US, hardcover, 1936. Many reprint editions, both hardcover and soft, including: Collins, UK, hc, 1980 [Crime Club 50th Anniversary edition] and Grosset, US, n.d (both shown).

   Crofts was a transportation engineer and worked for railway companies for many years before retiring in 1929 to become a full-time writer.

   A number of his novels make use of his technical knowledge of railroading and shipping, such as Death of a Train (1947), in which Inspector French investigates a World War II plot to divert vital supplies being shipped to the British forces in North Africa. Similarly, The Loss of the “Jane Vosper” draws on Crofts’s knowledge of the shipping industry.


   On a dark night in the mid-Atlantic, the cargo ship Jane Vosper is rocked by explosion after explosion. Soon afterward, the ship sinks. An insurance investigation is launched, and it soon becomes apparent that the sinking of the ship was no accident.

   Inspector French enters the case and begins to piece details together-including particulars of what cargo the ship was carrying. A cargo swindle is revealed-one that leads to murder. French works with precision, ever conscious that unnecessary delay may lead to additional killings.

   The background detail in this novel is particularly good, and French is in top form, always playing fair with the reader and making us privy to his private thoughts. French is likable, a pleasant, unassuming man with none of the sometimes unfortunate affectations of other popular classic sleuths.

   This book — and most of Crofts’ others — presents no real challenge to the reader in terms of outwitting the detective and solving the case first. If anything, we feel that we are being taken by the hand and led on a genteel journey through the routine of a careful and dedicated investigator.


   Other Crofts novels dealing with the shipping industry include Mystery in the English Channel (1931), Crime on the Solent (1934), Man Overboard (1936), and Enemy Unseen (1945).

   Books in which Crofts drew on his railroading background include Sir John Magill’s Last Journey (1930), Wilful and Premeditated (1934), and Dark Journey (1954). A short-story collection featuring Inspector French, Many a Slip, was published in 1955.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.